Why ‘Green’ Germany Remains Addicted to Coal

Nearly two decades into its push to shift to renewable energy, Germany remains addicted to coal. Increasingly, it comes down to a question of political will.

Comments: 9

  1. To put this into context, here are the numbers from the European Commission's' Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research

    CO2 emissions per capita (2016 latest available)

    Country CO2 emission per capita (tons/cap)

    Canada 18.62
    United States 15.56
    Germany 9.47
    Denmark 6.66
    UK plus Northern Ireland 5.59
    France 5.12


    France generates 76.3% of its electricity from nuclear power plants - Ms. Merkel is closing down nuclear in Germany


  2. The statistics show the truth ... both Canada and the United States are profligate users of fossil fuel use and emissions beyond the rate per capita that other advanced countries have.
    This has to change very quickly for two reasons, one, is that the US and Canada represent 375 million people on this planet and two, the US and Canada have no leverage to yell at other countries for greenhouse emissions.
    Currently in the United States federal did your ship is absent, and in fact making the situation worse.
    There has to be commitment and investment to reducing emissions of carbon into atmosphere ...transportation, agriculture, building codes ..
    A price on carbon that reflects the cost to our economy to mitigate health damages and most to pay for trillions ( yes) we are going to have to put into protecting our coasts and port cities, sea level airports and millions of square miles of thickly populated coastal territory .

  3. In the 1960s, when technological change made linotype typesetting obsolete, the NY newspapers led by the NY Times and the typesetters union worked out a compromise without a strike. No workers lost their jobs. The newspapers introduced computer typesetting and saved money.
    We should do the same in the coal industry. To not do this will only result in more right wing Trump-like demagogues

  4. I was surprised and disappointed at Germany’s hysterical abandonment of nuclear power, still the safest and environmentally kindest power source.
    Just like coal producing states in the US, those folks suffering economic hardship need some other way to make a living- that is where the government should focus the effort.

  5. An alternative view:

    One accident in a nuclear power plant like the Japanese one would make Germany an abandoned place, so „safe technology“ is not the point. This technology is by far the riskiest one, and the country simply is not any longer willing to take these risks.

    And, secondly, nuclear power is only as long „environmentally friendly“ as you don‘t count the full costs of it. In reality, the waste needs thousands of years, before it is not dangerous any longer, and nuclear energy is therefore one of the most dirty and costliest energies, you can think of. This holds true in particular in a densely populated country, were this waste must be stored next to large cities without even having any guarantee that you can store this waste securely over thousands of years.

    Overall, the image of nuclear power was a bad one for decades, and it was by far not a sudden move that these plants were closed (The Green Party already started in die 1980ies as an opposition to nuclear power, and had already then a lot of supporters among the young people). It was rather the moment of a now or never.

    What concerns the jobs: The Ruhrgebiet already transitioned for decades from coal and steel to other industries. This change was managed over years in a socially friendly way for all workers. Therefore the job argument is a weak one compared to the risks.

  6. Has anyone compared the cost of ramping up nuclear in the US and other countries including potential costs to mitigate accidents.
    VS The cost of infrastructure that will be required to protect dozens of coastal cities vast areas of territory that are now virtually at sea level.
    I don’t think this is a ‘ partisan issue ‘ now and it is time to treat this as a national challenge ... just like we did fighting fascism WW2 , resisting Soviet threat, fighting terrorism that all cost trillions and requires some sacrifice but also benefits to the economy and public cohesion ...national purpose.
    National political leadership on this is apparently non existent , therefore, state and local government , the business community, public Institutions and responsible media and the public must demand action.

  7. It would have been a good idea to include in this article something about whether the government has any plans to take care of the coal and power plant workers. Its track record is shameful.

    It's essential to quit coal, but you can't just abandon thousands of people who depend on it. Germany is an industrial powerhouse, and I see no reason why industry can't be expanded to this and other coal regions, or why generous economic incentives can't be deployed to help the people relocate to other places with more and better jobs.

    The renewable energy industry can't replace all those jobs, and the human cost of the loss of those jobs must not be dismissed - poverty, desperation, family breakups, even suicide. Not to mention political rebellion.

    These people did not create the climate-change situation they (and the entire world) are in; they are just cogs in the mighty German economy. To not mitigate that cost would be unconscionable. But for some reason, that's exactly what I've come to expect of government.

  8. Germany's social/societal problems with its eastern coal-producing region mirror America's with Appalachia.

    Germany, and even the EU as a whole, do not have America's rich renewable-energy resources.

    How many of you remember Shibani Joshi ? She was the FOX news faux "expert" who solemnly explained that the reason "solar energy could work in Germany and (supposedly) could not work in the US " is that "Germany gets more sun."

    To this day scientists joculary use "Shibanis" as a metric rather like Politifact's "Pinocchios" ... the symbol of boneheadedly-ignorant claims masquerading as expertise.

    In fact the solar resource in Germany is about on par with that of southern Alaska ... no surprise: Juneau latitude 53 °N, Berlin 52.5° ... in other words poor.

    The best solar resource in Europe is in Spain and Portugal; not as good as our southwest desert.

    And Europe doesn't have good wind resources on land either; as good as it gets is Scotland. America has an amazing "wind stripe" that goes roughly from N. Dak down to West Texas, with big hot-spots elsewhere.

    This is why Europe pushed turbines out into the North Sea, and we are just beginning.

    And Germany has next-to-zero domestic natural gas -- they buy it from the Russians.

    Germany is in a real tough spot, and in the opinion of many (I'm one of them) they panicked and shut down all their nuclear plants too fast.

  9. We germans are stupid. We are dealing with a NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude. It is not just quitting coal, we want to quit it with no replacement. We already have the technology to use more renewable energy, but the expansion of the electric grid to get all the wind-, solar-, bio- and geothermal powerplants on is constantly blocked by the very same people who don't want coal and nuclear plants.
    People simply don't want to acknowledge, that their local obstruction adds up to a systematic failure. And having the political will implies rigid oppression of dissenter.
    Sometimes i wish we would have this kind of political determination. But i am also ok if someday people will realize, that there is no power on the sockets anymore.