As many EU countries closed down their own coal-fired, natural gas-powered and nuclear power plants, they became over-reliant on cheap gas and oil from Russia after fooling themselves into believing that since they weren't drilling for and producing fossil fuel energy, they were 'saving the planet' even though their Russian neighbors were drilling and mining.
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU imposed economic sanctions on Moscow and began filtering weapons into Ukraine. That has led Russia to cut off Europeans from its plentiful fossil fuel supplies and instead sell them to China and India, who are benefitting from massive discounts in the price of oil, coal, natural gas and other forms of energy -- while Europeans scramble to find enough supplies ahead of the continent's usually brutal winters.
For instance, Polish citizens have been lining up for days at a time to purchase enough coal to heat their homes for the winter as prices for natural gas and electricity have skyrocketed over the past several weeks.
"In Poland's late summer heat, dozens of cars and trucks line up at the Lubelski Wegiel Bogdanka coal mine, as householders fearful of winter shortages wait for days and nights to stock up on heating fuel in queues reminiscent of communist times," Reuters reported this week.
Artur, 57, a pensioner, drove around 18 miles to the mine and, as of the publication of the Reuters report, had spent three nights in his small hatchback waiting in a line consisting of various cars, trucks, tractors hauling trailers, and other vehicles.
"Toilets were put up today, but there's no running water," he told the outlet. "This is beyond imagination, people are sleeping in their cars. I remember the communist times but it didn't cross my mind that we could return to something even worse."
The newswire reported further:
Artur's household is one of the 3.8 million in Poland that rely on coal for heating and now face shortages and price hikes, after Poland and the European Union imposed an embargo on Russian coal following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February.
Poland banned purchases with an immediate effect in April, while the bloc mandated fading them out by August.
The country produces its own coal -- some 50 million tons come out of Polish mines every year. But the country still imports quite a bit of the fossil fuel commodity and much of it came from Russia, "a household staple because of competitive prices and the fact that Russian coal is sold in lumps more suitable for home use," Reuters noted.
Because demand has skyrocketed (along with prices for other fossil fuels and electricity) following the invasion of Ukraine, the Bogdanka mine and others that are controlled by the government have been forced to ration sales or offer coal online to individuals through Internet-based platforms and then, only in limited amounts. Artur, who did not give the news outlet his last name, told Reuters he had secured paperwork from his extended family so he could possibly secure their fuel allocations at the same time he bought his own.
Dorota Choma, a spokeswoman for the Bogdanka mine, told Reuters that managers would be selling to around 250 households per day and elected to remain open over the recent weekend in order to try and deal with the backlog of customers.
She added that the limits have been put in place to prevent Poles from hoarding coal or profiteering from it.
Poland, like many European countries, is in for an extremely harsh winter. "As much as 60% of those that use coal for heating may be affected by energy poverty," Lukasz Horbacz, head of the Polish Coal Merchant Chamber of Commerce, told the outlet.