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Václav Klaus's answers to questions posed by the server (iCoal)

Interview with the Czech ex-president

One of the main topics of today is the Brussels plan for a rapid comprehensive transformation of the EU member states, called the Green Deal (or the Green Destiny in Czechia). It has its supporters and opponents. Which group do you belong to?

I am, of course, a total opponent of the Green Deal. One thing is the reason for the aggressive and destructive fight against global warming and CO2 emissions, the other is the EU's own plan to "green" [verb] Europe, the European economy and to create carbon neutrality in Europe, and presenting it as a way to make the European economy more efficient. The opposite is true. I have been actively involved in these issues – writing and lecturing – for at least 15 years, and passively, that is to say, with marginal comments, for three decades. It's the same "song and dance", the arguments on both sides remain the same. I already saw the "end of the world" in the formation of the Club of Rome in the late 60s and early 70s.

The terms energy self-sufficiency and energy security are often used in connection with EU plans. How important is it for the Czech Republic to maintain both of these qualities?

Energy self-sufficiency is economic nonsense and an unrealistic goal in reality. In this sense, the entity called the state is quite economically and energetically very random and cannot be self-sufficient. It has to import many products, including energy products. That is why we have foreign trade. Energy security, on the other hand, is a meaningful concept. It is not possible to import everything and be totally dependent on imports for any essential thing, from food to energy. For our security, we need to use our domestic resources in a rational way and not give up our resources in the name of very controversial ideologies.

The Czech Republic has its own available coal reserves until 2050. In light of the fact that China and India are still building more and more coal resources, is it necessary for the Czech Republic to run out of coal before the 2038 date proposed by the Coal Commission? Does this make sense from a security point of view?

I don't know whether we should say that we have available coal reserves by 2050. Do we know the level of machinery and other technologies in 2050? After all, availability is determined solely by the profitability of extraction, but that depends on the level of technological progress in 2050, not today.

The decision to mine coal is an economic decision. And it should be our decision. What some countries in Western Europe do on the one hand, and China and India on the other, is completely irrelevant to us. Setting targets like – end coal mining in 2038 – is a pointless, suicidal policy. No sensible country should make it. Of course, this presupposes that the state is sovereign in its decision-making, which the Czech Republic is not within the EU today. Yet many EU member states make their own policies on energy matters and do not look to the EU for much guidance.

If the demands of Brussels for the rapid withdrawal of coal from the European energy sector are to be met, the only quickly available substitute is natural gas. European countries get this mainly from Russia. Taken only strategically, is it safe to focus on just one supplier for the supply of a vital raw material?

I do not accept the EU's demand for the rapid elimination of coal as an energy source, and therefore I do not think it is necessary to seek a replacement at any price. Just as it is nonsense to be tied to one energy source, it is nonsense to be tied to one supplier. As Prime Minister in the early 1990s, I know that we saw it as crucial to get rid of our dependence on oil imports from Russia and to create a replacement pipeline, and we must do the same with Russian gas. Does anyone else remember the Ingolstadt pipeline? This holds without any demonisation of Russia, which is being carried out by some irresponsible politicians and journalists in this country.

There are virtually the same carbon dioxide emissions associated with gas as with coal. (About half of the emissions from gas come from extraction and transport.) Does the imposed switch from coal to gas make any sense to you in terms of emissions?

I don't want to go into a detailed comparison of CO2 emissions from coal and gas, or compare emissions from extraction and transport against emissions from using one or the other emissions source. There is probably some difference between gas and coal here. But the coal and gas lobbies should not fight each other; if the fight is irreconcilable, the third party – the Greens and the Pirates - will win. And Greta Thunberg, too. And we will all lose.

Import dependency also threatens EU Member States in the field of renewables. The vast majority of photovoltaic panels come from Asia, especially from China, and wind turbines are also mostly imported, and again often from China. Is this a good trend from a safety point of view?

Europe's import dependency, thanks to irrational policies, is extremely high in all sectors, not just photovoltaic panels. Europe is forgetting that it is necessary to produce, not just consume, however attractive, progressive and politically correct this may be. For a while, Europe will sustain itself as an open-air museum, and tourists will continue to come for a while, but it will not replace industrial production. The illusion of a knowledge economy is a deliberately promoted stupidity, unfortunately even among the youngest generation in schools.

What do you think a transformation of energy, centralized heating plants as well as individual home heating, motoring, and industry would look like that would be responsible to people and the economy and be both energy and strategically secure? Already now Brussels admits that over a quarter (120 million) of the EU's people will fall into energy poverty, but in the eastern – poorer – part of the EU it is highly likely to be more than that quarter...

No transformation of the energy sector and the other sectors of the economy you mention is necessary. In particular, there is no need for transformation with a capital T. Energy is undergoing a permanent transformation, but it is an evolutionary, market-driven transformation, not a state-organised one. Communism has shown that a state-organised economy is nonsense. Let energy live, respond to market demand and fully absorb unorganised technical progress. Energy in 2021 is different from energy in 1921, but not because of state planning, nor because of European subsidies. If and when the state, which today means Brussels, interferes, the "energy poverty" you mention will arise. But it will be poverty in the general sense, not just in the energy sector. We will indeed be poorer, something that humanity, especially the western part of humanity, has largely forgotten over the last century. Yes, we will be poorer.

How far should the Czech Republic, if necessary, resist the Green Deal and the associated bans and changes to life in Brussels and the EU? Could developments in this area reach a stage where the only responsible and safe way forward is to leave the EU?

Resistance to the Green Deal and other similar issues is a duty for all of us, not least our government, which is preparing to enter the scene. I don't know if it knows that, but I fear it does not. This duty has nothing immediately to do with leaving the EU, which is not realistic in the foreseeable future.

Přemysl Souček, iUhlí.cz, 25. 11. 2021

Translated with (free version)

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