One morning in early June, a fire broke out at an obscure facility in Texas that takes natural gas from US shale basins, chills it into a liquid and ships it overseas. It was extinguished in 40 minutes or so. No one was injured.
It sounds like a story for the local press, at most — except that more than three weeks later, financial and political shockwaves are still reverberating across Europe, Asia and beyond.
That’s because natural gas is the hottest commodity in the world right now. It’s a key driver of global inflation, posting price jumps that are extreme even by the standards of today’s turbulent markets — some 700% in Europe since the start of last year, pushing the continent to the brink of recession. It’s at the heart of a dawning era of confrontation between the great powers, one so intense that in capitals across the West, plans to fight climate change are getting relegated to the back-burner.
In short, natural gas now rivals oil as the fuel that shapes geopolitics. And there isn’t enough of it to go around.