In Germany, an “Empire Strikes Back” Moment

October 5, 2018

Nobody ever said fossil fuel interests would go quietly.

Last gasp effort by coal mining interests to cut and strip an ancient forest in Germany.
Resistance holding, for now.
Tree and tunnel sitters occupying Hambach forest.

Meanwhile, Germany bashers and, sadly, enviro hand-wringers pushing the story that Germans have turned against renewable energy. Not so.

Deutshe Welle:

A court in the western German city of Münster on Friday told energy concern RWE that it must desist from clearing the 12,000-year-old Hambach Forest until a lawsuit brought by environmental organization BUND, the German branch of Friends of the Earth, has been decided.

The court said that the documents supporting the lawsuit filled several cartons, making it impossible to decide on the legal issues in an expedited procedure.

RWE had also not adequately proven that clearing the forest was essential for maintaining the energy supply in Germany the court said in its ruling, which overturned a previous one by a lower court in Cologne.

“We cannot presume that we will have a decision in this case within a few weeks,” a court spokeswoman said on Friday, adding that proceedings would depend a lot on how the two parties involved acted and whether further evidence had to be gathered.

BUND hailed the court’s decision, saying it was “really a turning point here in North Rhine-Westphalia,” the state in which the forest is situated.

Plans by RWE to destroy most of the remaining forest to make way for an extension of a lignite mine had triggered long-running protests by activists, with several living in the woodlands in tree houses for more than six years to block clearing activities.

The tree houses were completely dismantled over the past few weeks, leaving RWE free to commence with clearance.

A large-scale rally planned for Saturday has been banned by authorities, with protest organizers, including BUND, Greenpeace and Campact, lodging an appeal that has yet to be decided upon.

In its lawsuit opposing the forest’s clearance, BUND has argued that the area falls under the EU’s Habitats Directive because of its population of Bechstein’s bats.

The Habitats Directive aims to conserve endangered native animals and plants in Europe.

Deutsche Welle:

Does RWE need to fell the forest now to keep mining?

No. The edge of the Hambach open-pit mine is over 300 meters (985 feet) from the forest – most of it over 400 meters away. In recent years, the diggers tearing up the earth for lignite — or brown coal — have been advancing towards the forest at pace of 120 meters per year. If they keep going at that rate, there should be enough coal for them to keep mining for at least another three years.

Experts have also said that the mine could be operated so as to spare the forest for another six years, while feeding the power plants it supplies with the same amount of coal they currently consume.

However, coal demand is set to fall. By 2019, three of the older power station units supplied by the Hambach mine are to be transferred into an emergency reserve that will only be used when the country is short of power

Can Germany burn the Hambach coal and cut emissions?

Climate scientists say we must act fast to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — or preferably 1.5. For this reason, the German Council of Economic Experts is calling for a rapid coal exit. They have calculated how much CO2 Germany can emit over the coming decades to keep within the target.

In a business-as-usual scenario, Germany’s carbon budget for coal-fired power will be exhausted by the end of 2023, after which keeping coal-fired power plants running would mean Germany emitting more than its fair share of CO2.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute have proposed a path to giving up coal that would see the last power stations switched off in 2030, Germany keeping within its carbon budget — and the Hambach forest spared.

RWE, however, rejects the economic experts’ recommendation and wants to release significantly more CO2 into the atmosphere. RWE’s strategy is based on a policy that would lead to global warming of more than 3 degrees.

Do Germans support the Energy Transition?

Yes, and they have done so for much longer than the German government has. In September 2016, a survey found that 93 percent of the German public said the Energiewende was important or very important to the country’s development.

Most of the Germans surveyed (62 percent) said they would like to live near a renewable energy facility. Among those who already had such a facility nearby, the highest number was 90 percent for solar, followed by 69 percent for wind turbines. Only 56 percent would like to live near a biogas unit. The numbers were lower for people who did not yet have direct exposure, suggesting that the concerns are assuaged with direct experience.

In contrast, only 17 percent would like to live near a nuclear plant, followed by 30 percent for coal and 40 percent for gas turbines.


Additional polling here. at Clean Energy Wire:

A vast majority of Germans broadly support the Energiewende’s aim to decarbonise the economy but a large share also says that the associated burden is not shared equally, the Social Sustainability Barometer 2017 by the Potsdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) says. Together with pollster forsa and the RWI Leibniz-Institute, the IASS conducted a panel survey of 7,500 households and subsequently a qualitative survey based on 50 interviews in late 2017.

Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed endorse the energy transition, but almost two thirds say costs are not fairly allocated between average wage earners, businesses and wealthy people. A clear majority of 75 percent say they want to actively take part in making the energy transition happen and renewables expansion, energy conservation, and greater energy efficiency all enjoy support by at least 80 percent of those surveyed.



14 Responses to “In Germany, an “Empire Strikes Back” Moment”

  1. The demo for tomorrow (Saturday) has just now been confirmed as legal by a German court.

    Today, RWE security thugs began beating up peaceful protestors who were in the forest. Unfortunately for them (and RWE) it was video recorded.

    RWE shares have crashed today, losing 7.6% by late afternoon trading.

    See you in the forest if you’re in Germany anytime soon!

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      And they’re doing it for lignite.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        And when the lignite is gone maybe they’ll start burning peat, destroying some more of the environment while digging it out.

        • Sir Charles Says:

          There are no significant peat sources in Germany, but they still burn an awful lot of brown coal (that’s how they call it over there).

          Also =>

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, Dr. Obvious, we all know that there is virtually no use of peat as a fuel source in Germany. I was joking—since peat is the next “poorest” fuel down the list from lignite, those who are interested only in making a buck just might dig up and burn what peat they could find.

            The chart IS interesting—-note that it covers 14 years, and the quantity of fossil fuels burned to generate electricity in Germany each year has not gone down very much. The increase in renewables has been used mainly to offset the decrease in nuclear and for growth.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Seems like RWE behaves much like the energy “monarchs” in the USA. Maybe the fact that Germany is so much smaller, more highly developed, and more densely populated makes it easier for people to see and oppose the depredations of the fossil fuel interests. So much of the same kind of wanton exploitation that goes on in the USA is far away and hidden from view.

    Viel Glück to the demonstrators—in any sane world, they would prevail.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Yay! And RWE is losing customers at the moment.

  4. Sir Charles Says:

    How to make a protest sign

  5. neilrieck Says:

    While under oath, Kavanaugh lied when he answered that “the devil’s triangle” was a drinking game. Does’t this qualify as perjury?

  6. Interesting. You claim to be concerned about those forests in the context of coal mining, but you cheer it on when forests are denuded and spiked with 500-650 foot towers that flash lights all night and kill or drive away wildlife (and rural residents). Hypocrisy is a strange but common thing in today’s “green” crowd.

    Wind turbines necessitate permanent clearcuts and wide access roads, reducing carbon sinks and generally making the world uglier. You don’t want to talk about all the environmental protests against wind power in Germany because you’re a cleantech salesman, not an objective environmentalist.

    Industrial wind power advocates don’t care about preserving nature, just the tribal symbolism of reducing carbon, which wind turbines have done a mediocre job of. Wind energy is the final bloated gesture of failed growthism. People should realize that consumption of everything (including open space) needs to decline ASAP. (Big Wind is wedded to Big Oil, Coal & Gas)

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Anyone who would conflate the minimal damage done by installing wind power ANYWHERE with the virtually irreparable damage done by strip mining and mountain top removal suffers from incurable cognitive dissonance.

      Or is really a troll for the fossil fuel interests that who specializes in attacking wind power. Tell us, does it pay well?

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