Over the past two years, Irina Slav emerged as one of the bluntest critics of Europe’s climate policies and the “energy transition.” In this episode, Slav, who lives in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, says that there’s a new Iron Curtain, but this time “the totalitarianism is on the western side,” she also talks about the growing cracks in the EU over energy, “transition crusaders,” propaganda, legacy media, Substack, and what she sees happening in Europe over the next few years. (Recorded June 2, 2023.)
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome back Irina Slav. She is an energy writer, she is based in stars stars, agora, Bulgaria. Irina, welcome back to the power hungry podcast.
Irina Slav 0:23
Hello, Roberts. lovely to be here again.
Robert Bryce 0:27
So now it’s been we were on in January of 2022. A lot has happened since then. And I want to get to that. But I want you guests on the podcast introduce themselves. So people who didn’t hear you before dark familiar with your work, please, by all means, introduce yourself.
Irina Slav 0:44
Well, I wrote about all things energy for oil brides.com. And I also started my substack, about a couple of years ago, I think, where I also write about energy, and recently, increasingly focused on the energy transition. And all its many pitfalls and always fantastical narratives and all the problems with it.
Robert Bryce 1:10
Gotcha. Well, you were came to my attention, but mainly because of your work on oil price, but also how and one of the reasons I wanted to have you back on is that so much has happened obviously, since January of last year. But also, as I mentioned, before we started recording, I see you in some ways is kind of a cultural critic, and you come at this from a European perspective, but also as a woman who grew up behind the Iron Curtain. So I want to get to that. But bring us up to date. What do you see in Europe today? Because I’m reading the latest headlines, Germany’s going into recession. There’s a backlash, a big one against a lot of the energy policies. We can see this in Holland, we can see it in Italy, we see it in Germany, how do you see things today is broadly in the EU? And where do you think they’re going?
Irina Slav 1:59
Well, I don’t like where they’re going. Let me start a bit backwards. Back to front days, what I’m seeing is you mentioned the Iron Curtain. And what I see is another Iron Curtain. But this time the totalitarian push is on the western side of the curtain, me in Eastern Europe came out of a totalitarian rule more than 30 years ago, and now the European Union is trying to do pretty much exactly the same thing that the Soviet Union Soviet bloc, did. centralization of decision making power, almost complete, people have no say they can only follow what the decision makers at the top do. I mean, nobody’s asking Europeans, if they want to have an energy transition, they are being you know, indoctrinated about the danger of co2 emissions and how we’re all going to die. unless we do something right now, you know, the drill, you know, the narrative, as well as I do. But they’re not being asked if they want to participate, you know, Dutch farmers are being told to sell their farms to the state because of nitrogen emissions. So basically, governments are doing away with democracy. That’s the long the short of it, the short of it.
Robert Bryce 3:28
I want to read back, which is you said another Iron Curtain, but this time the totalitarian pushes is on this side of the iron
Irina Slav 3:35
or the western side. Yeah. Because Eastern European countries want to, you know, want the democracy that we were promised, and we kind of had for 30 years, but now the European Union wants to make the decisions for us. Just like the Soviet Union did.
Robert Bryce 3:54
Brussels is the new Moscow. Yeah, yeah. Wow. And you’re coming from Bulgaria, which was one of the kind of well, I mean, look, I live in the US What do I know? But it just it seemed like that was one of the strongholds the Soviet the Soviet thinking there’s kind of the
Irina Slav 4:14
mouse. Yeah, we were good little kudos to the Soviet Union. And now we are good little tools to Brussels, good little poodles. I mean, no offense to those I know they’re very smart dogs mean that they can be trained very efficiently, you know, to obey orders. We basically just switched our master, but I think it’s all very unfair. Precisely because of this experience we’ve had with totalitarian rule when nothing was, you know, up to us. We were just told what to do. It’s really unfair. We have to go through this again because of Brussels.
Robert Bryce 5:00
But is it but is it unwinding, though? I mean, because we’ve just discussed briefly the cracks that are showing and the cracks being the Dutch farmers, the cracks being the yellow vest movement. The cracks that headlines just today I was reading about the backlash in Germany against the heat pump mandates. Yeah, you wrote a piece of that where you were citing an article that was in the FT about the lack of green of green workers of alternative energy workers. I don’t call any of it green. I don’t think any of it is green. It’s not it’s not clean. It’s alt energy. It’s alternative energy. It’s not there’s no, even the term renewable as a marketing term. It’s alternative energy. It’s it’s an alternative to hydrocarbons. And I would argue nuclear, but is it but is this is this facade cracking? Because the I mean, you’ve is, again, I think, what intrigues me intrigues me about how you approach this as more as a cultural critic. Right. So and is this a new culture war? And is this is this energy dominance kind of energy? Well, I don’t know energy totalitarianism, I may be kind of borrowing, what you is, is that there is a big resistance that is showing across the EU. Is this, is this going destined to fail? How far does this continue?
Irina Slav 6:20
I really don’t know, I can only hope it doesn’t continue for much longer. And I find these protests in France, I find the backlash against the paid bombs in Germany, really promising signs. And the farmers protests in the Netherlands, to me is a is a really promising sign signs of hope that people are not having it. Because my overall impression when all these really, really strong push towards a transition accelerated in the past year or so. I was thinking, well, apparently Western Europe wants to try its hand at totalitarianism, because they think they can do it better than we did before. And you can’t do totalitarianism better. There’s only one way you can do it. You can do totalitarianism, you know, there’s no good way to go. But so I think there is hope. I actually expected protests to begin earlier, last winter, but it turned out to be you know, milder, and apparently people needed greater momentum and more exorbitant energy bills. So you know, to spring into action, which is now happening. And there was also this sense of security among politicians, that they can pretty much do whatever they want, and people will not object to it. Because people are buying the transition narrative. Apparently, this is not the case, which is great.
Robert Bryce 7:59
So this ties into the part that’s interesting, as well as that this ties back into the Russia’s influence over Europe that has long standing right, Russia’s influence over Germany, which obviously is long standing as well, and due to the Gazprom due to the energy dependence on Russia. But it seems that this last winter, Europe really avoided a total catastrophe. Right. It was warmer than expected,
Irina Slav 8:24
actually, yeah, because it was warmer than expected. But where,
Robert Bryce 8:27
where does this go, though? I mean, you know, then now Europe seems to be Germany sliding into recession, so that the worst effects haven’t hit yet. So is, is there going to be need to be a crisis for this to then break up the EU? Is that the ultimate end here? What it just seems like the cracks are showing but and the European Union, in fact, just a few days ago, said, Oh, we’re gonna hold back on promulgating any more rules for now.
Irina Slav 8:55
Right. Oh, yeah. So yeah, they have apparently, they have heard the people on the street, and they have realized that maybe don’t push so hard, so fast, you know, because it really went busy with all these regulations in the dream. Deal. And always so like to do it all at the same time. And as fast as possible, because we need to reinforce our energy security with so called renewables, which are not renewables, as you pointed out. But now that the backlash is starting, of course, people will not stand for this. They won’t stand for lower living standards, just because we want to be energy independent, which is an impossibility. Another thing we both know very well, you’re replacing one dependents with another dependents, effectively.
Robert Bryce 9:51
Well, so let’s talk about that of this idea of replacement because then there’s this idea that well, you you’ve heard this that the anti communist fervor right was replaced by a anti climate calm. A climate change fervor right that there was an ideological shift, right, we had to deal had to worry about the rooskies, we had to really worry about the Soviet Union. And that belief system had then had to be replaced with something else. So has climate tourism replaced anti-communism? In terms of? I mean, because I think the narrative is important. What what do people believe and why and why are they motivated to do things? So? Yeah, is that is does that explain some of this?
Irina Slav 10:37
I think so. I think it explains it to a very, very large extent, as
Robert Bryce 10:44
communism the Soviets represented the existential threat and the new existential threat is climate change. Climate
Irina Slav 10:49
change? Yeah. I mean, look at all these radical protesters gluing themselves to road stopping traffic. I’m sure you’ve seen videos of people, just when, when some driver has enough and drags the protester from the street, they just sit there, let themselves be dragged. To me, this is not sane behavior. This is the result of some major indoctrination. And that’s indoctrination. That is happening because all of the mainstream media are putting out so much news content about climate change, and how it’s indisputable and how it’s really a disaster waiting to happen, until we switch to wind and solar, and hydrogen and batteries. And this has been going on for years, but it has intensified in the last couple of years, especially over the past year.
Robert Bryce 11:48
Isn’t it remarkable that it seems like there were cracks? The cracks got wider to after the Russian invasion? Right? That Oh, suddenly, Oh, geez. You know, then energy security became a much more important part of the discussion. Right? That Yeah. And so Germany starts burning more coal right there. The Germans are nothing if not practical, right. But
Irina Slav 12:07
I don’t know anymore to be. I don’t know anymore. If they’re that practical. They used to be practical, pragmatic. Now with the greens in power and losing this power fast, by the way. You know that they’ve gone another way. It’s good, as you said that energy security came back to the fore. But did you see how now the transition Crusaders, as I like to call them, they are using this to keep pushing wind and solar. Now wind and solar are guarantee for energy security, because the energy they produce is local. But they carefully omit the fact that the raw materials and the components for this wind and solar energy that will be produced locally, are not sourced locally, right.
Robert Bryce 13:02
And are dominated in fact, by China and China. Yeah. And any in changing that Chinese dominance will be a decade’s long process. Right? This doesn’t happen overnight. We’ll see then. Which countries? Do you see it? Well, okay, so let’s stick on Germany for just a second because it was just the other day that the German said Oh, regarding the automakers that Oh, no, we’re going to push back against these, these internal combustion engine phase outs. So isn’t that another crack, though, coming out of Europe over Germany saying no, we’ve got to maintain our auto industry?
Irina Slav 13:41
Well, yes, yes. I mean, Reason is beginning to show its head through these cracks. You talk about? I’m not sure if they’re big enough cracks for a European Union break down. We’ll need a major crisis for this. But I think some countries are beginning to remember that their national interests are more important than the wider European interest, whatever it is. This wider European Union,
Robert Bryce 14:11
isn’t that where we see with Italy’s saying this that the new prime minister, it’s Moroni, right saying, Oh, no, we’re not going to follow all of that. She was said in fact that we’re worried about deindustrialization in Italy, that this is another another example of the splits that are appearing. So
Irina Slav 14:29
yeah, the rise of populist leaders across Europe. Right. It’s Hungary. It’s Italy. I think a populist party won the last elections in Sweden. Even right. So things are changing. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 14:45
So we’ll let’s talk more specifically, but you’re you’re in Bulgaria. You’re close to Romania. Romania has been one of the leaders in the push for new nuclear in Europe. You have a perspective on that how you see nuclear unfolding in the European Union.
Irina Slav 15:00
It is beyond me to be honest, why Germany did what they did to their nuclear reactors. It’s not saying behavior. Once again, this is activist behavior of the most radical guidance brainwash behavior. I can very well understand the perspective of Romania and Bulgaria, for that matter, Bulgaria is also among the countries that are pushing for a place for nuclear in that transition process, because both vulgari and Romania generate a big chunk of their energy from nuclear. Right. It’s a secure source of energy. And it makes us money because we export a lot of the electricity we make from our nuclear power plants.
Robert Bryce 15:52
Well, yeah, I agree. But so let’s talk about that. Because one of my recent guests on the podcast on the power hungry podcast was Matt Wald, and we talked about fuel supply. And Ross, Adam, of course, is a big as a dominant player throughout the nuclear supply chain. So is that I know Romania and Poland have both signed agreements with Western companies, particularly American companies, like Poland just signed the deal with Westinghouse for the AP 1000. I think for four reactors, Romania, if I’m remembering correctly, almost automatically just approved this new ap 300 from Westinghouse. So is there is that another example of the turn toward the west that these companies or these countries are going to deal with Western partners instead of with Ross, Adam?
Irina Slav 16:36
Well, I would never expect anyone in Poland to want to deal with Ross Admon. Foes don’t like the Russians. Yeah. And Romania is very staunch, you know, support Western so called values. So that doesn’t surprise me either. And really, given the geopolitical situation right now, between Europe and Russia. You couldn’t expect the Romanians to invite the Russian company to build a new reactors?
Robert Bryce 17:07
Sure. But But um, so the issue is also fuel right? Not necessarily just the this the rules themselves.
Irina Slav 17:15
This is an issue. Yeah, I actually have a contact that works close to the Bulgarian nuclear industry. And she told me that this could be a problem, if, you know, relations between our countries and Russia completely broke down. I hope this won’t happen. But it could be an issue because they have been trying to they have been testing fuel supplies from Westinghouse in our nuclear power plant, which was built by by the Russians. And there has been partial success. And they’re still working on it. So replacement is possible. It just apparently takes time and effort. But where is where is Westinghouse going to get the unit? Uranium? Yeah, Russia is huge exposure of uranium fuel. So it’s really quite a complicated situation.
Robert Bryce 18:10
Well, it’s something that concerns me because I’m very pro nuclear. I mean, if we’re going to reduce emissions, there’s only one way forward that is obvious. And we have to be more building more reactors, but you know, because we can’t do it with renewables. But yet when you look around and everyone seems like there’s been a slumber for a while, right, then now suddenly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means suddenly people are waking up and going, well, look at this. What happens? Yeah, look, look what happened. So let’s talk about the Russia Ukraine. I don’t I don’t see writing about military strategy. But this but what what do you see? How do you see the war now? I mean, we’re, what 1520 months into 18 months into this what is you see anything that gives you hope that this might things might cool down? Or do you think Russia is in this for the long term? How do you see the history of this
Irina Slav 19:02
is based on what I know historically about Russia? I’m not a military specialist. Far from it. But from what I know they don’t give up. And the problem is that nobody but China is calling for peace. This is the big problem for me. The European Union insists on continued you know, continued war they are saying it outright and I’m not okay with this. They’re literally calling for the war to continue. The so called top diplomat of the European Union shows that Burrell said it quite openly a while ago. It won’t be good if the world’s top Now
Robert Bryce 19:47
will this is a concern because you know, if Russia continues to be pushed back then they become a cornered animals a dangerous animal, right the this could be Thank
Irina Slav 19:59
you Ukrainian I’m sorry, but Ukraine is not winning whatever the media wants to tell us wants to make us believe it’s not winning. Sorry.
Robert Bryce 20:11
And how do you explain that? Follow it. Tell me why you see that? Or how because, look, I read the US News. And I think a lot of it, you know, oh, you know, big success for the Ukrainians. And yet the Russians are shelling Kiv. I mean, they’re, yeah, they’re how
Irina Slav 20:26
success looks like. And then all this change in narrative. I mean, if you if you see that these big corporate media are pushing propaganda rather than facts about energy, why would you believe what they tell you about anything else, including the war in Ukraine? I think it’s a reasonable question. It’s an unpleasant question. And sorry, I had to ask it. But I think it’s a reasonable question.
Robert Bryce 20:57
To follow up on that if you don’t want to, because I don’t like that word propaganda. But, you know, when I but I, in many cases, I think it’s absolutely the right word
Irina Slav 21:05
I hated to I hated to Robert, but I can’t call it any other way. I mean, they’re telling the telling us there is climate emergency the planet is burning, Pakistan is being flooded. That was last year. Now, India is having cooler than usual weather before the monsoon. See, nobody’s writing about it, because it’s not catastrophic. How would you call this?
Robert Bryce 21:32
Well, and I see it and I’ve spoken about this. I haven’t written much about it. But in my speaking engagements, I mentioned this, you know, this whole energy transition, and that phrase itself, I think, is has become a point of propaganda. Because when you look at the numbers, there’s no indication that there has been any energy transition. Yeah. Are we? Are we reducing our hydrocarbon consumptions a little bit in the electric sector? Yes, we are. But the when you look at the overall numbers globally, coals can dominance in the electric sector continues, right. And that’s not going to change China and India, you’re building coal plants. You mentioned Pakistan, they’ve given up on LNG and said, We’re going to burn coal, we’re building four gigawatts of new coal plants. Right. So I want to follow up because we wrote about this on your substack. And this is my point on the on the on the, on the propaganda thing, and we’ve been talking around this and I want to talk about the media as well. You wrote in your substack. I want to read this out there because I think it hit right on the right on the dot, quote, a net zero activist would laugh perhaps at this. But the truth is, we’re being fed the same degree of ideological drivel right now only it’s about wind and solar and hydrogen, being the our only hope in the war on emissions. What’s worse is that after the West won the Cold War, thanks in part to its superior propaganda, it is now setting itself and everyone else for a spectacular failure. And we’re footing the bill for that ideological drivel. And you know, that you said that the West propaganda we’ve talked about this is better. And, but I do see a lot of this, this this legacy media coverage of the climate and Odin, The New York Times climate desk, right? It is, in a certain way, just propaganda that keeps being fed out without any kind of understanding the math or physics of the systems that they’re writing about. And how do you what do you define propaganda for me?
Irina Slav 23:28
Ah, let me think about that. I mean, I know what it means. Well, it’s ideological messaging, let’s put it this way. Ideological messaging that aims to convince people of something that does not reflect facts and reality.
Robert Bryce 23:54
Well, I like that because I, you know, I challenged you but I haven’t defined at my own cell but that I would say it’s it’s it’s ideological messaging that denies reality. But I also it’s one that that is repeated over and over right that that would be the other part of it right that that what is propaganda that something that is the messaging that’s repeated over and over again, right to convince right and,
Irina Slav 24:17
and you can see it in the in the wording, you know, climate emergency climate catastrophe. Extreme weather, accepted science, right. Accepted science, scientific consensus. Yeah,
Robert Bryce 24:30
the right and the denialism Oh, yeah. Yeah. And, and also, I think it includes these claims about oh, hydrocarbons, you know, I don’t use fossil fuels anymore, right. It’s hydrocarbons that Oh, fossil fuels are stopping the transition, right, that this is that there’s the evils of Exxon Mobil, right. So, okay, well, so then ideological messaging that is repeated over and over that identifies a specific villain as well, right. I mean, that there’s there’s villains here that have to be, have to be addressed. Right, that have to be dealt with and been taken down identified and then taken down. Is it would that I mean, we’re we’re right here a couple of pages, I guess identifying what propaganda is. But I think it’s an important exercise because I think that it’s not being added to this climate tourism in the media is not being identified properly. And I think that the, the idea of propaganda is one that is important to call out. And that’s what I see in a lot of your writing. And yeah. batshit crazy, right. That is, is it? Is that what’s motivating you a lot of this?
Irina Slav 25:41
The need to call them out on it? Yes. Yeah, because this concerns is, Oh, I do not want to compromise my lifestyle, which is pretty decent right now, thanks to relatively vulnerable energy. And this is valid for hundreds of millions of people. And the transition is going to rob us of that affordable energy, it is going to rob us of energy security. If it goes as planned, I do not care about emissions. I’m sorry, I’m being extremely blunt right now. But I have seen people scientists release data on social media because they have no access to legacy media, as you know, so they released this, these data sets have emissions through the ages. And really, are we doing such catastrophic damage to our planet’s atmosphere? As you know, transition Crusaders? Tell us we are? Do you know, I actually forgot. Let’s not forget about climate pollution. Sorry, carbon pollution. Carbon dioxide, carbon is now considered a pollutant, which it isn’t. My daughter, my 12 year old daughter had to remind me because I had forgotten that carbon dioxide is actually necessary for life on Earth. So be possible.
Robert Bryce 27:13
Well, so you mentioned your daughter, she’s 1212. Is she? How do you view what she’s hearing at school? Is she we’re talking about propaganda here is, is are the Bulgarian schools is her OB is what she’s hearing in school, the same kind of of, I’ll use your words ideological drivel around climate that, thankfully, Now
Irina Slav 27:33
thankfully, now, we have been lucky because we’re the EU’s backwater, and those progressive curricula have not reached us yet. So in the Fed
Robert Bryce 27:43
should use an advantage to being a backwater.
Irina Slav 27:47
Ultimately, it’s great to be a backwater. No, really think about it, we don’t have these progressive ideas on climate or, you know, gender identification. So
Robert Bryce 28:02
economy isn’t important enough to have this, you’re not bigger, you don’t have a big enough population.
Irina Slav 28:08
They’re trying, they’re trying, but we’re very conservative people. So it will take them a while to go through. But yet, she reminded me that co2 is necessary for life and old because that’s what they’re learning. They’re learning about the planet, they’re learning about the atmosphere. And she just told me one day, did you know that if it wasn’t for co2 in its greenhouse effect, it will be too cold on the planet for life to exist? And I did not know that maybe I had known it in the past, but I had completely forgotten it. Instead, I’m saying carbon pollution. Right?
Robert Bryce 28:47
Well, that’s, you know, maybe we should just do a an entire show on just kind of laying out these this how this terminology, this ideological drew the propaganda, right, and that the things that typify this school, this segment of the media coverage, because I think this is the other part that I wanted to talk to you about, because when I read your articles, I think, you know, I mentioned you, as I, as I see you, and I mean this with no disrespect at all, but it’s kind of a cultural critic, right? And you’re reading what’s being published in a lot of other publications and saying, well look at this, you know, and you kind of hold it up, like you did with a piece in the Financial Times just recently about workforce, and that the oh, there aren’t enough workers to do all of this old energy stuff. Right. And then he pointed out that one of the people who is promoting this Oh, yeah, well, these jobs are going to be temporary. So we’re going to only need them for a little while. Right, which kind of passed through the FT without any kind of comment and you held this up and said, Well, look at this, look at what they’re say actually saying here is these workers are only going to be needed for a little while and then they’re out. And so how do you see yourself do you see yourself as a cultural critic? I mean, I know you write about energy but I’m I’m Putting a different label on what you do, because that’s, I mean, I didn’t know unflattering way. But how do you see your coverage? Or yourself as a reporter? Do you think if you even think about it in those terms,
Irina Slav 30:12
I’ve never thought about how I define myself. But a cultural critic sounds really pushed. I see myself as a commentator, I comment on what other people do and say, and calling out the bad guano. Let me put it this way. Because there’s, there’s a lot of it, but it’s kind of guano. But it’s not that good one, which is actually a very good fertilizer, it’s very good source of nitrogen. But what we see in the media increasingly frequently, and this worries me, is what you said they are saying that not, for example, in this story from the FAA, there are not enough green jobs. And then they go on to mention almost in passing, that there is no agreed universally agreed definition of what a green job is sure. Sustainability offices at corporate headquarters, is that the green job? Drain specialist, green analysts that it’s completely it really is batshit. Crazy. I mean, they’re trying to make up whole occupations to make them sound, you know, like transition related jobs, because politicians are promising millions of green jobs,
Robert Bryce 31:44
right? Yeah. Well, this is, this is part of this, this wave of stuff, right? I’m gonna say information, we can use that word propaganda, oh, this is going to create jobs, right? This is going to be but it’s interesting that you say that about the whole job creation thing, because the first time I heard about this, this was, gosh, maybe 30 years ago, I was talking to a guy who’s an economist here in Austin, I said, Oh, well, you’re working on the EU and trying to define how many jobs say, Yeah, it’s really hard, you know, really hard, because are the garbage collectors are those guys green jobs, because they’re involved in environmental work, you know, but those that are really, you know, so the definitional part becomes very difficult. But let’s talk about the media just a little bit more. So you’ve been writing for oil price, and now you’re on substack. And I’m only writing on substack. And I’ve written for my whole career, you know, I’ve been a journalist, and I’ve never had a real job. But I’ve quit writing for other outlets. And I’m just writing on substack. Because I see it as the, as the the key emerging alternative to the legacy media outlets have largely discredited themselves. Yeah. What how do you see substack? I mean, I look at as I’m in the US, obviously, it’s an American company. You’re a Bulgarian but you’re on substack. Why substack.
Irina Slav 33:01
Because it’s really, really better than any other platform. I used to have a blog on WordPress. At one point. Almost nobody was reading it. And I realized that if I wanted a blog, where I could do some longer form writing, was to succeed, I would need to have some huge following on another social media platform. This doesn’t just happen. And then I came across MathType base substack. By the way, that’s how I found substack. And I looked into it, and I said, Well, this is really simple to use, which fits me perfectly. And I can write about anything I want, because they don’t censor people, right. And I just started writing and then things actually changed. I was getting a couple of 100 views for every article at the beginning. And then, about a year later, I can’t remember anymore. Junebug came across one of my articles and shared it on Twitter. And it unleashed an avalanche of people literally, right. So I thought well apparently people want to hear what I have to say so I’ll just keep saying it. I’ll just keep banging this drum because you know I’m much more measured on oil price and I like that I don’t want to be blunt and aggressive everywhere but I want to have this place where I can be blunt when I don’t have to worry about editorial sensitivities not that I get edited at oil price from now that they tell me what to write they do not give me angles. But I’m doing it on my own on sub sec. I’m completely free. I can write about whatever I want. I love it. It’s great.
Robert Bryce 34:58
Yeah, well I that rhymes with Let me know how I see it. And as the station breaks, since we’re talking about that my guest is Irina Slav. She is an energy writer, she writes for oil price. And as for substack, she can you can find her at Irina slav.substack.com. I read arena all the time and really enjoyed your approach, right? You’re just to kind of have a sober look at what’s going on coming from part of the world where? Well, I don’t know any other Bulgarians? I’ll just be clear. I haven’t been to Bulgaria. I don’t know Bulgaria. Well. So what do you see next? I mean, if you can you look into the future. We’ve talked about the cracks in the EU and what’s, what’s the seem to be growing? The Spanish elections are I think they’re happening this week, or then the next few days. There’s an expected backlash coming from there. I don’t see the backlash, rising so much in the US, we seem to be very split in our politics. And so kind of polarized, very polarized, and the Democrats at the moment have the upper hand in terms of the energy policy and the EPA is promulgating a whole lot of rules that make no sense whatsoever. But if you were going to handicap what happens in the EU over the next few months, or the year, how would you? What do you see as a likely possibility happening there with regard to energy? Or there’s too much depend on what happens if you sit? Well, I’ll just add one other quick thing you said the Russians aren’t going to give up. So if we assume the war continues, its will continue and Russia continues to be the odd man out or be be ostracized by the European Union and potentially supply chains and get disrupted. Where does this end up?
Irina Slav 36:49
I really don’t know. Right now, I hear the European Union is discussing more sanctions, even in the face of evidence that the price cap and the oil embargo is hitting insurers and shippers in the European Union. But politicians do not want to see these realities, I think they’re looking straight ahead along their chosen path of transition and sanctions, and a lot more LNG import terminals. And it looks like there is no space to consider any alternatives. And something will have to give, at some point, it won’t be in the next few months, because it’s summer. Now we don’t use as much air conditioning in Europe as you do in the US. So there isn’t another energy crunch looming on the horizon. But next winter might get interesting, because as some serious market watchers like Reuters, John camp, and others keep on reminding us and politicians is that this will be the first actual year of a winter trial for Europe, because this will be the first year with almost no Russian gas imports. Last year, they had plenty of Russian guy gas up until about June or something, so they could fill up their storage. Now storage is rather full, because of the warm winter. But this means there is no space for extra storage. Right, USA, and the storage is not does not cover 100% of any one country’s demand. So it could become next winter could be tougher than last winter, is what I’m saying.
Robert Bryce 38:45
And further, if we’re looking well then let’s look past the winter of 2324. And then we go to 2425. Right. So these these knock on effects, it may take years for this slow moving crisis to really
Irina Slav 38:59
Yeah, like for example, now, US oil and gas drillers are kind of curbing drilling because prices are where they are, especially gas prices, gas is very cheap. This might mean less supply, for LNG for Europe down the line. I don’t think many in in decision making centers in Europe are thinking about this. Well, maybe they are privately but publicly there is no indication that they are
Robert Bryce 39:29
well. So let’s talk about the LNG thing because I think that’s an important slice of this. I mentioned Pakistan earlier. They essentially said we’re out of the LNG business, we’re not going to buy more LNG, we got priced out and effectively that’s what happened. That accident got priced out of the global LNG market because Germany was buying so much so that here’s wealthier Europeans, particularly Germany, saying essentially to the other developing countries, when it comes to the molecules we’re gonna buy them. Sorry, you can’t afford them right so that but then that ties you Europe more closely than to us LNG is that the in my saying something is just too obvious here then that the US becomes the key supplier.
Irina Slav 40:08
It is obvious to me Yeah. But it’s okay. The way they said it’s okay because the US is a friend. Right, a geopolitical friend. But then remember some some politicians including the French president accused us LNG producers and possibly traders that they’re making too much money. They’re asking for too high prices for the LNG Well, sorry, side supply.
Robert Bryce 40:36
It stinks to be an importer, I guess. Yeah, but that okay. So let me just follow on that. So then what about that, then, is do you see any indications that Europe, you had Rishi Sunak come into office, the FRAC ban was repealed by his predecessor and then he reinstates it any chance that there’s going to be more drilling for oil and gas in Europe? I really don’t worry slower is the or is the EU, the Brussels crowd, the the energy transition crowd have too much power still, too, that they’re going to prevent? Or their proxies will prevent any any significant drilling from happening? Well, they can prevent
Irina Slav 41:13
Norway from drilling more. And this is exactly what Norway is doing. Because no way knows that there is a huge market for its gas. Right. So the Norwegian Oil Minister recently called on oil and gas companies in the country to drill more because this is there social responsibility, Robert, he called it social responsibility to drill more, but no ways happily, a partner of the European Union but not a member of the European Union. It’ll be interesting what happens in the UK if Labour wins the next elections? Because I’m sure you saw that the leader of the Labour Party in the UK said he will ban new oil and gas licensing for the North Sea. If if his party wins the election. So there’s a real risk this, this could happen. I doubt it will happen. But it might happen.
Robert Bryce 42:05
So let’s talk about so we talked about the ideology. Is it possible that the and the propaganda, we talked about international pricing, is it possible, though, that just the the overall cost of this policy is the is the final break? You had a piece in oil price on June 1? Just talking about the grid grid spending? And you point out that Bloomberg New Energy Finance in 2020 said the grid overhaul would cost 14 trillion, their latest number? 21,000,000,000,021? Yeah, I mean, these are just staggeringly large numbers. So if you we assume the US is a quarter of that. I mean, I did an estimate on just a partial increase in the size of the US grid added about a trillion. But if we assume the US is a quarter of that, or, you know, that would be roughly a good number, or 20% of that. We’re talking about $5 trillion $4 trillion. For the US alone. I mean, these are in seasons, they didn’t sanely, large numbers,
Irina Slav 42:59
you saw insanely large numbers, and there aren’t enough people to actually pull these transmission lines, right.
Robert Bryce 43:08
Well, I’m that in that labor issue we talked about before in the FT Oh, well, there aren’t enough green workers all to energy workers. And you point
Irina Slav 43:16
out regardless of how you call them, there are enough linemen. Right. Period. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 43:22
Which is something that I wrote about just recently as well, because there just aren’t I mean, we don’t have enough linemen in the US to manage the grid we have and maintain the grid, we have much less make an expansion. That’s what two or three or four times the size of it, how are you going to make this the physical limits of the system are going to prevent this? Yeah. So what are you working on? Now? What’s next? Are there other articles that I mean, I always have, you know, three or four or 568 articles that I’m working on what what areas? Are there areas that you’re focused on more than another in the next few weeks?
Irina Slav 43:54
I just started work on the purely commentary article, again, inspired by developments in the in the UK, because I heard that just a few days after he said he will ban new oil and gas licensing for the Nazi the Labour Party’s leader was advised to dial down the transition talk. And I found this very interesting and very encouraging. Apparently, he was advised to focus more on things like job creation and economic benefits, rather than talk about the transition. So it seems that people are waking up. People do not care about emissions and transitions if they don’t have money to pay their bills. And at least some politicians are hearing this and they’re seeing it. And that, to me is a positive development. So I’m going to publish a story about some good news. For, you know, for sane people,
Robert Bryce 45:04
for sane, sane people,
Irina Slav 45:07
that’s the worst. Yeah, I’m sorry. I know it’s not politically correct that I don’t care. I’ve never been politically correct. And I’m not in the US. So I can talk a bit more freely, I think I haven’t been affected by it by your political correctness drive. So yeah, this is not saying gluing yourself to tarmac is not saying to protests, the impending doom and gloom for the planet. Thinking that you’re going to die before your time because of climate change is not saying, I’m not accusing these people, these people are being fed, really crude propaganda. And they’re just more, more gullible and more ignorant, not well educated enough, and they cannot get educated on energy topics. Because there’s no way to get educated from if universities are teaching sustainability courses and universities are teaching students that we’re all going to die because of climate change, then what do you expect?
Robert Bryce 46:20
Your question, response of these people is going to be an insane response, because they’ve been driven insane by this kind of continued diet of of, well, I’ll use that word propaganda meant and you say, Well, you’re not worried about this, because well, you’re in you’re in stars, agora Bolgheri, and you’re on substack. So you can’t be canceled. Right? It’s like your Is that how you see that? You have some insulation from that, that cancel culture?
Irina Slav 46:52
For now? Maybe? What call who gets to counsel me how? I don’t care about high society in Bulgaria or anywhere? I mean, I no longer care about what people think I’m too old for that.
Robert Bryce 47:13
Well, it’s interesting you say that because that was one of the things that you know, I talked about with Bloomberg about why Bloomberg adopted the anonymous persona right you know, the the nom de plume, right that oh, well, he you know that this than that you can’t cancel a Green Chicken. Right. So he has a more freedom. And but you have more freedom because of you’re removed from the society? And because of what you’re what you’re who you are, and also the fact that you’re in Bulgaria, so it’s not it you have insulation from that, that cancel culture?
Irina Slav 47:42
I don’t know. Maybe someone could draw drone me. I mean, drones can go anywhere. But I don’t think I’m important enough, I actually that’s my that’s my greatest defense. That’s my sense of installation. I’m not important enough to become a target for for anything.
Robert Bryce 48:03
was. But you do have a following. And that’s, and that’s good. And then that must feel good for you to have found an audience?
Irina Slav 48:12
Oh, yes, it does is bigger than I expected. And it’s more dedicated than I could never imagine. Which again, gives me hope for the future because the more people see, sense, I tried to talk sense, Robert, I don’t try to push a message, I try to call out the harmful messaging. And I look for sense for logic myself, with what I write. And it’s great to see that so many people see things in a similar way. And they also give me really valuable feedback. Most of the readers that comments on my stories are highly educated people, people with specialist knowledge in the areas that I discussed, and that’s really valuable to me. The fact that they think I’m on the right track tells me I must be on the right track. If people who know about this stuff, agree with what I have to say.
Robert Bryce 49:12
So let me ask you then just a few more questions. Again, my guest is Irina Slav you can find her on substack arena. slav.substack.com. So whose work do you follow? We mentioned Doom Berg. You’ve mentioned John Kemp. And we’re at Reuters. Who else do you like? Who else do you follow in the
Irina Slav 49:28
I follow closely to work of Robert price on substack? Nice, very interesting, highly informative. Yeah. I wanted to ask you, do you ever get depressed? Because of all this horrible stuff you have to write about? It is horrible. This level of stupidity is horrible.
Robert Bryce 49:50
If there is and I was talking to with a new friend of mine in Denver the other day and she was starting to work on nuclear stuff, and I just I said there is a shit ton of stupid Aditi I just don’t want to get too, too technical and there is a shit ton of stupidity. And there is a very large clack that is behind this momentum. And there’s a tremendous amount of money behind it. And so do I get frustrated and do I don’t get depressed anymore. I’ve been through cycles in my life where I’ve gone through, you know, major issues and, you know, lost people I love and write, you know, and seen death. And so that has leavened kind of some of my outlook. But you know, to answer your question, since you’re asked to interview me here just a little bit. I’m hopeful I’m absolutely hopeful for the future because we’re stumbling through, right, but we are making a lot of malinvestment, is that how I tried to think about it, that we’re making them tremendous amount of malinvestment, and it’s being pushed by a lot of people who stand to make a lot of money. And I find those people, in many cases, loathsome and that I, but that anger, I guess, to get to the point, do I get depressed? Or do I get mad, I think I just get mad, and that that motivates a lot of my work. And that anger is what is a good motivator. And it’s very good. And I’m grateful, you know, and I tried to be grateful as well, because I realized, you know, gratitude, first, right, gratitude and forgiveness. But I feel like that that is essential to making sure that I keep my balance, right? Because I, as you say, you know, you can’t be being strident doesn’t help get the message out, right. So I try and make sure that I’m pulling back how I cover these things in a in a measured tone. That is more about the numbers and the facts, and the, you know, the gist of what, you know, what are the systems right, and looking at them as systems and trying to get graphics in the in pieces and make people understand how things relate to each other. Right, you know, compared to what comparisons that can people make people see things in a new way. So I appreciate your question, because it’s something that I think about. And I didn’t invite you on to talk about me, but I think it’s, you know, I appreciate talking to other writers who are trying to look at these issues and be very thoughtful about presenting them to an audience and making them helping them understand I guess, would be the thing, you know, how I would put it help them understand what is going to, you know, what’s going to resonate? And what are the things that are made immediate. Now, that makes sense. So,
Irina Slav 52:22
because this is the worst here, this is the only thing that could help us be able to make better decisions and be better prepared for whatever comes next. By understanding how the universe, this part of the universe actually works, how our energy systems work, how the decision making process works, if you like,
Robert Bryce 52:43
and how critical and how critically important they are, and how big and how big these industries are. I mean, the US in the US electric sales alone or two would $488 billion last year. I mean, these industries are just enormous. And so that’s the other part that I try and be grateful about is I’m incredibly lucky to be able to write about these issues and to be informed on them and have an audience that cares and is supportive of what I’m doing. So those are things are very gratifying. Yeah. So last two things in arena. What are you reading? You’re in front of a whole bunch of books. I see Stephen King on your left. I know you’re a do fantasy writing science fiction. And I’m remembering correctly. You do fantasy, fantasy writing. So you do fiction? You do write nonfiction? Who are the writers you dig? Or what books are you reading right now?
Irina Slav 53:36
Ah, I just finished the silent patient, by the way, and it was a really, really brilliant surprise. I didn’t think people still wrote psychological thrillers like this. It’s an excellent book. If you ever have time to read some fiction, I highly recommend that what is the title again, please? The silent patient,
Robert Bryce 53:56
the silent patients. Yeah. I’m not much of a fiction reader. But I’ll put it down.
Irina Slav 54:02
Yeah, I remember that. I’m also reading but slowly I’m pacing myself. So it lasts longer how the world really works by Vaslav SMIL. Sure. Yeah. That’s it for now. I just got the price as a gift from a friend. I don’t know if you can see
Robert Bryce 54:22
Daniel Yergin book. Yeah, sure. Yeah. So that’s one of his childhood has become the standard reference in the business. Yeah,
Irina Slav 54:32
it’s the Bible of the industry. Right.
Robert Bryce 54:35
And his book, the new map, I had him on the podcast I need to invite him back on the podcast but his book, the new map is good as well. I think the the chapter on the nine dash map and the South China Sea is the most important chapter in that book, but I’ll assume it Reena we we’ve been talking for an hour last question. What gives you hope? We’ve looked at a lot of things we talk about, you know, being depressed we talk about the you know, the this unpleasant word propaganda, and how we’re seeing a lot of malinvestment. But when you look at all of this, and you look at what your business and I mean your family as well, what gives you hope?
Irina Slav 55:13
Well, it might sound strange, but what gives me hope is painful selfishness. Not in the bad sense of the word. We talked about the farmers protests, we talked about the yellow vests in France and people protesting the gas boiler bands. This is the good kind of selfishness people do not want the lifestyles interrupted, and or changed for the worse. It’s, it’s what drives them to react to things like the things we have been discussing the transition narrative in the transition push. People want to live well, and they’re ready to defend this, right? This desire. So that gives me hope. This is what is driving these protests, it will hopefully continue to drive more protests and stronger backlash against the narrative which is pushing us into poverty. If we’re being honest, and blunt, people do not want to be poor, nobody wants to be poor to save the planet, nobody. Because we’re selfish, we want to live well, we do not want to live in poverty. And you know, be warm in the knowledge that we’ve brought emissions down. We don’t want that. So I’m counting on people’s healthy selfishness for a better future. And also on people getting better informed. The only thing I can do in this respect is educate my my child to help her understand how energy works and what works and what doesn’t, and what makes sense and what doesn’t. And I can only hope more parents are doing this with these children, because these children, sorry, for the cliche, they are the future.
Robert Bryce 57:10
Well, I’ll stop there. I think that we should stop there. But I’ll read back what I what I heard you say I like this idea of of of good, good kind of selfishness. I’d read it back if I were going to different slightly that people are attached to their own liberty, they want their own liberty, they don’t want government telling them what to do, particularly when it comes to something that is so central to their lives to our lives, which is of course, our energy and power. So I mean, is that is that my reading back that in a way that makes make sense to you? Or is that a satisfactory to the idea of liberty to me as the word other word that rhymes a little bit with that idea of selfishness.
Irina Slav 57:49
I’m not sure I would use the word liberty because I think people on the whole are perfectly fine with being told what to do. But up to a point. As long as it doesn’t affect their life too much. They’re fine to do what they’re told, we saw this. In the pandemic, you we actually saw something really scary when people were agreed to do things that did affect their lives. But they were scared by the pandemic, so they did it. But under normal circumstances, we don’t tend to think too much who’s telling us to do something and what we decided to do for ourselves, but start telling me what to do in a way that affects my my life, my daily life, and my standards of living. And I will push back. I will wake up and say Well, that’s it. Thanks.
Robert Bryce 58:46
Well, that’s great. Well, it’s been great to catch up with you arena really fun too. It’s been a pleasure. These these issues. And I like that you think my identification of you as a cultural critic is posh. I’d like that. But yeah. Well, that’s great, posh, not posh. It’s a pleasure chatting with you arena. Thanks for coming back on the power hungry podcast. And thanks to all of you in podcast land for tuning into this episode of the power hungry podcast. If you’re so inclined to give us a good star rating 55 stars or whatever the maximum is you can on your rating system and subscribe to arena slob.substack.com And of course Robert bryce.substack.com. Until next time, thanks for tuning in to you.
Irina Slav 59:33
Thanks, everyone. Thanks