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

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