The German energy train wreck increases coal burning 5% (already)

Barry Brook tweeted the link to this Yale360 digest which sums up the awful impact of Germany’s no-nuclear policy. Since the 1970’s it has been proven repeatedly, when the growth of nuclear is blocked (e.g., by Greenpeace), the result is more coal burning. The choice has been either nuclear or coal. That is true once again for Germany because they have rich deposits of lignite with a cost per thermal unit lower than natural gas. In other regions the substitution for nuclear today might well be natural gas. 

The German government’s decision to phase out all of the nation’s nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima disaster has led to an increase in coal-burningwithin Europe’s largest economy. Coal consumption in Germany has grown by 4.9 percent since Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to shift away from nuclear power over the next decade, according to a Bloomberg News report. While German leaders intended the new policy to strengthen the nation’s reliance on renewable energy, Germany’s largest utilities have built coal plants instead of cleaner-burning natural gas projects because coal plants are cheaper. The collapse of the European Union’s carbon permit costs also means that there is little penalty for burning coal. “Angela Merkel’s policy has created an incentive structure which has the effect of partially replacing nuclear with coal, the dirtiest fuel that’s responsible for much of the growth in the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990,” Dieter Helm, an energy policy professor at the University of Oxford told Bloomberg News. Worldwide, the amount of coal burned increased 5.4 percent last year and accounted for 30 percent of global energy production.

Shunning Nuclear Power
Will Lead to a Warmer World

Shunning Nuclear Power Will Lead to a Warmer World

Physicist Spencer Weart argues that if we allow our fears of nuclear energy to block the building of a significant number of new nuclear plants, we will be choosing a far more perilous option: the intensified burning of planet-warming fossil fuels.

Yes, natural gas is less damaging than coal, but it is not zero – which is what we need: zero-carbon substitution for all power generation.

Monbiot: 40% of US corn (maize) production is used to feed cars

UK environmentalist George Monbiot explains why it is so important for rich-world governments to fix their misguided “Green” policies. The 40% of the US corn crop gobbled up in US-subsidized ethanol is a horrible example of “feel good” policy that does great harm. The only “good” produced by that policy is reelection for corn-state politicians, and perhaps presidents.


Already, 40% of US corn (maize) production is used to feed cars(6). The proportion will rise this year as a result of the smaller harvest. Though the market for biodiesel is largely confined to the European Union, it has already captured seven per cent of the world’s output of vegetable oil(7). The European Commission admits that its target (10% of transport fuels by 2020) will raise world cereal prices by between 3 and 6%(8). Oxfam estimates that with every 1% increase in the price of food, another 16 million people go hungry(9).

By 2021, the OECD says, 14% of the world’s maize and other coarse grains, 16% of its vegetable oil and 34% of its sugarcane will be used to make people in the gas guzzling nations feel better about themselves(10). The demand for biofuel will be met, it reports, partly through an increase in production; partly through a “reduction in human consumption.”(11) The poor will starve so that the rich can drive.

The rich world’s demand for biofuels is already causing a global land grab. ActionAid estimates that European companies have now seized five million hectares of farmland – an area the size of Denmark – in developing countries for industrial biofuel production(12). Small farmers, growing food for themselves and local markets, have been thrown off their land and destituted. Tropical forests, savannahs and grasslands have been cleared to plant what the industry still calls “green fuels”.

When the impacts of land clearance and the use of nitrogen fertilisers are taken into account, biofuels produce more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels do(13,14,15). The UK, which claims that half the biofuel sold here meets its sustainability criteria, solves this problem by excluding the greenhouse gas emissions caused by changes in land use(16). Its sustainability criteria are, as a result, worthless.

Even second generation biofuels, made from crop wastes or wood, are an environmental disaster, either extending the cultivated area or removing the straw and stovers which protect the soil from erosion and keep carbon and nutrients in the ground. The combination of first and second generation biofuels – encouraging farmers to plough up grasslands and to leave the soil bare – and hot summers could create the perfect conditions for a new dust bowl.

Our government knows all this. One of its own studies shows that if the European Union stopped producing biofuels, the amount of vegetable oils it exported to world markets would rise by 20% and the amount of wheat by 33%, reducing world prices(17).