Praise be to Coal

[The dark side of Energiewende: St. Lambert church in Immerath the last victim offered to Mammon*]

In AD 2018, coal (or better lignite) keeps causing “casualties” [1] even in the heart of Europe. The small village of Immerath, suburb of Erkelenz, municipality in the German region of North Rheine-Westphalia, was the last to be grounded by Garzweiler II. Garzweiler II is not a mutant monster from Japanese manga, but an equally dangerous open-cast lignite mine, expansion of Garzweiler I.

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Fig. 1 Garzweiler II mine (source RWE)

It happens again and again in this tormented land, whose rich subsoil – that made it contended during the past century world wars – represents its very own damnation: environmental and historical-cultural devastation and depopulation.

First mines were opened in the early 1900 and they move to the north as new reservoirs are discovered. They devour houses, churches and personal histories on their path. Now, in the 21st century, fostered by Energiewende – the political reform that should turn German energy system green – they find new impulse.

Ongoing nuclear phase-out and massive – as well as expensive and intermittent – use of renewables make lignite an abundant, reliable and cheap source to balance the grid.

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Fig. 2 The empty tabernacle in St. lambert church, after deconsecration Mass held on 13th October 2013 (source Gerzweiler.com, ©Arne Müseler –  arne-mueseler.com)

Nor public protests nor religious authorities [2] or environmentalist concerns succeeded to stop the mine. Villages are evacuated and off-limited. Thousands of people fled, alive and dead, no exceptions. Then everything is grounded.

Ten days ago the Immerath “Cathedral”, actually a simple parish church although dating back to the 12th century [3], but so called since it was way too big for the number of parishioners, recently reduced to few tens. Communities receive money compensation and new infrastructures where to settle, maybe not of comparable aesthetic value.

demolition Immerath_(neu)_Kapelle_St._Lambertus,_Ansicht

Fig. 3 Left: the grounding of St Lambert church, 8th January 2018 (photo ©Arne Müseler –  arne-mueseler.com). Right: the New Immerath church (photo: Käthe und Bernd Limburg)

Once completed, Garzweiler II mine will cover 70 square kilometres (27 square miles) and through 1.3 billion tons of estimated lignite reserves (40% of the Rheine region resources) will provide fuel to the power plants till 2045, when it will be covered again.

Lignite directly supplies numerous local plants, casting another dark shadow on the life – or at least on the lungs – of local communities.

Epprath Tollhaus, Morken-Harff, Königs-Hoven, Reisdorf, Belmen, Elfegen, Garzweiler, Stolzen-berg, Prieste-rath, Pesh, Otzenrath/Spenrath, Holz, Immerath have been already devoured. Next towns to fall will be Lützerath, Holzweiler, Keyen-berg, Berverath, Westrich, Kuckum – unless something changes. Finally, the monster will stop at the doors of New Immerath.

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Fig. 4 Coal reservoirs in the region (source Wikipedia)

We have already and extensively written, with facts and numbers, about the failure of Energiewende and about the nonsense of nuclear phase out in the context of fighting carbon emissions [4].

The facts that we are reporting now, reveal more than any number the fool injustice and the blind gluttony unveiled of any hypocritical good intention.

Let’s just think for a moment to how that cultural heritage (like it or not, de gustibus…) could have been promoted in ecological and sustainable ways, if just Germany were not phasing out nuclear to rely on … coal!

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Fig. 5 View of Keyenberg, one of the next towns to be grounded (source Facebook)

At least oblivion will not cover these villages and their communities. They will survive thanks to a nice project by Arne Müseler, a photographer from Salzburg, who created a virtual community where St Lambert bells will keep sounding, as a reminder to humanity, who never learns from past mistakes.

Notes:

* Mammon is a New Testament term to personify money and material wealth

[1] Coal and lignite are the deadliest energy sources: 0.24 deaths/TWh for accidents and 57.1 deaths/TWh for pollution. Considering that combined total production from these sources in 2016 was 44000 TWh, we obtain an estimate of 2.5 millions fatalities per year. (Sources: Markandya, A., & Wilkinson, P. (2007). Electricity generation and health. The Lancet370(9591), 979-990; Vaclav Smil (2017). Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives. & BP Statistical Review of World Energy)

[2] The Roman-Catholic Bishop of Aachen, Heinrich Mussinghoff, before Pope Francis Laudato si’ encyclical letter on the environment stewardship, criticized the project for being ecologically and socially incompatible.

(http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/braunkohle-warum-der-immerather-dom-abgerissen-wird-a-916853.html)

[3] Probably the first church was a Romanesque complex dating back to the 12th century. (“Die wahrscheinlich erste Kirche war eine einschiffige romanische Anlage aus dem 12. Jahrhundert”, source: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Lambertus_(Immerath)

A renovation followed in the 14th century and the church was totally rebuilt in the 19th century.

http://www.erkelenz.de/pdf/Tourismus/Stadtportrait/Bau-_und_Kunstwerke/17_-_St__Lambertus_Immerath.pdf

[4] Our articles on Energiewende (in Italian):

07/11/2016 La lignite del vicino è sempre più verde

20/12/2016 La vittoria di Pirro delle rinnovabili tedesche

23/02/2017 Energiewende dove vai?

Recent news reports that new government coalition in Germany will scrap the 2020 emission reduction goals.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-politics/german-coalition-negotiators-agree-to-scrap-2020-climate-target-sources-idUSKBN1EX0OU

Annunci

Sacrificati sull’altare del carbone

[Energiewende mostra ancora una volta il suo volto oscuro: la chiesa di San Lamberto in Immerath ultima offerta al dio denaro]

 Nell’Anno del Signore 2018 il carbone (o più precisamente la lignite) continua a mietere “vittime” [1] anche nel cuore dell’Europa. Il piccolo villaggio di Immerath, frazione di Erkelenz nella regione tedesca del Nord Reno-Westfalia, è stato l’ultimo in ordine di tempo ad essere raso al suolo da Garzweiler II. Garzweiler II non è un mostro mutante dei fumetti animati nipponici, bensì una non meno pericolosa miniera di lignite a cielo aperto, diretta espansione di Garzweiler I.

garzweilerII
La miniera di Garzweiler II (fonte RWE)

Una storia che si ripete in questa terra tormentata, la cui ricchezza del sottosuolo – che non a caso la rese oggetto di contesa nelle sanguinose guerre del secolo scorso – rappresenta la sua stessa condanna: degrado ambientale e del patrimonio storico-culturale e abbandono.

Le miniere, alcune aperte all’inizio del Novecento e chiuse negli anni Ottanta, avanzano da Sud verso Nord man mano che nuove ingenti risorse vengono scoperte. Nel loro cammino inghiottono case, chiese, storie di persone. E nel XXI secolo, sulla spinta della Energiewende – la riforma del comparto energetico tedesco che dovrebbe renderlo più verde e sostenibile – invece di rallentare trovano nuovo impulso.

L’abbandono progressivo della produzione elettronucleare ed il sempre più massiccio – quanto costoso e intermittente – ricorso alle fonti energetiche rinnovabili rendono la lignite un’abbondante, affidabile ed economica risorsa per riequilibrare il sistema elettrico tedesco.

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Il tabernacolo vuoto della chiesa di San Lamberto dopo la sconsacrazione avvenuta il 13 ottobre 2013 (fonte Gerzweiler.com, ©Arne Müseler –  arne-mueseler.com)

Neppure le vibrate proteste delle popolazioni, delle autorità ecclesiastiche [2] e delle associazioni ambientaliste arrestano lo scempio. I villaggi vengono evacuati ed interdetti all’accesso. Migliaia di persone hanno abbandonato le loro case, vivi e morti, nessuno escluso. Poi seguono le demolizioni.

È di tre giorni fa quella del “Duomo” di Immerath, in realtà semplice chiesa parrocchiale, seppur con una storia che data addietro al XII secolo [3], ma così chiamata dagli abitanti per le sue smisurate proporzioni rispetto all’effettivo numero dei parrocchiani, che negli ultimi tempi si erano ridotti a poche decine (l’ultima celebrazione liturgica e la sconsacrazione ebbero luogo il 13 ottobre 2013). Le comunità ricevono in cambio del loro esilio un compenso in denaro e nuove infrastrutture sul cui valore estetico lasciamo il giudizio al lettore.

demolition
La demolizione della chiesa di San Lamberto, 8 gennaio 2018 (©Arne Müseler –  arne-mueseler.com)
Immerath_(neu)_Kapelle_St._Lambertus,_Ansicht
La chiesa di Immerath nuova (foto: Käthe und Bernd Limburg)

Al suo completamento, la miniera di Garzweiler II occuperà circa 70 chilometri quadrati e con le sue riserve di lignite, stimate in 1,3 miliardi di tonnellate (40% delle risorse della Renania), fornirà combustibile fino al 2045, quando verrà risepolta.

La lignite rifornisce le numerose centrali termoelettriche dell’area, gettando un’ulteriore ombra oscura sulla vita – o quanto meno sui polmoni – degli abitanti della zona.

Epprath Tollhaus, Morken-Harff, Königs-Hoven, Reisdorf, Belmen, Elfegen, Garzweiler, Stolzen-berg, Prieste-rath, Pesh, Otzenrath/Spenrath, Holz, Immerath i villaggi già inghiottiti dalla miniera. I prossimi a cadere Lützerath, Holzweiler, Keyen-berg, Berverath, Westrich, Kuckum – almeno che le cose non cambino; dunque il mostro si arresterà alle porte di Immerath Neu, la nuova Immerath.

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I giacimenti minerari della Renania (fonte Wikipedia)

Sui fallimenti della Energiewende e sull’insensatezza dell’abbandono della fonte nucleare nel contesto della riduzione delle emissioni di anidride carbonica abbiamo scritto molto su queste pagine con dati e numeri [4].

I fatti che però qui documentiamo, più di ogni dato e numero rivelano un’insensata ingiustizia, una miope cupidigia senza neppure più il velo ipocrita dei buoni propositi.

Pensiamo solo a come questi villaggi avrebbero potuto svilupparsi in termini di turismo eco-sostenibile valorizzando il poco o molto, bello o brutto (de gustibus…), patrimonio artistico e architettonico che possedevano. Se solo la Germania non stesse abbandonando il nucleare… per il carbone!

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Veduta di Keyenberg, uno dei villaggi di prossima distruzione (fonte Facebook)

Quantomeno la damnatio memoriae non colpirà questi villaggi e le loro comunità. Essi continueranno a vivere grazie ad uno splendido progetto di Arne Müseler, fotografo di Salisburgo, una vera e propria comunità virtuale dove anche le campane di San Lamberto continueranno a risuonare, monito ad un’umanità che sembra proprio non voler imparare dai propri errori.

Note:

[1]          Carbone e lignite rappresentano le fonti energetiche a più elevato tasso di mortalità: 0.24 morti/TWh a causa di incidenti e 57.1 morti/TWh per conseguenza dell’inquinamento prodotto. Considerando che la produzione totale dalle suddette fonti ammontava nel 2016 a circa 44000 TWh, se ne ottiene una stima di circa 2.5 milioni di morti all’anno (fonti: Markandya, A., & Wilkinson, P. (2007). Electricity generation and health. The Lancet370(9591), 979-990; Vaclav Smil (2017). Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives. & BP Statistical Review of World Energy)

[2]          Il Vescovo di Aachen, Heinrich Mussinghoff, ben prima dell’enciclica Laudato si’ di Papa Francesco sui temi ambientali, tuonò contro il progetto definendolo ecologicamente e socialmente incompatibile.

(http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/braunkohle-warum-der-immerather-dom-abgerissen-wird-a-916853.html)

[3]          Probabilmente la prima chiesa era un complesso romanico a navata unica del XII secolo. (Die wahrscheinlich erste Kirche war eine einschiffige romanische Anlage aus dem 12. Jahrhundert.)

Fonte Wikipedia in tedesco: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Lambertus_(Immerath)

Una massiccia ristrutturazione è attestata da documentazioni del XIV secolo. In seguito, nella seconda metà dell’Ottocento, fu integralmente ricostruita in stile neo romanico.

http://www.erkelenz.de/pdf/Tourismus/Stadtportrait/Bau-_und_Kunstwerke/17_-_St__Lambertus_Immerath.pdf

[4]          I nostri articoli sulla Energiewende:

07/11/2016         La lignite del vicino è sempre più verde

20/12/2016         La vittoria di Pirro delle rinnovabili tedesche

23/02/2017         Energiewende dove vai?

Aggiungiamo che è notizia di ieri che durante le prolungate negoziazioni per la formazione di un governo in Germania dopo le elezioni dello scorso settembre si è giunti ad avere almeno un punto sul quale tutti sono d’accordo: l’obiettivo di abbattimento delle emissioni climalteranti per il 2020 è eliminato.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-politics/german-coalition-negotiators-agree-to-scrap-2020-climate-target-sources-idUSKBN1EX0OU

 

Climate Change: losing sight of the real target.

[this article was originally published on medium.com. We thank the author Bob. S. Effendi]


In September 2015, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks made a statement which shock the world, Germany is likely to fail its 2020 emission reduction target which fall short by seven percent [i].

How could this be, to a Climate Change champion with its 520 Billion Euro Energiewende Program which aim to make German energy mix 80% by clean energy, that is mostly wind and solar by 2050.

As its stand by 2015 Germany’s renewable already up to 30% of the total energy mix, probably the largest renewable energy mix in the world. But the irony is with all that renewable how could Germany predicted to miss the emission reduction target? Isn’t the premise to increase renewable shares so that to reduce CO2 emission.

It turns out that German electricity is consider among the dirtiest in Europe not only that but to make thing much worse in the past 5 years after the implementation of Energiewende, German electricity tariff has double making it the most expensive in Europe and is not affordable to some German.

According to Eva Bulling-Schröter, energy spokeswoman for Die Linke, Germany left party, between 2011 and 2015, about 300,000 German homes get their power cut off because they can no longer afford to pay their bills [ii].

McKinsey just release a 20 pages report on German Energiewende which was featured in Die Weld, a German National Newspaper, that Energiewende does not achieve its goal in reducing emission and it has put burden on the economy but despite these obvious facts German Government refuses to acknowledge that their energy policy has become a dismal failure [iii]. Basically, what McKinsey is saying that Energiewende is a 500 Billion Euro disaster.

The fact of the matter, Germany does not make it into the 10 cleanest electricity in Europe according to real-time map which measure CO2 intensity (www.electricitymap.org) created as an open source project by Tomorrow, a Climate Change concern organization. Germany CO2 intensity is runs around 350–450 gram CO2/kwh whereas Norway at no 1 (8 gram), Sweden at no 3 (37 gram), Switzerland at no 4 (63 gram) and France at no 5 (66 gram) [iv].

 

According to Massachusetts institute of Technology study even if the whole signatories of Paris Accord do everything what they pledge to do, it will only result in a slight reduction in global temperatures of just 0.2°C by 2100, global temperature will still raise to 3.1–5.0 degree to pre-industrial level. [v]

According to the study to meet the target, deeper cut on fossil need to happen. Which is obvious that a lot of these countries are not willing to give-up fossil as a dependable cheap economic driver and has become a strong industry with far reaching political influence but instead focusing on renewable. This should make you rethink maybe the world has lost sight what the real target is? Is the Paris Accord is really about climate change or something else?

It’s a simple question, if the objective of climate change is carbon reduction, then what should be the measuring stick then, is it: a) How much renewable energy you put or b) How much CO2 is in your electricity.

It’s a no brainer, off course is how much CO2 in your electricity (CO2/kwh) or how much CO2 per energy per capita (CO2/capita). Germany has shown that the more renewable you put does not relate to reduction of CO2 emission in fact it has the opposite effect which is as also shown in California.

Even in California where strict environmental and climate legislation has been enforced for many years and has the highest renewable mix in the US, but with all those effort it still is fail to reduce its emission and increases the electricity tariff which makes California electricity become the most expensive in the US [vi].

Ron Kirk, US Trade Representative, Clean and Safe Energy Coalition co-Chairman and former Mayor of Dallas put it bluntly “The more you put renewable the higher your emission and so is your electric bill as proven by Germany and California” [vii].

What Germany and California has proven is that you cannot make intermittent renewable, such as wind and solar as primary energy because of several reasons: 1) its low energy density thus requiring huge amount land and 2) can only deliver at best less than 25% of capacity thus at the end require a fossil backup 3) its intermittent nature, creates a problem to grid making the gird unreliable thus maintaining a reliable electricity service become costly for utility.

With that in mind, we should not lose sight of what is the real target, obviously not renewable but carbon reduction and the measuring stick should be CO2 intensity or CO2 per capita not renewable and to achieve that there is only one way to do it that is replacing all fossil especially coal as primary energy with another zero-emission energy source which can act as base load meaning operating 24/7.

It’s a simple formula, your primary energy mix should be more than 65% zero carbon energy, It’s either Hydro or Nuclear or combination. With Norway its 97% Hydro, or with France its 79% Nuclear or combination of the two like Sweden with Hydro 36% and Nuclear 35%.

It is a simple fact that without combination of these two form of energy there is no way you could achieve a decarbonization economy, it is not a theory but it is an indisputable fact. In fact, Nuclear produces more than 60% of zero carbon electricity in the world.

So it is ridiculous for countries which committed to climate change but follow in the foot step of Germany by closing down its nuclear power plant, such as Switzerland [viii]. The fact is that Nuclear was never on table or discuss in any UNFCC document. Even in the latest UN Deputy Secretary General speech on The Goal of Climate Change, there is a lot of mention of clean energy, a lot mention of wind and solar but no nuclear. Is Nuclear not a clean energy? [ix]

So in the end, if the discussion on climate change does not include Nuclear on the table then the Billion Dollar Question is: are they seriously want to fight climate change or just being anti-nuclear ?.

Jakarta, 6 June 2017

Bob S. Effendi

End Notes

[i] Germany unlikely to meet carbon reduction targets for 2020 | http://www.dw.com/en/germany-unlikely-to-meet-carbon-reduction-targets-for-2020/a-17802417

[ii] Over 300,000 poverty-hit German homes have power cut off each year | https://www.thelocal.de/20170302/over-300000-poverty-hit-german-homes-have-power-cut-off-each-year

[iii] ‘Die Welt’ Article Warns: German “Energiewende Risks Becoming a Disaster” …As Costs Explode! | http://notrickszone.com/2017/03/08/die-welt-article-warns-german-energiewende-risks-becoming-a-disaster-as-costs-explode/#sthash.3Ewp4tPQ.dpuf

[iv] List of countries according to the lowest emission | https://www.electricitymap.org/?wind=false&solar=false&page=highscore

[v] MIT News, Report: Expected Paris commitments insufficient to stabilize climate by century’s end | http://news.mit.edu/2015/paris-commitments-insufficient-to-stabilize-climate-by-2100-1022

[vi] Climate Change, and California’s Failed Solution | http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2016/05/05/climate_change_and_californias_failed_solution_102154.html

[vii] Bloomberg TV interview May 25, 2016 : Ron Kirk | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqELgPdaX-g&feature=share

[viii] Switzerland votes to ban nuclear plants, shift to renewable energy in referendum | http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-22/swiss-voters-embrace-shift-to-renewable-energy/8545844

[ix] Energy is at the Hearts of Global Goals and Paris Agreement | http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/energy-is-at-the-heart-of-global-goals-and-paris-agreement/