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Frozen out – Europe has failed itself and the world is letting the continent freeze

Cover of The Economist/ Ricardo Rey

The latest edition of the British magazine The Economist has a cover that says more than a thousand words. The European continent froze and with the text: FROZEN OUT – How the world is leaving Europe behind.

Europe is facing a persistent crisis in energy and geopolitics

The Economist believes that the coming energy crisis in Europe is going to be far more serious than anything we have seen so far and that it will put the continent’s cohesion and its alliance with the US to the test. And in the meantime, far more Europeans will freeze to death or die from illnesses they will get in the cold, according to calculations the magazine has obtained.

Don’t be fooled by the flow of good news from Europe in recent weeks. Energy prices are down after the summer and good weather means that the gas storage is almost full. But the energy crisis still poses dangers. Gas prices are six times higher than the long-term average. On November 22, Russia threatened to throttle the last operational pipeline to Europe, even as missile strikes caused emergency power outages across Ukraine. Europe’s gas reserves must be filled again in 2023, this time without Russian gas whatsoever.

Our modeling suggests that a 10% increase in real energy prices in a normal winter is associated with a 0.6% increase in deaths. Therefore, the energy crisis this year could lead to over 100,000 extra deaths among the elderly across Europe.

High fuel prices could kill more Europeans than fighting in Ukraine

Here are the forecasts for energy prices in Europe. Note that Hungary with its stance on the sanctions comes out dramatically much better.

Source: The Economist

The magazine has made a forecast that shows that far more Europeans will die in the coming winter than usual, and then they are not thinking about vaccine damage, but about people dying from frostbite and illness caused by frostbite.

Four main factors influence how many people will die in Europe (outside of Ukraine) this winter. The two easiest are the severity of the flu season and the temperatures. Cold helps viruses. It suppresses the immune system, allows pathogens to survive longer in the air and causes people to congregate indoors. In addition, when the body’s temperature drops, blood thickens and pressure increases, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Irritated airways can also prevent breathing. In the UK, weekly death rates from cardiovascular causes are 26% higher in winter than in summer. Those from respiratory diseases are 76% higher. These deaths are concentrated among the elderly. Across Europe, 28% more people aged at least 80 – accounting for 49% of total mortality – die in the coldest months than in the warmest.

Surprisingly, the gap in seasonal death rates is greater in warm countries than in cold ones. In Portugal, 36% more people die per week in winter than in summer, while in Finland only 13% more do. Colder countries have better heating and insulation. They also tend to be wealthier and have relatively young populations. But when you compare temperatures within countries rather than between them, the data confirms that cold kills. On average, in a winter 1°C colder than normal for a given country, 1.2% more people die.

The forecasts vary with the countries’ energy policies

Which results the coming winter will have depends a lot on the individual countries’ pricing policy on energy. The Economist write:

The size of this effect varies from country to country. Italy has the most predicted deaths, due to its sky-high electricity costs and large, aging population. The model does not take into account Italy’s generous new subsidies to households, which focus on the poorest users. These transfers must be very efficient to compensate for such high prices. Estonia and Finland also do poorly per person. At the opposite extreme, France and the UK, which have introduced price caps, are doing reasonably well, and predicted mortality in Spain is almost flat. In Austria, which will cap electricity prices up to a modest usage cap of a bargain €0.10 per kilowatt-hour, deaths are expected to fall.

The failure of the United States

The war and the sanctions policy have revealed the vulnerability of Europe’s business model. Too many of Europe’s industrial companies, especially German ones, have been dependent on abundant energy supplies from Russia. They could still have had this supply if they had not themselves blocked the import of energy from Russia. Europe’s so-called “leaders” have put rice in their backs. Moreover, “someone”, who everyone knows who, but no one dares to name, has been kind enough to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines that could have provided Europe with enough gas at reasonable prices.

The prospect of a broken relationship with Russia, structurally higher costs and a disconnect between the West and China has meant reconciliation in many boardrooms. We quote again the British magazine:

This fear has been heightened by US economic nationalism which threatens to drag activity across the Atlantic into a whirlwind of subsidies and protectionism. President Joe Biden’s inflation reduction bill includes $400 billion in handouts for energy, manufacturing and transportation and includes make-in-America provisions. In many ways, the arrangement is similar to the industrial policy that China has pursued for decades. As the other two pillars of the world economy become more interventionist and protectionist, Europe, with its peculiar insistence on maintaining World Trade Organization free trade rules, looks like madness.

Companies are already reacting to the subsidies. Northvolt, an award-winning Swedish battery manufacturing startup, has said it wants to expand production in the United States. Iberdrola, a Spanish energy company, invests twice as much in the US as in the EU. Many bosses warn that the combination of expensive energy and US subsidies puts Europe at risk of mass deindustrialisation. BASF, a German chemicals giant, recently unveiled plans to shrink its European operations “permanently”. It doesn’t help that Europe is aging faster than America either.

The Economist ends his mournful jeremiad by pleading with Europeans to stick together against Russia and the US to look with mercy on their European allies (or should we say “allies”?):

To avoid a dangerous division, America must see the bigger picture. Mr. Biden’s protectionism threatens to drain Europe of its vitality…

Self-selected disaster

The Economist tries to blame Vladimir Putin for the Europeans’ problems, but forgets that it is the Europeans themselves who have chosen to go to economic (and military) war against Russia. We have emphasized many times that economic warfare is war, and those who use this weapon must be aware of the consequences. And Russia knows that General Vinter is an ally they can trust, as so many times before.

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The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Frozen Europe failed world letting continent freeze

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