David Fickling Profile picture
Climate & energy columnist at @opinion. Migrant, kids w/ @kmac. These are my views. If you don't like them, well, I have others.
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Mar 26 14 tweets 5 min read
I've long been a huge fan of @michaelxpettis and agree with him about most aspects of China's economy, but I think there's good evidence that clean tech, at least, is seeing solid, operationally-financed, productivity-enhancing growth right now. 🧵

A pretty common argument you hear these days to justify trade restrictions on Chinese EVs, solar panels, and batteries is that the industries are only prospering because of unfair subsidies. I don't think that's supported by the data:

Aug 15, 2023 23 tweets 8 min read
You may think you've heard recently that demand for crude oil is running at record levels — but we're still below a peak we hit five years ago.

A 🧵 to explain why:

#oott #climate
bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… Last September I made one of the scariest calls I've made as a columnist — a prediction that consumption of crude oil had already peaked, despite predictions that this was a decade or more in the future:

Jul 14, 2023 29 tweets 9 min read
Let's talk polymetallic nodules!

A thread on something that's (depending on your taste) a looming environmental disaster, or a key to the energy transition.

(Spoiler: I think both arguments are wrong)

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… You may be inclined to ask, polymetallic whats?

Well, much of the ocean floor is strewn with these potato-sized pebbles, which appear to form through complex processes over millions of years and are rich in manganese and other useful base metals. Image
Apr 4, 2023 6 tweets 2 min read
OPEC+: "It's weird and troubling that the world isn't investing in more upstream oil production!"

Also OPEC+: *Doesn't invest in upstream oil*

Also also OPEC+: *Cuts output, adding to low-cost spare capacity that deters rivals from investing upstream*

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… I would like to suggest that the best explanation for this contradictory series of facts is that oil demand is in decline and every party is behaving rationally.

Mar 30, 2023 21 tweets 12 min read
Today I want to tell a story about the con artists of cryptoland, and how they have a lot more in common with the founding fathers of modern capitalism that one might initially think (thread):

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… At this point it's pretty clear that cryptoland is in deep trouble. Sam Bankman-Fried can now add allegations of bribing Chinese officials to the string of accusations stemming from the collapse of crypto exchange FTX: bloomberg.com/news/articles/…
Mar 23, 2023 20 tweets 9 min read
Vladimir Putin's warmongering may be doing more to reduce methane emissions than all the well-meaning promises of western governments. Thread follows:

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… Methane is a huge and somewhat underappreciated problem in climate.

It represents only about 1% of the tonnage of carbon dioxide that we pump out.

But the @IPCC_CH this week estimated it may be responsible for as much as 0.5C of warming so far, against 1.2C for CO2.
Mar 23, 2023 14 tweets 6 min read
It's almost comic watching the way every time Xi and Putin meet, Putin hopes Xi will sign off on his big gas pipeline project.

And every time, Xi pulls the rug from under him. Quick thread:

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… The Power of Siberia 2 pipeline is potentially a big deal. At 55 billion cubic metres, it's a duplicate Nordstream 2 heading east -- supplied by essentially the same fields that used to supply Europe, but this time going to northern China.

Mar 3, 2023 21 tweets 7 min read
Here's some good news on climate: we may be just two years away from peak fossil fuel emissions.

Here's some bad news: that's only half the fight. (thread)

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… There was a striking prediction last month from @RystadEnergy, a very mainstream energy consultancy with deep roots in Norway's oil and gas industry: global fossil fuel emissions are likely to peak by 2025.

Feb 23, 2023 17 tweets 5 min read
Compare the photo at left of the coal mine in Inner Mongolia where ~50 people are missing after a wall collapsed to the one at right of a coal mine in Australia.

The big risk with open cut mines is that pit walls will be undermined but the solution is pretty simple. You blast, engineer and sculpt the walls if the mine to a maximum slope, bearing in mind the nature of the rock. Properly engineered, the walls of an open pit will remain stable for decades.

Just look at the walls of that mine in China. Raw rock, overhangs, loose stone.
Feb 20, 2023 21 tweets 9 min read
Something strange is going on in China's coal power sector. Mining of solid fuel soared last year, by 10% -- but most measures of consumption stood still at best. What's going on?

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… A recent analysis by @laurimyllyvirta outlines the problem. Coal output is up substantially but emissions may be barely increasing, or even reducing:

Feb 20, 2023 5 tweets 1 min read
Can someone point me to a convincing case that wind-assisted shipping is truly worthwhile?

Something that addresses that variability and localized nature of trade winds and westerlies, and reconciles that with the capital utilization needs of ship owners?
Feb 15, 2023 18 tweets 6 min read
Despite a $180 billion river of cash, the world's biggest oil company isn't spending the money it thinks we need to avert a future energy crisis. That's weird, right?

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… "Biased" and "Utopian" ideas around the energy transition are preventing oil producers from investing in production that the world will need in the years ahead, Saudi Aramco's CEO Amin Nasser said at the weekend.

Feb 9, 2023 14 tweets 4 min read
A quick thread on why Small Modular Reactors might represent a bigger problem for nuclear power than competition from wind and solar:

bloomberg.com/opinion/articl… On #energytwitter, there's an exhausting ongoing fight between renewables and nuclear advocates.

Exhausting because these two forms of zero-carbon energy should be working together.

Dispiriting because of the amount of low-quality information that gets slung around.
Jan 24, 2023 4 tweets 1 min read
This provokes a further thought: if you actually introduced a Georgist land value tax, how much would that reduce the base valuation of the land on which is was levied? A 2% annual tax would be a significant change relative to discount rates. And maybe that's the point? A land value tax would be a Pigovian tax, intended to discourage bad activity (land hoarding) rather than raise revenue, which would diminish drastically over time.
Nov 22, 2022 14 tweets 3 min read
A very interesting aspect of this is that there's a real question-mark over who WANTS long-term supply contracts starting after 2025.

A typical contract would lock in at least 5 years and go on for 10 years to 20 years altogether. 1/n But Europe in particular — the key marginal LNG buyer this year, due to what's happening with Ukraine — is absolutely opposed to getting locked in to buying gas for so long. It expects electrification/renewables/batteries/green H2 to be the best value option *well* before 2040.
Nov 20, 2022 4 tweets 1 min read
It's wild to me that one of the key members of the UN's Small Island Developing States grouping is one of the world's richest countries and biggest oil refiners, Singapore. It's like if France was a core member of OPEC
Nov 17, 2022 9 tweets 2 min read
America is *this close* to letting the winner of the popular vote be elected president.

But supine legislatures and activist judges are probably going to prevent it, again. After GW Bush won the 2000 election despite losing the popular vote, some academics developed a novel idea of having a bloc of states agree to award all their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote:

Oct 15, 2022 5 tweets 1 min read
Amidst all the energy chaos of 2022, I don't get the impression that people are even talking yet about what an uprising and revolution in Iran might mean.

But the 1979 revolution and its aftermath arguably had a bigger effect on oil markets than the 1973 embargo. Of course a liberal "colour revolution" would have the opposite valence of the 1979 revolution — bringing back sanctioned oil (and, more importantly, international investment). Bullish rather than bearish for supply. And gas would be a much more important factor now.
Oct 12, 2022 4 tweets 1 min read
I keep hearing people saying stuff like "the energy transition has been halted by the hard energy security realities of 2022".

And then I notice that capex in wind and solar this year will overtake capex in upstream oil and gas for the first time, per @RystadEnergy Image Crazy-high prices in stock markets are a *bullish* medium-term indicator. They show that investors think a company's earnings will continue to rise.

Crazy-high prices in commodities markets are a *bearish* medium-term indicator. They will drive users toward cheaper substitutes.
Oct 12, 2022 6 tweets 3 min read
My goodness. Nearly a third of the cars sold in China in September were EVs and hybrids (mainly EVs):

news.mysteel.com/22/1011/10/3A8… To put this in context: as recently as 2018, @bloombergnef reckoned we'd hit that level of sales penetration only toward the very end of this decade:
Oct 5, 2022 5 tweets 2 min read
It's a nice idea, but Washington *really, really* doesn't want Beijing and Moscow providing the security detail for the vast hydrocarbon imports of Japan/Korea/India/Indonesia etc Not that their navies would be up to the job. But Americans often seem to misunderstand why they have so much firepower in the Gulf.

Looking at what Russian control of energy trade is doing to Europe right now should illustrate why they don't want the same on a China/Asia axis.