Germany Out In The Coal

  • Date: 07/01/14
  • Ezra Levant, Toronto Sun

With Greenpeace successfully forcing the shutdown of nuclear power, and keeping out fracking for gas, what’s left? A boom in German coal.

Greenpeace may have been founded in Canada and its global headquarters are now in Holland, but the jewel in its crown is Germany. It’s their biggest source of fundraising.

And politically, it’s been one of the most successful jurisdictions in terms of getting Green politicians into actual positions of power, including in the cabinet of ruling governments.

And the consequence of Greenpeace’s dominance of Germany is … the construction of the first new coal-fired power plant there since 2005.

In fact, over the next two years Germany will build 10 new power plants for hard coal. And then there’s the boom in lignite — soft, brown coal with a larger pollution footprint.

Europe is in a coal frenzy, building power plants and opening up new mines, practically every month. It might sound odd that a boom in German coal is the result of Greenpeace’s political success.

Coal has a much higher carbon footprint — for those who are worried about the theory of man-made global warming — than natural gas does. And both have a higher carbon footprint than nuclear power does (it has no greenhouse gas emissions). And even global warming skeptics acknowledge that coal has some real pollution, too, like sulphur and smog.

But that’s the thing. After an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 wrecked Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor, Germany’s Greens pressured their own country into announcing the shutdown all of German nuclear power plants by 2022.

Clean, zero-emission, safe, reliable power — just gone.

Substituting natural gas might seem like an alternative — that’s the fastest-growing source of power in the United States, because of the fracking boom — but Greenpeace is against that technology, too. That leaves Germany (and the rest of Europe) at the mercy of Russia’s Kremlin-controlled Gazprom, which sets artificially high natural gas prices, and even occasionally cuts off shipments — as it has done twice, to Ukraine, in the dead of winter — as a political punishment.

With Greenpeace successfully forcing the shutdown of nuclear power, and keeping out fracking for gas, what’s left?

The daydream of wind turbines? The fantasy of solar power? Neither are reliable in all weather.

But, more to the point, neither are affordable. Germany is Europe’s last remaining industrial powerhouse. But not for long if its electricity costs are double or triple what their competitors pay.

The world’s biggest steel companies have already left for Asia; America’s low-cost electricity boom has brought heavy industries (including petrochemical manufacturing) back to the U.S.

But without nukes or gas, there’s not much left besides coal.

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