The extreme heat waves in the United States and Central Europe are a brutal reminder of the importance of phasing out fossil fuels. But instead, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria will now start shutting down coal-fired power plants.
Climate change, please wait, is the message.
Putin is very aware of what weapon Russian energy is – and he uses it to the maximum. Hardly surprising given the West’s sanctions against Russia and strong support for Ukraine in the war.
Russian Gazprom has reduced the amount of natural gas sent in pipelines to Germany and the rest of Europe. Gazprom blames technical problems, but the reduction is clearly politically motivated.
It is happening at the same time as the countries in Europe that are dependent on Russian gas want to replenish their stocks before the winter. It is an equation that does not go together.
Germany’s gas reserves are currently filled to 57 percent. By October, the German government wants to see 80 percent and in November 90 percent. Otherwise, a situation threatens where companies in Europe’s most important engine are unable to keep production going and households are forced to freeze.
Europe will then become even more a victim of Putin’s blackmail, and the price chaos in the electricity market risks becoming even crazier.
So the German government has decided that much of the gas that now comes from Russia should be directed to the warehouses instead of being used at once. Then an immediate lack of energy arises that must be solved in some way.
“A bitter decision”
The answer from Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck is that it should be done with coal. Existing coal-fired power plants will increase their production and some that have recently been taken out of operation will be restarted. The promise is that it will only happen until 2024, but everyone realizes that it all depends on whether Germany then got rid of its dependence on Russian gas.
When the new German government took office at the end of last year, Habeck and his Greens pushed for an earlier postponement of coal decommissioning from 2038 to 2030.
The coal you are now forced to use is the dirtiest imaginable from eastern Germany where it is still mined in open pits. The alternative is to import coal – from Russia.
Sun and wind are simply not enough. The expansion will take many years.
To shoot oneself in the foot
Savings campaigns with calls to shower in lukewarm water and lower the indoor temperature this winter have already been launched. But it only makes a difference on the margins.
The Germans have shot themselves in the foot by dismantling nuclear power. A fatal decision in the rearview mirror Angela Merkel made in 2011 after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan. The last three nuclear power plants to be closed at the turn of the year are said to be impossible to run on.
The Netherlands and Austria are some of the countries that follow in Germany’s footsteps.
The Government of The Hague has decided to lift with immediate effect all restrictions on the use of coal-fired power plants until 2024.
Austria, which announced two years ago that it will phase out its coal power forever, intends to restart coal-fired power plants, which are closed as late as 2020.
So despite the extremely high temperatures of recent weeks in large parts of Europe giving another alarming signal of the importance of rapidly reducing emissions, many of the continent’s countries are now making decisions that increase them.
Mass unemployment – or planetary collapse
Reducing emissions requires long-term determination. But it constantly collides with short-term problems that need to be addressed.
First, it was the recovery from the pandemic that contributed to it. Now it’s the war in Ukraine. Tomorrow something else.
It is no wonder that short-sightedness wins every time. Who wants to live with closed industries and mass unemployment so that it might get better in 50 or 100 years?
Nevertheless, it is devastating for our ability to reduce the climate threat quickly enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the “tipping points” after which climate change becomes irreversible.
Our short-term fire brigade calls make long-term firefighting work more difficult. Or in the worst case, make it impossible.