Kazakhstan And The Fragile Energy Markets

A few days ago, a good friend of mine who lives in France reminded me that the Gilets Jaunes first took to the streets because of the price of fuel.

I have been reading analysis, in the last couple of days, of the events in Kazakhstan. Without me being an expert on that country, I understand that the way of many analysts out there has remained in a classic "good guys-bad guys": the pro American/the pro Russian, the prudent/the rioter, the Liberal/the Moderate, etc. A year ago Trump's fans attacked the Capitol. The United States, the richest country in the world, has left one in six citizens living in poverty. One in three households find it difficult to pay their basic energy bills of electricity and heating. Only 10% of its population could actually connect all these years with what we called the American Dream.

Russia, the energy superpower, has not connected to its gas network - therefore to heating - more than 70% of its population. Almost all those who do not live in its few big cities. They burn their cardigans to keep warm, whatever they can find. The Saudis, who also own infinite amounts of fuel, leave most of their population living in general uncertainty. It's the situation that we in the West, even for the middle class, describe it in recent years "living only for paying the bills".

Such is the story in Kazakhstan these past few days. They have plenty of gas, but some decided to sell it back to the people for 3 and 4 times the price.

I have been writing for years that a commodity of such great importance for human development - energy of all kinds - cannot be priced on speculative behavior in any stock market. Nor can it be determined by how moody five shareholders, two prime ministers and a king woke up this morning... 26 electricity providers went bankrupt in the United Kingdom this year due to the spike in the price of gas. It is their raw material and they had to leave more than 5 million households without service. The economic laws about Natural Monopolies are relentless for the existence of even the slightest competition. Consumers around the world have for decades shown stoicism in privatized energy markets that look more like a marked deck rather than a regulated process for meeting basic human needs.

The above are becoming even more important due to the climate crisis, as the planet goes through a decade of transition to cleaner forms of energy. We cannot afford and it is not possible from now to operate in so much market instability and social unrest because of pricing or artificial tightness of the supply. Oil and Gas -producing countries must diversify their economies without extorting others. The world cannot pay for their inability nor their perplexity in front of a changing energy mix. They cannot ask for a hall pass because of Covid, nor to sell their only product so expensively just because they know that after a few years they will never sell it again.

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