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Germany's Hypocritical Fossil Fuel Expansion Is Ridiculous
It's almost like climate pledges are just for show.
Germany should be a beacon of climate hope. The country has adopted renewable energy at an astonishing rate, its automotive industries are currently phasing out fossil fuels for battery technology, and, as one of the leading European economies, they are a significant presence at international climate conferences. But it seems Germany is determined to mire this opportunity to lead the world, and is ignoring climate scientists’ advice and even going against its own climate pledges. Why? Because Germany isn’t tackling misinformation or its own corruption, past and present, properly. Let me explain.
This all came to a head when Germany recently announced they intend to invest in foreign unabated (untapped) natural gas projects until 2025. This is despite the agreement Germany signed in 2021 at COP26, in which Germany and 25 other countries agreed to halt public financing of new fossil fuel projects overseas by the end of 2022. This agreement would, in theory, divert $22 billion per year away from plant-wrecking fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. That is enough to build 45,833 MW of solar capacity per year, which is enough to power a decent-sized country!
This COP26 agreement didn’t just come out of thin air. It was based on a 2021 IEA report, which found that in order to meet our climate targets, investments in unabated fossil fuels need to halt immediately. If not, then reaching net-zero by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is nearly impossible. Just a reminder here that if we breach these limits, it could threaten billions of lives, crash our economies, and even threaten the stability of our governments. This report basically told the international community, “This is your last chance; this is what you must do or face hell.”
But fossil fuels remain one of the most lucrative businesses out there, giving the companies and shareholders of the fossil fuel industry incredible sway over their governments. In order to make such a sudden and drastic global shift against this poisonous industry would require a powerful country to spearhead it, so other countries have no excuse not to follow suit. As Germany has positioned itself at the centre of the EU, it took this lead position and is the main reason why so many countries joined this agreement. So it was surprising when, last year, Germany announced it was considering investing over $1 billion in at least 10 foreign fossil fuel projects. Getting these investments made before the cut-off date of the Cop26 agreement would be difficult, and many were worried they would break this crucial agreement. But now, this new announcement all but proves that Germany will break their Cop26 promise and leave a critical climate agreement without a leader.
Germany has tried to legitimise this decision and use loopholes in the Cop26 agreement. They say that they want to phase out coal power, but renewables aren’t growing fast enough. So, they will expand their natural gas power, which is far cleaner than coal, to keep reducing overall emissions and fill in the energy gap until renewables can fully power the country. But their gas supply from Russia has all but shut off, leaving them with no supply, so they have to invest in new natural gas projects to secure a robust enough supply.
This might sound like sound logic, but sadly, Germany is purposefully ignoring the bigger picture. Firstly, oil and gas are typically extracted from the same deposit, as they coexist in the Earth’s crust, and it is far more cost-effective to be able to sell both. What’s more, these projects typically need to extract every last drop of oil and gas to pay back investors and make a profit, and rarely close before then. As such, Germany’s investment will enable global emissions to grow for years to come, as they will have increased the total available fossil fuel supply, and foreign countries will use the oil and gas that Germany doesn’t need. This is why the IEA wanted these investments to stop, as it would cap the total amount of fossil fuel emissions possible.
So why has Germany done this? Why have they turned their back on key climate agreements and thrown environmental responsibility to the wind? Well, I think it is their moronic approach to nuclear power.
I wrote an article a while ago about how Germany was planning to phase out nuclear power, despite the fact that it is safer than renewable energy, with just as low carbon emissions. Why did they do this? Well, the move was to appease public concern over nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. That is Despite the fact that the natural disasters and corporate corruption that caused Fukushima can’t happen in Germany, and even with this disaster taken into account, nuclear energy is still far safer than renewables and orders of magnitude safer than any fossil fuel. (Read that article here).
What’s more, the German government knew that experts were saying that nuclear power was critical to meeting our emissions targets. There is a bottleneck to how fast we can adopt renewable energy, so using it in conjunction with nuclear power is the fastest way to decarbonise our energy grids.
So rather than listen to the experts, and tackle the nuclear misinformation rife within the German populace (and many others worldwide), their government opted to keep voters happy and phase out their nuclear reactors by the end of 2022.
Now, when you look at Germany’s energy mix from 2019 compared to 2022, you can see why they desperately need these overseas fossil fuels.
In 2019 Germany used 513 TWh of energy. Of that, 70.7 TWh came from nuclear power, 204 TWh came from fossil fuels, with the remaining 238.3 TWh came from renewable energy. In 2022, Germany consumed only 484.2 TWh of energy, renewable energy was up to 245.7, TWh nuclear power production was down to only 31.47 TWh, and fossil fuel production was up to 220.3 TWh!
So, over the same period annual nuclear output was reduced by 57.23 TWh, fossil fuel production increased by 16.3 TW, and renewable energy only increased by only 7.4 TWh.
This is why Germany has no option but to invest in overseas fossil fuels. Their internal reserves have run dry, and their typical supply from Russia is now non-existent. Meanwhile, renewable energy is only growing by a few TWh per year. In order to facilitate their inane nuclear phase-out and keep the lights on, Germany has to invest in new fossil fuel supplies from overseas.
If Germany instead focused on extending the lifespan of its reactors (like the UK and France are doing), then not only could it have better weathered the Russian gas crisis, but it could be using significantly fewer fossil fuels than it is right now.
What’s more, many of the key players pushing for the phase-out of nuclear and the recent plans to break the Cop26 agreement have strong links to the fossil fuel industry. Take Former German Chancellor (equivalent to their prime minister or president) Gerhard Schröder, who is a close friend of Putin, pushed for Germany to abandon nuclear power as early as the year 2000, was a board member of the Russian-German gas pipeline Nordstream, and in 2022 was appointed board member of Russian state-owned fossil fuel giant Gazprom. No doubt his motives weren’t around nuclear safety and more about lining his pocket with more rubbles.
There is a lesson here. We must tackle climate and energy misinformation; otherwise, our efforts to save the world from ourselves can be easily undermined by corruption, lobbyists and the fatally myopic.
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Sources: PF Nexus, UK Government, MET Group, Politico, Earth.org, Statista, IEA, Energy Data, Storm Report, Europtopics, Trade.gov, Will Lockett, IISD, Argus, Clean Energy Wire, Climate Change News, Climate Change News