A decade of blogging on energy developments in Central and Southeast Europe is ending for the energyscee.com. The records on my original platform, Blogger, go back to September 2007. And from what I was writing back then, the fight between private and state control of companies hasn’t abated. What has changed is the complete prioritization of politics over a semblance of private ownership. The region’s struggle with balancing private and pubic interests to deliver energy has shifted to a populist agenda that fails both citizens and the modernization of the region’s energy system. I’m proud that the blog reflects this change over time.
In recent years, my blogging on the energy sector has become less and less. And I would add, more and more bitter. There are a number of factors behind blogging less. A greater concentration on academic output and a bewilderment as to what new can be said to politics trumping long-term economic good. Commenting on the region’s energy develops became too much about complaining about the short-term developments over long term success stories that are illusive. A year still doesn’t pass that another Russian or SEE/CEE pipeline idea is floated. Yet, the countryside struggles to get out of poverty and even gain assistance to proven energy technologies that can revitalize village life.
Next week, Russian President Putin is making his second visit this year to Budapest. This speaks volumes to the reorientation of Viktor Orban’s Hungary towards the East. The politics in the Balkans (to resurrect the older term) also reflects the geopolitical struggles between Russian and Western influences. My previous research on privatization and introduction of competitive energy markets in countries like Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania and Hungary continue to shape my research and understanding for solutions to break the region away from Russian energy and political dependence. But the region remains wedded to energy politics rather than grappling with finding transparent ways to finance a modern energy sector.
I think more telling in my disengagement in blogging is also my changing academic role. Ten years ago, I had just gotten my PhD and was a researcher at the Regional Center for Energy Policy Research at Corvinus University. Now, I’m at Central European University and shifted into much more long-term thinking on energy systems and technologies. Blogging provided a fantastic outlet to process the research and my thoughts and to receive invaluable input from colleagues and distant readers.
The blog did have an impact. Over the years I received feedback on who was reading the analysis, and who was discussing it. It humbled me and made me take a more professional approach to writing. Other outlets also picked up my posts. Natural Gas Europe was always a big supporter and publisher of my writings. It was these kinds of relationships and the feedback that enabled more ideas and insight to flow to further the work. In addition, many journal articles and teaching exercises started off as blog entries. Blogging has proved to be immensely important to my career.
There is now a need for a fresh start. I think that is reflective of both my personal and professional life. Interestingly, the blog was also a reflection of a lot of personal struggle and growth over the years. Hidden between the lines are a lot of thoughts. This is pushing me to shift my blogging focus to be more holistic of my passions, interests and opinions. For energyscee.com, I’ll keep the domain and content available, but fresh material won’t be posted. Soon, michaellabelle.com will launch reflecting both my research and personal interests.
In the new blog my focus will include the CEE region and provide a broader global focus on energy technologies and personal interests. Importantly, my bitching on the downward spiral of CEE will go away – partially. There are so many cool things that I love about the CEE region, mountain biking, swimming, small organizations and entrepreneurs making it happen at a micro-scale. There’s a vibrate innovative scene that lives below the corrupt politics and illiberal thought dominating our media and minds. I think it does us all well to focus here. One day, politics will shift towards a more socially and environmentally responsible orientation. Hopefully, the new platform can highlight some seeds in this shift.