Germany begins using coal for energy again
On Sept. 27, gas pipelines expanding through Germany and Russia were punctured in an alleged intentional attack. While there was no immediate threat to Germany’s energy supply, the country is currently facing difficulties finding ways to get natural gas due to the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. In light of this, Germany has begun to refire their old coal-based power plants, which were previously shut down indefinitely.
This decision follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cutting of natural gas deliveries across Europe, specifically to areas across the union who extended their support to Ukraine.
The Washington Post reports that Germany's decision is “a part of a pan-European dash to ditch Russian natural gas and escape President Vladimir Putin’s energy chokehold.” The re-emergence of coal plants has many environmental activists fearing whether or not Germany will be able to continue to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Since the mid-1980s, Germany has played an active role in worldwide attempts at combating climate change. In the summer of last year, a new bill was passed that centers on new standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A main component of the bill is to have cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 65% of levels from their 1990 levels by the year 2030. Additionally, the bill codified Germany’s goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
Then, in March of 2022, the German coalition pledged to have 100% green power by 2035 as part of a plan created by Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s climate envoy. This declaration occurred days after the war erupted between Russia and Ukraine. However, due to the oncoming pressure of winter and Putin’s restrictions on trade, the country's plans may change. According to NPR, so far at least 20 power plants containing coal will be fired up past their planned shutdown date.
Germany is not alone in the struggle to find other ways to get enough natural resources to cut down emissions. This problem has stretched across the European Union in places such as France and Italy. The reopening of these factories also plays a key role in Germany’s economy. NPR states that the cost of coal in Germany has risen from “$64 per metric ton at the beginning of 2021 … to nearly $400 this summer” for the same amount.
These recent circumstances have many European countries concerned with providing climate-friendly, inexpensive energy to their citizens.