‘Green’ Germany Prepares To Fire Up the Coal Furnaces
Somehow, Germany, a country where the government is firmly committed to “green” energy, is preparing to fire up coal-burning power plants. The move is even more remarkable given that officials stubbornly refuse to restart mothballed nuclear facilities, or even reconsider the timeline for retiring those that remain online. It’s an astonishing situation for a country that very recently boasted that it would soon satisfy all its energy needs with sunshine and cool summer breezes.
“A bill providing the legal basis to burn more coal for power generation is now making its way through parliament, aiming to boost the output of so-called reserve power plants that are irregularly used for grid stabilization and were scheduled to go offline over the next few years,” Deutsche Welle noted this week. “German Economy Minister Robert Habeck recently described his current energy policy as ‘a sort of an arm wrestling match’ with Russian President Vladimir Putin” the story added in reference to Russia reducing natural gas flows to countries that imposed sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine.
No doubt, Putin’s retaliation against Western Europe hiked the price of energy and raised worries about dark months to come followed by a cold winter. But, like American gas price woes, Germany’s problems predate the war in Ukraine and are closely linked to the goals the country’s political class made about their energy future in the absence of a realistic plan for getting there. In 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the German government recommitted itself to closing all of its nuclear plants and getting its electricity from solar and wind. The decision was motivated by public fears of nuclear power, but also by loud insistence that the energy source had no place in a sustainable future.
“Germany is going to be ahead of the game on that and it is going to make a lot of money, so the message to Germany’s industrial competitors is that you can base your energy policy not on nuclear, not on coal, but on renewables,” Greenpeace’s Shaun Burnie told the BBC at the time.
But “nuclear power is very close to the same shade of green as that of most renewables” when you compare mining and manufacturing inputs to each approach, energy expert Gail H. Marcus wrote for Physics World in 2017. And nuclear is reliable—the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow, which means electricity produced by those sources ebbs and flows. That’s a big problem for electrical grids that require steady supplies of energy.
“Large amounts of intermittent electricity create huge swings in supply which the grid has to be able to cope with,” Bloomberg reported in January 2021. “The issue isn’t confined to Eur
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