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Germany Is Burning Too Much Coal (bloomberg.com) 447

Several readers share a report: Germany is widely seen as a world leader in the fight against climate change. Thanks to its investments in renewable power, wind and solar energy provide a third of its electricity, more than double the U.S. share. Germany's goal to lower carbon-dioxide emissions 40 percent by 2020 is significantly more ambitious than that of Europe as a whole or the U.S. After the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed even greater determination. "We can't wait for the last man on Earth to be convinced by the scientific evidence for climate change," she explained. But there's another, troubling side to the German story: The country still gets 40 percent of its energy from coal, a bigger share than most other European countries. And much of it is lignite, the dirtiest kind of coal. As a result, Germany is set to fall well short of its 2020 goal. This dependence on coal is partly a side effect of Germany's abandonment of emissions-free nuclear power and partly foot-dragging on the part of a government wary of alienating voters in German coal country. During the summer election campaign, Merkel largely avoided the subject.

Germany Is Burning Too Much Coal

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  • fucking krauts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:42PM (#55548835)

    The emergency move away from nuclear has been incredibly short sighted. I understand not wanting to build new reactors, but shutting down running reactors, with all the capital investment involved, just doesn't make any sense. Especially when there is little risk of natural disasters in Germany.

    If people are serious about maintaining the same quality of lifestyle that we have today without burning as much coal, the current solution is Nuclear Energy. Yes it does pose many risks but so does burning coal, and the latter seems to be destroying our environment.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Unfortunately a lot of nuclear FUD is bankrolled by the coal industry pretending to be grass roots. This has been a big issue in the USA also.
      • Fucking Envirowackos (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:16PM (#55549155)

        More likely the Envirowackos.

        Nuclear is expensive due to incessant lawsuits and an uncertain regulatory environment. How many other 5 year, billion dollar construction projects are subject to the rules being change on a whim?

        • More likely the Envirowackos.

          Follow the money... and don't be stupid.

        • More likely the Envirowackos.

          Movie stars and hippies are not as good at nuclear physics as media columnists think they are. We need to look more closely at who benefits from their hysteria.

      • Re:fucking krauts (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:21PM (#55549191)

        Sorry but not even close. The nuclear FUD in Germany is well and truly a grass roots campaign led mostly by those who lived through the hysteria of Chernobyl. The world was largely comfortable with the idea of nuclear power maintaining the status quo right until the Japan incident. That started new fears of "if they can't even do it".

        No need for the coal industry to get involved. The actual protests on the ground and the driving force from the people in Germany who have no concept of risk management and just know they are surrounded by these nukular things they don't understand was incredible. Protesters number in the hundreds of thousands there and after the Fukushima incident they even managed to form a 45km long human chain.

        Never underestimate the power of ignorance combined with technical media reporting. The coal industry hasn't had to spend a dime in Germany battling nuclear, not since the 80s anyway.

        • by Luthair ( 847766 )
          I can't speak to Germany, but definitely has been the case in the USA.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The nuclear FUD in Germany is well and truly a grass roots campaign led mostly by those who lived through the hysteria of Chernobyl.
          That is nonsense.
          The population is against nuclear power since the early 1970s, after the TMI incident it rapidly increase. Plenty of emergencies in plants that did not got reported (unlawful) and got discovered later made them lose the trust completely.

          The actual protests on the ground and the driving force from the people in Germany who have no concept of risk management and

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Japan could ride the Fukushima disaster relatively good. Look on a map ... if something like that happens in Germany, our country will end up as "non existing anymore". Idiot!

            Bookmarks this comment: Just in case anyone ever falls for the stereotype of the Germans as a rational technologically advanced people.

          • Because: democracy does not work!

            Democracy works just fine. People hysterically and ignorantly will vote against their own collective self interest. That's why so much government is deferred to experts.

            Case in point: Everything you have just said. It has stifled an entire industry which would have fantastically responded to the current global warming crisis. It is the equivalent of banning cars because they didn't have seatbelts and airbags rather than letting an industry safely progress. Ironically the German chemical industry left largel

    • The only reason I would have reservations when it comes to nuclear power is the fact that there is no real responsibility for safety. In the modern world of golden parachutes and "synergistic optimization", a company that makes a reactor head from zinc pot metal, causing an instant meltdown when the rods are placed, has no responsiblity or worries. They got the contract funding, and worst, the company at fault gets a token fine while the government has a new Superfund site to deal with.

      If we can't even tr

      • The only reason I would have reservations when it comes to nuclear power is the fact that there is no real responsibility for safety.

        Agreed.

        Dead panels? It goes back to the store or maker.

        You went from being logical and objective to being incredibly naive. There are no guarantees of anything of the sort occurring in the long run.

        • The panels I have encountered usually have a 20 year warranty. If they are DOA, usually it is found before they are installed. If they die after they are around, it may be a pain to go up to the roof and replace it, but less of an effort than if something bad happened with a reactor, such as if a reactor head cracked.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      TFA is trying to make the situation seem bad, when in fact it's good.

      The 2020 plan [bmub.bund.de] is extremely ambitious. It was supposed to be really, really hard to meet and they knew as far back as 2013 that they were likely to miss it. The idea isn't to set an easy goal that can be met with minimal effort, it's a Kennedy style moon shot. It worked too, like the US there is a lot of public support for it and willingness to put the effort in.

      The 2020 goal was a 22% cut in emissions, but it looking like a 15% cut will be

    • Re:fucking krauts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by allcoolnameswheretak ( 1102727 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @06:48PM (#55551103)

      The emergency move away from nuclear has been incredibly short sighted. I understand not wanting to build new reactors, but shutting down running reactors, with all the capital investment involved, just doesn't make any sense. Especially when there is little risk of natural disasters in Germany.

      If people are serious about maintaining the same quality of lifestyle that we have today without burning as much coal, the current solution is Nuclear Energy. Yes it does pose many risks but so does burning coal, and the latter seems to be destroying our environment.

      Nuclear energy is great up until the point the time comes to dismantle an aging nuclear plant and all the nuclear waste that goes along with it. Then the power companies duck away by buying themselves out of the equation and letting taxpayer money take over [spiegel.de].

      Nuclear power is a really nice deal. Reap all the profits and let the taxpayer take care of the dirty work.

      And if the unthinkable happens and one of the things blows up in your face due to incalculable risks, as has happened before at least two times, well, the taxpayer will also have to step in because like Fukushima taught us, the costs of a nuclear meltdown are so immense, it will bankrupt any company.

      Whatever way you look at it, nuclear is a shady deal with corporations reaping profits while carrying none of the risks.

    • Especially when there is little risk of natural disasters in Germany.
      That is nonsense.
      Nearly all reactors are on fault lines.

      the current solution is Nuclear Energy.
      It is not, Germany only had about 20% contribution by nuclear power, now it is about 12% IIRC.

  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:45PM (#55548869)

    That 40% sounds like a required need for base load. I doubt they will be able to eliminate it without much wailing and gnashing of teeth from their utility engineers.

    They could have accomplished their goals by keeping those nuclear plants going. Shame they let feelings get in the way of good energy policy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No. And No. I could like lots of other studies that show the need for "baseload" power is a myth, mostly created out of the way the power grid used to operate. It's not a requirement.

      https://cleantechnica.com/2017/11/12/germany-shutter-20-oldest-brown-coal-plants-without-creating-energy-shortages/

      • by harperska ( 1376103 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:34PM (#55549305)

        That link doesn't 'disprove' the concept of peaking/base load grids. That concept is still sound and was in fact how the US grid operated at least as of 2010 when I was last personally involved in the energy industry. It just makes physics sense that it is more efficient to run your big plants at a constant rate 24/7, and bring your smaller plants on and off line as demand fluctuates throughout the day.

        What it sounds like your link is arguing is that Germany was playing games by generating more base load than they needed and then exporting the remainder, not that they didn't need base load at all. .

        • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

          The myth is that this is the only economic way to operate the grid.

        • "It just makes physics sense that it is more efficient to run your big plants at a constant rate 24/7, and bring your smaller plants on and off line as demand fluctuates throughout the day."

          Physics says you cannot shutdown a boiler and expect to be able to bring it back online just a couple hours later. If you want a steam power plant to produce power for an expected peak on Monday at 10:00 AM then the people running it will start heating it up on Sunday at 10:00 PM.

          It sounds like the problem is that Germa

      • Arstechnica went full-blown pro-establishment a while back; they have not an ounce of fucking credibility any more..
    • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

      There have been many simulations which clearly show that it is not really a problem. I know it got a lot of bad press in english speaking countries, but the energy transition in Germany was something people put a lot of thought in.

  • But but but.. they SAID all the right things and virtue signaled in the prescribed manner!

    It's great they completely dumped nuclear power though, because OMG RADEYAYSHUNS!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grasshoppa ( 657393 )

      Not sure why you're being modded down, because you nailed it.

      For all their lofty goals, paranoia and empty gestures are all Germany has thus far achieved.

      • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

        Not sure why you're being modded down, because you nailed it.

        Possibly -1 redundant, because he only repeated in sarcastic tones what the very first post wrote: "The emergency move away from nuclear has been incredibly short sighted."

        Nailed it.

      • Not sure why you're being modded down

        Because by misspelling a word using ALL CAPS in that way it becomes an ad hominem attack, which is a logical fallacy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by s122604 ( 1018036 )
        And the US, despite having a major political party completely infected with the AGW denial lunacy has been doing well re: carbon
        That's mostly due to having more methane than we know what to do with, but still...

        The absolute best thing that could happen to the planet re: climate change (other than mass suicide I guess) would be massive, trillion dollar nuclear power plant construction campaigns carried out in europe, north america, and Asia.
        Even if we had another chernobyl ever decade (and there is no reaso
        • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

          The US made some progress, but this looks good only when compared to itself from the past. The US still has CO2 emissions per capita much larger than everyone else. This while having a negative trade deficit. This is nothing to be proud of.

          And no, wasting a trillion dollar on nuclear is certainly not the best to help the planet.

      • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

        Increasing electricity production from renewables from 10% to 30% in about fifteen years in one of the largest economies of the world is a substantial achievement. This is also helped to create an overall world market for renewables with a corresponding huge decrease in price in the last years. I agree that Germany should have closed coal plants first instead of nuclear, but they are now fighting about shutting down 10 or 20 major coal plants in the coalition talks. Empty gestures, my ass.

      • Well to be fair they have made significant investments into increasing their renewable energy mix, which is arguably a good thing.

        However as another poster pointed out the 40% sounds an awful lot like base load, which is something they surely glossed over in their grand plan.

        What's left is covering the base load either by burning coal (hypocritical), or by importing energy from France who largely produce it through nuclear (also hypocritical). Using coal they keep their national energy security, but pretty

    • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:59PM (#55548967) Homepage
      Sigh. "Virtue signaling" is something that has real meaning. It doesn't just means "does something that I don't like or don't sympathize with". Your sarcasm is essentially correct regarding nuclear power, and their turning off their nuke plants was a terrible idea, but that doesn't mean the people here weren't sincere.
      • Sigh. "Virtue signaling" is something that has real meaning.

        Yes, it means "a political or politically-tinged expression that I disagree with and thus would like to both trivialize and paint as dishonest." Commonly used when the user's own political positions are stupid, indefensible, and otherwise awful.

        See also: "SJW:" It's like "ni**er-lover" but can be used against allies of not only black people but any ethnic minority, religious minority, the LGBTQ community, the poor, or even just women, and is thus more usable in the 21st century.

    • Unfortunately, I have to agree: speaking as someone who considers himself an environmentalist, I've yet to meet a fellow self-identified "environmentalist" who can even explain the difference between radiation and radioactive particles.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      You know, this attitude is just as emotional as the strawman position it attacks.

      While I am generally supportive of the idea of developing new nuclear technologies and making them part of a global climate change response, the attitude displayed here shows one of the legitimate reasons that anti-nuclear activists have to be concerned. Nuclear power is potentially very useful tool in addressing anthropogenic climate change, but it's not a quick and easy fix. It has serious issues that ought to be treated se

  • They're going to be screwed once they hit Step 3.
  • Meanwhile (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The only country not part of the Paris accord is set to meet their goal. Odd.

    • by 0ptix ( 649734 )

      You seem to be assuming that the US CO2 output trend under Obama's tenure will continue. Why does that seem plausible to you given the new administrations about-face on climate, the environment in general and the EPA in particular?

  • by atomicalgebra ( 4566883 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:51PM (#55548931)
    Germany has spent 100s of billions on renewables without much to show for it. Their electricity rates are among the highest in Europe, yet they still pollute 10x as much as France" [squarespace.com] If they spent that money on next generation nuclear their emissions would have dropped. As it currently stands nuclear power is the only viable option to mitigate climate change.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HornWumpus ( 783565 )

      High electric rates are a greeny GOAL.

      They aren't very smart, but their mistake is bad goals, not bad execution.

      • by atomicalgebra ( 4566883 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:10PM (#55549087)

        High electric rates are a greeny GOAL.

        You are right. Increasing electricity rates in a goal of the greenies. There is a belief that high electricity rates will decrease demand. In reality it impoverishes the lower and middle classes while doing nothing to lower CO2 emissions.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, they're very smart, they're just not shills for the fossil fuel industry as you seem to be. "greeny's" aren't after high electric rates, they just want the electric rate to accurately reflect the costs of production. If fossil fuels weren't allowed to externalize a lot of their costs on everyone else, their electricity would've been far more expensive than renewables a long time ago. If we stopped all the production subsidies to oil/gas/coal, made them pay for the costs of climate change they'r

    • Polluting the most when you're the main industrial nation of the region is hardly surprising. If Germany lowered their industrial base to that or Italy or Greece they'd also lower their carbon emissions too, but they'd have to import everything. All of Europe would need austerity measures to deal with the loss of the massive amount of capital that Germany injects into the EU economy.

      • France seems to be doing fine. Germany would not have to lower their industrial base if they opted to use nuclear.
        • exactly.
          In fact, ALL of the cleanest nations have some major form of a clean base-load power.
          For sweden, it is nuclear and hydro. For Costa Rica, it is geothermal, and hydro. For nations like Indonesia, geo-thermal will allow them to become clean.

          BUT for large nations, that will not work.
          Take China. Many ppl rave about their building wind and solar. Of course, in America, our wind and solar has an efficiency above 30%, with new tall towers going up around 60%. The reason is that we build these in sma
          • France has the ONLY right idea for large nations. Nuclear, combined with AE, so that fossil fuels are gone.

            You seem not to be aware that France is following Germanys lead and is exiting nuclear power, too, and building mainly wind and solar plants.

        • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

          Meanwhile in France they realized that they are not doing fine and plan to decrease the use of nuclear substantially.

    • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

      Ramping renewables up to 30% electricity production in one of the largest economies of the world and creating a world market for PV is a substantial achievement. This is money well spent. And no, nuclear is far too expensive to be the solution for our energy problems.
      But I agree that it was a mistake to shut down nuclear plants before coal. Now people like you can still run around and claim the energy transition was for nothing, only because coal plants got a little more time before they get shut down in Ge

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Their electricity rates are high because of tax, not because it costs a lot to produce: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/s... [europa.eu]

      They pay more tax because they are not short sighted and see the longer term benefit. For people who can't afford it there are heavy discounts available. You are basically complaining that they decided to tax and spend for a cleaner future, it has little to do with the cost of generation which is pretty average by EU standards.

      France is the most nuclear heavy country in Europe, and they p

  • by Gregory Eschbacher ( 2878609 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:02PM (#55549005)

    Correction to your headline: They're not burning too much coal, which makes it sound like they're wasting coal by burning too much. In fact, this is just the opposite. The amount of coal they're burning is the amount necessary to provide 40% of the electricity to their country. A more accurate headline would be "Despite their reputation as a leader in renewable energy, Germany is actually burning more coal than most other European countries".

    Germany is running out of reliable sources of power generation: If not coal or nuclear, then natural gas would be a good choice. But do they have the political capital to switch from one fossil fuel to another?

    • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:08PM (#55549063)
      They're burning too much to meet their emissions goal....
    • Their gas mostly comes from Russia. They don't trust Putin.

      As my cousins said about their rooftop solar, it doesn't really make financial sense (expecting rates to be trimmed before payback), but fuck the Russians.

      A lot of them are switching to wood heat. Again largely because 'Fuck the Russians'.

      What they don't have is the political will to tell the Greenies to fuckoff and frack for gas of their own. They'll get their eventually, once the Saudi and Russian anti fracking propaganda spending tapers of

    • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

      Germany is not running out of reliable sources of power. In fact, Germany has far more power plants than it actually needs. The only real reason the use of coal has not been decreased in Germany until now is because a lot of jobs depend on it. This will change now.

  • Nuclear waste? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone considered just throwing it off planet?

    Turn it into glassy lumps and simply throw it off planet with a linear accelerator. Take some gravitational influences into account and you could even aim it at the sun. The sun wouldn't notice the whole planet falling into and we're just talking about a few thousand tons of radioactive waste. (wait until we hear the arguments about polluting the sun. :-)

    • Not all but most things considered nuclear waste isn't really waste. It remains very useful even if not presently. So they store where they can still get at it.
    • Nope. Horrible wasteful. Far better for us to use it all up so that only about 10-20% remains and it is safe in 200 years. In fact, those can simply be buried in yucca mountain or even slowly released in a molten volcano and allowed to be diluted.
    • A few things you might want to ponder:

      1) Remember the Saturn V? You know, the thing that we used to send people to the moon? That thing weighed 6.2 million pounds at lift off. To get a mass of about 63,500 pounds (that's 1/100 of its total weight) to the moon. The sun is a liiiiiiiittle bit further away. And no, sorry to burst that bubble, we cannot just "drop" something into the sun. Yes, the sun is the heaviest body in the solar system and hence has the highest gravity, but you still first have to reach e

    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      Anyone considered just throwing it off planet?

      Turn it into glassy lumps and simply throw it off planet with a linear accelerator. Take some gravitational influences into account and you could even aim it at the sun. The sun wouldn't notice the whole planet falling into and we're just talking about a few thousand tons of radioactive waste. (wait until we hear the arguments about polluting the sun. :-)

      We would only need to send the high level waste into space.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      "A typical large 1000 MWe nuclear reactor produces 25–30 tons of spent fuel per year.[4] If the fuel were reprocessed and vitrified, the waste volume would be only about three cubic meters per year, but the decay heat would be almost the same."

      Cost of a launch:
      http://www.spacex.com/about/ca... [spacex.com]
      So to put the high-level waste into a high orbit, it looks like each 1 GW reactor would need one Falcon Heavy, which is

  • Yup, not surprising. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:46PM (#55549423) Journal
    The funny thing is that many continue to rip on America and then compare to Germany and China.
    Yet, both Germany and China have high % of their electricity from coal. Germany is 45% and rising, and CHina's is around 80% (they refuse to allow external monitoring and their numbers change constantly). In fact, Germany has 45% coal, and 10% nat gas/mineral oil.
    Germany's electricity is not only more CO2 / KWh than is America's, but is much dirtier since the majority of theirs comes from Coal and NOT nat gas.
    America's electricity is about 28% coal, and 30% nat gas. BUT, America's coal continues to drop while Germany continues to build new coal plants. To be fair though, Germany's new coal is mostly about replacing old coal and nukes. By replacing their old coal plants, they are cleaning up the air, while getting more electricty.
    And while America is slowly building up renewables compared to Germany and CHina, our electricity remains much cleaner due to heavy use of nat gas as well as nuclear.
    In terms of Germany, they need a base-load system and solar/wind, even with storage, will NOT do the trick. So, if not nuclear, then what? Geo-thermal? Hydro? Nope to both.
    China continues to build out coal, but they are also building up nuclear, along with hydro, both of which are base-load powers. Germany has some HARD choices to make.
    • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @05:21PM (#55550553)
      In spite of the riff everybody is doing on germany not doing enough, they are a western country which has a high standard of living and have about half the emission per capita of CO2 than the US has... https://data.worldbank.org/ind... [worldbank.org] for those not wanting to click : per capita USA 16.5 metric ton per person, Germany 8.9 metric tons per capita. And that is in spite of all that lignite burning.
    • by 0ptix ( 649734 )

      According to the world bank data set here [worldbank.org] the US has reduced its gross C02 emissions to about 90.7% of its 2005 levels while Germany is at 90.3%. So Germany is marginally better but they are pretty comparable really in terms of achievments. China, on the hand, has about doubled their emissions in the same time frame. :-/

      Whats more worrying though when comparing the US to Germany is that over the last year or two the trend in reduction is accelerating in Germany while in the US CO2 emissions are actually sta

  • Germany's heavy dependence on fossil fuels is an _major_ problem now that Russia's shown their true their colours, and is attacking and undermining the West on all fronts. Further abuse and humiliation from the Russian side is now more likely, since Putin did his (plagiarised) PhD on how to wield the oil weapon.

    Far from understanding all this, Merkel then decided it would be a good idea to transition away from nuclear. Guess what fills the gap? Fossil fuels -- controlled by the strong adversary (Russia) and

  • I see two very wrong assumptions in the article and in this forum:

    * Coal still being used because of "voters in German coal country". Sorry, but those are way too few to concern the political parties in Berlin. The times when a considerable amount of jobs actually dependet on coal mining are long gone. Today the work ist done by heavy machinery, observed by very few humans in the process.

    * So much coal being burnt to fulfill baseline needs. Nope: Germany currently exports lots of electric energy into ne
  • Either Global climate change is a big enough worry to warrant the possibility of a local disaster such as Fukushima, or it is not. There is little chance of holding warming to 2 degrees if you significantly lower the %11 of world wide electricity being produced by nuclear reactors. In-fact most grid engineers will tell you, we should be doing the exact opposite and increasing nuclear generation capacity
  • by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <rodrigogiraoNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @03:19PM (#55549663) Homepage

    With Merkel letting in all those Afri- oh wait, you didn't mean THAT kind of "burning coal".

  • 40%... down from over 50% ten years ago. And that's WITH a decline in nuclear capacity.

    I'd say Germany is making pretty good progress on a tough goal.
    =Smidge=

  • by grumpygrodyguy ( 603716 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @06:24PM (#55550987)

    It's true, coal burners and mud sharks are destroying Europe.

  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @08:36PM (#55551557) Journal
    They signed the Paris Accord, after all... Doesn't matter what actually happens, it's just the pledge that matters!

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