Sunday, January 01, 2006

Pipeline Shutdown

According to the Scotsman, the UK is feeling the pinch on heating fuel. The problem is an indirect result of two big pipeline problems far away from the UK.

The first problem is the Russian effort to put the arm on the Ukraine. They are starting to throttle back the pressure in the gas pipelines that serve the newly re-independent republic, in preparation for raising the price by a factor of three. This tactic has so unsettled the heating fuel market that no one knows what the prices will be. The UK is taking preemptive emergency measures, which seems wise to me, though I don't know whether their priority allotment system is appropriate. It seems that they are making industrial concerns take the brunt of any possible shortage.

The second problem is Global Warming. The Earth's climate is an intricate interlocking mechanism that is often counterintuitive. In this case, the melting of ice in northern Canada and Greenland is lowering the salinity of northern waters, causing a surface flow of colder fresher water to counter the normal northern trajectory of the Gulf Stream, that famous pipeline of hot water flowing north from the equator. The resulting slowdown lowers the total amount of heat released in the northern Atlantic, which is putting a serious chill on Europe. I don't know if it explains the current weather in Europe, but the UK forecast is for a cold winter, and the longterm outlook is good for Pieter Breugel wannabes.

What I want to emphasize is that any change in the global climate is likely to be bad for those who are well adapted to their current circumstances. Global Warming is making Europe colder. Not a good thing.

1/1/2006 9:14 PM

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