On The Hunt
Big Game, Prize Stags and the Coming Energy Stalingrad...
Bill Bonner, reckoning today from Poitou, France...
Yesterday, the hunters arrived in the morning. They gathered in a barn, out of the wind… well bundled up in rubber boots, hunting pants, warm coats and scarves.
There were about 30 of them when we got there. Some wore masks. Some had cigarettes dangling from their lips. A few, whom we knew, greeted us warmly. Guillaume, the heavy equipment operator. Henri, our neighbor to the south, and his son, Emmanuel. Olivier, son of a local farmer. Aurelien… Patrick… Damien… Claude…
We’ve been here for a quarter of a century, so even though we are foreigners… and not full time residents… we know quite a few people. And their stories…
Paul Henri was crushed in a tree-felling accident. It ended his army career. Denis was one of three boys brought up on our farm. His two brothers died in their 40s, one from a heart attack… the other in a highway crash. Aurelien was brought up in an orphanage. Claude was Europe’s champion marksman. Jean Paul’s wife had a child… then died suddenly…
Everybody has a story.
Six for the Stag
The thing that is a bit odd about this hunt club is that it is headed by an 83-year-old woman who has never fired a gun in her life. She used to be a major landowner and now has the legal authority… and the legal responsibility for the club. She was there to make sure the rules were respected. After a brief address to the hunters from her, Patrice took over.
Patrice is a sturdy man who lives across the road from us. He is a cattle breeder with a good eye and an instinct for how to match the best cows to the best bulls.
“We are all friends,” began Patrice. “So remember, our most important goal is not to have an accident. So, listen carefully. We each need to respect our zone of fire. Thirty degrees wide, directly in front of you. Even if you have a good shot… if it’s not in your safe zone, don’t take it.
“You all know how this works. We’re going to take our positions on the side of the wood and let the dogs drive the animals out.
“We’re only firing on deer, boar and foxes. There’s a beautiful stag in there. That’s our main goal. But we’ll signal as soon as we see the game. Two blasts on the horn for a fox. Three for a young deer. Four for a boar. And six for the stag. Remember… two, three, four… and six.
“Now, if we see a mother pig [boar] with young ones… we won’t fire. We’d rather had them suckling at their mother than rooting up our crops.
“Now… you all know where you’re supposed to go. We each have a position already assigned. Let’s go.”
Best Laid Plans
The hunters returned to their cars and trucks. They put on their orange vests and then drove off to the fields where they were hunting… taking the pack of dogs with them in a special truck.
Patrice turned to us with a smile.
“Everybody says he understands. But as soon as they get out into the field, they get lost. ‘Is this where I’m supposed to be?’ ‘Where is everybody else?’ It’s not easy organizing a hunt. But if nobody gets shot, I’ll consider it a success. “
Things don’t always go as planned.
But this time they did. In a couple of hours, the hounds yelped… the horns sounded… the shots rang out…
“I was right there on the side of the wood,” one of our sons reported. “We were all silent and then it seemed like everything happened at once. The stag came out in the open… Patrick, who was standing next to me, gave 6 toots on his horn… and then a couple of guys fired. The first shots seemed to miss. But the next one must have hit him in the leg. He fell forward… tried to get up… and a couple more shots brought him down.
“It was sad, really… he was such a handsome animal.”
When we saw him, the stag was already laid out on concrete, ready to be butchered. The hunters stood around looking at him. None looked particularly triumphant. But they had each done their duty… and the job was done.
(Photo: The poor animal, laid out)
“If we don’t hunt them, pretty soon, there are too many… and they get hit by cars…and they eat our crops,” explained one of the hunters, almost apologetically.
The 12-point stag was dragged indoors and the butcher went to work.
(Photo: Cutting up the ‘cerf’)
Meanwhile, the hunters went into a ‘relais de chasse’ next door. It was warm, with a fire in a woodstove. There were long tables set up with benches on each side. On the walls were hunt scenes, along with a wild boar head and two small deer, called ‘chevreuils.’
We all sat down and were served glasses of the local alcohol – pineau – made from fresh grape juice and ‘eau de vie,’ distilled from either grapes or plums.
“Thanks for letting us hunt on your land,” said one of the hunters, a man we’ve known for many years. “Would you like to keep the head with the antlers?”
“Yes, of course. We’ll hang it in our own relais de chasse.”
(Photo: After the ‘chasse’)
Our subject this week is the news that doesn’t get reported… and the questions that don’t get asked. In today’s news, for example, Tom Goldtooth, a climate activist and executive director of the North American Indigenous Environmental Network, told a group that “the simple solution” to the “climate crisis” is to “turn the valve off.”
But if the valve bringing fossil fuels to market were suddenly turned off, within 2 days the supermarket shelves would be barren. And within two months, millions – maybe billions – of people would be dead.
The press ought to be asking questions. How then will the ‘energy transition’ actually take place? What will take the place of fossil fuel? We know things go wrong from time to time; what are the odds of a horrible, disastrous mistake?
Our old friend, Harvard-trained geologist Byron King has some thoughts on the subject, below...
P.S. Byron will be joining us, along with our old friend Rick Rule, on Thursday’s special ‘Energy Briefing’ call. Paid members are invited to join us, live, for the event. (There will be a recording and transcript for those who cannot make it on the day.)
If you’re not already a paid subscriber, but would like to drop in on our call, you can become one here…
Germany Marches Toward Energy Stalingrad - By Byron King
In the fall and winter of 1942 – 43, Germany’s 6th Army fought its way into the city of Stalingrad where it became surrounded and trapped. Then it was systematically destroyed by a combination of hellacious-cold winter weather and the unyielding steel of the Soviet Red Army – but mostly by the unyielding steel of the Soviet Red Army.
Now, 79 years later and as the winter of 2022 dawns, Germany is entering the late stage of another massive strategic calamity, although not involving the carnage of war on a distant front. Instead, Germany is on final countdown to ruin its energy supply at home.
One metric alone illustrates the point. That is, based on a decade of ill-thought policies German energy prices are currently going through the roof. Here’s a chart of German electricity futures in recent months.
And things are no better for Germany with other energy sources either, such as coal, natural gas, liquid fuels and even nuclear power.
It’s fair to say that Germany is entering a cold, expensive winter. And worse, there’s no relief even in the planning stages; well, other than to wait and hope for a warm spring. Meanwhile, German industry and business is severely handicapped by costly energy. And none of this is good for the larger European Union or its currency, the euro.
Germany’s energy predicament is rooted in top-down political policies so bizarre as to be near lunatic, which we’ll discuss in a moment. First though, back to Stalingrad.
To the German High Command in the summer and fall of 1942, attacking east seemed like a brilliant idea. Seize Stalingrad. Block the Volga River, one of Russia’s key north-south transport arteries. Halt movement of petroleum products and other critical war materiel from the southern Soviet Union north to Russia and her fighting forces. And by shutting off the flow of energy and supplies, starve the USSR into eventual defeat.
The gambit to take Stalingrad worked well in the staffers’ war games. But as events unfolded on the ground, Germany lost an entire army, well over a quarter million troops killed, captured or missing. The outcome of the campaign was a military and strategic disaster that foretold the eventual defeat and destruction of Germany in the Second World War.
Postwar, the name Stalingrad became a metaphor, used to illustrate the most profound kind of mistake, usually on a national scale. It’s only one word, yet at the same time serves to imply a broad, deep blunder of the first rank, usually with disastrous results and implications.
Stated another way, labeling something as “a Stalingrad” implies that a nation has made a dramatic overreach and set itself up not just for mission or operational failure but for complete, total loss. Then in the aftermath of a Stalingrad-scale screw-up come horrific follow-on effects, the second- and third-order blowbacks that transform ruin into utter wreckage.
Which brings us back to Germany and its current energy policies.
Let’s begin back in mid-2011 when a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed several nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan. Germany’s government looked at the mess and hastily embarked on a feel-good program to decommission the country’s atomic power complex, to close down 17 (at the time) nuclear plants over the next decade.
The German idea was to make up for the loss of nuclear-fueled electricity by building massive systems of so-called “renewable” energy projects, particularly windmills and solar collectors. Along the way Germany would begin to transition from coal-burning power plants as well, to eliminate CO2 emissions and play into the widespread global move to decarbonize energy.
It all looked so easy, to close the nukes and erect the windmills and solar. Except, to make a long story short, “renewable energy” is not as renewable as many people believe, particularly when you account for the energy input to manufacture the exotic metals and other materials that make the systems work.
Nor is renewable energy all that reliable. It’s intermittent, obviously based on vagaries of sun and wind. And even in the best of times Germany has geographic, seasonal and weather issues that impede harvesting large amounts of energy via sunshine or wind. Plus, many Germans opposed siting renewable projects all over, and turning their countryside into a continuous vista of blades and solar panels.
Still, as the 2010s unfolded renewable systems sprouted across Germany like mushrooms after a rain. You can easily see them if you drive in Germany or ride a train or fly over the landscape. Windmills and solar are all nearly everywhere. Yet they may or may not be contributing electric power to the grid. It gets back to that curse of intermittency.
Meanwhile, Germany runs an advanced economy which requires reliable, stable power (renewable or not) to keep the lights burning, trains running, factories humming and much more. Thus as reality unfolded in the power sector, the country’s grid managers realized that they had problems, and as a stop-gap imported large amounts of electricity from plants in France, the Czech Republic and other locales – much of it nuclear power, by the way.
Nor did Germany give up its coal-fired electricity in the 2010s, and indeed even resorted to burning a low-grade form of coal called lignite. This substance holds less energy content than higher grades of coal and creates more air pollution. But Germany has large deposits of lignite, so that’s what went into the power plant burners.
As for liquid fuel, Germany imports virtually all of its petroleum and refined products, which are used for motor fuel, lubricants and as feedstock in Germany’s chemicals complex. There’s no way around that although, to cite one example, German automakers have aggressively developed electric vehicles; EVs being another source of new, increased demand for electric power of course.
And you’ve likely heard that Germany imports large amounts of natural gas, much of it from Russia in pipelines that date back to Soviet times in the 1970s-80s. Plus there’s a newer Baltic Sea gas pipeline called Nordstream 1 that has been working for several years, and another, brand-new parallel line called Nordstream 2 which has become a political football in the past few years.
Late in 2021 a builder consortium completed work on Nordstream 2 and the line is now ready for transport, with Russia’s Gazprom company willing to sell gas. But the entire matter is being delayed due to tensions in Europe relating to the U.S./NATO and a standoff with Russia.
The bottom line for German energy is that the country does not currently import sufficient gas to meet its needs for home-heating, power generation and industrial use. And Germany is likely to run short of gas by mid-winter 2022. Stand by on that.
Which brings us back to nuclear power, where according to Bloomberg News, “Germany is set to close almost half of its nuclear power capacity before the end of the year, putting further strain on European grids already coping with one of the worst energy crunches in the region’s history.”
That is, Germany is closing three nuclear plants now, with the country’s remaining nuclear plants scheduled to power down by the end of 2022. It’s the end of Germany’s nuclear power era.
And this will leave Germany where, exactly? Well, some might say “nobody knows” where or how Germany will find the energy necessary to run itself. The country is relatively crowded, filled with cities, towns and villages, plus all manner of factories and industrial complexes. All while the place is crisscrossed by roads and rail lines, with barges moving goods on rivers and airplanes flying overhead.
Yet German energy policy has drifted out of control, far from any semblance of solid moorings. The country has closed down its nukes, with coal-fired energy next in the crosshairs. All this while the natural gas from Russia is now problematic. And renewables clearly do not work to meet the overall load.
In other words, Germany is powering down. Which takes us back to the beginning of this note, with the metaphor of an Energy Stalingrad. In this context Germany is openly moving towards an energy disaster while its political class brag about it and pat themselves on the back.
The proverbial writing is on the wall. Germany’s future is a roadmap to energy scarcity, with routine brownouts and blackouts, not enough gas in the lines, social and industrial disruptions, and an unwind of the country’s economy if not social order.
As an outsider looking in, this all seems crazy. Germans are supposed to be smart. Why would they do this?
Then again, as an outsider in the U.S. looking around, much of this crazy, Germanic-style energy agenda has also taken root here in this country. It means that the U.S. is just a few years behind Germany in marching to our own Energy Stalingrad.
And as for Stalingrad? Well, we know how that ended.
On that note, I rest my case.
That’s all for now… Thank you for subscribing and reading. I hope to see you on Thursday’s special “Energy Briefing” call.
Byron W. King
I love the historical allegory. Byron masterfully connects the lessons of the past with today's foibles. Well done!
There's nothing quite like factory farming and hunting to demonstrate that for most humans morality is a question of convenience rather than principle. How this affliction could overtake such brilliant and useful people as the authors of this fine research paper is a sad thing.
Nonetheless, what great writing and beautiful insights on a regular basis!