Russia restarts Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline
China doubles new solar power installations
EU urges member states to cut gas use by 15%
Shell chief discusses transition strategy ($FT)
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China enters main flood season (trans.)
U.K. homes are worst in western Europe
What does an energy crisis look like in real-time to contemporary observers? The following secret diplomatic cable sent from the U.S. embassy in London to Washington on 7 February 1947 and reproduced in the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS, 1947, Volume 3, pages 487-489) illustrates how Britain’s coal and electricity crisis in the winter of 1946/47 appeared to observers at the time, without the colour of hindsight:
Telegram to the U.S. Secretary of State from the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in the United Kingdom
7 February 1947
Shinwell, Minister Fuel, announced in Parliament today that beginning Monday no power would be furnished industrial consumers in London, southeastern, midland and northwestern areas, that power to all domestic consumers these areas would be cut off between 9 and 12 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. Drastic step taken in order to assure maintenance of power such essential services as sewage, water, lighting, hospitals, bakeries, etc.
Immediate cause emergency is snow and cold weather of past weeks which has nearly paralyzed road, rail and coastwise traffic and disrupted coal movement. Basic cause is shortage of coal stocks which country entered winter on November 1 and which has resulted in steadily worsening crisis ever since cold snap mid-December. Duration of emergency measures will depend on weather improvements but even after that it will take several weeks to build up coal stocks in order to provide general power requirements.
Meanwhile, industrial concerns throughout country whose deliveries had already been cut in mid-January to 75% in case of iron and steel and 50% all other industries, are rapidly exhausting their stocks, and press each day carries accounts of new factory close downs and production curtailment. Although government has not given out figures, in our opinion number unemployed already numbers over 100,000 with considerably larger number on short-time work, and effect of paragraph 1 will be to put several million out of work next week in affected areas. To make matters worse many households have already exhausted their yearly coal allocation which should have lasted until May 1.
Although coal traffic has been given priority on all rail lines traffic disruption has caused shortage of coal cars at the pits and forced serious curtailment coal production. Output in Yorkshire, largest producing area in Britain, is down 50% this week, other areas somewhat less.
In our opinion coal stock exhaustion throughout country is now such, that even with improved weather, the country can only limp through until mid-April. For until then country must live on current coal output which is not sufficient to meet winter needs, even if substantial increase in output, which occurred after January 1 when the mines formally passed into public ownership, is maintained when transport becomes normal.
Also in our opinion, government is now facing its first real loss of public support. Failure of production and export drive to forge ahead during past two months has already caused widespread misgivings, and with production and export declines inevitable during next three months in view coal position, we do not see how government can continue maintain popularity at same high levels during past 19 months. We do not, however, anticipate any government crisis or any attempt to form a coalition and discount all rumours to this effect. Only bright spot for the government is that Labor MPs who led the rebellion against Bevin’s foreign policy last fall and meant to renew their attack when Parliament resumed on January 21, have decided hold their fire in view of serious domestic situation in order not to embarrass government further.