Europe Is Transitioning - To Coal!
In Germany, they are tearing down a wind farm to make room for the expansion of an open pit lignite coal mine. Dismantling of wind turbines has already begun. Lignite is brown coal. It has been mined at the mine in question for well over a hundred years.
RWE, the German company that owns the mine has also announced that it is returning lignite-fired coal units that were previously on standby to service. Those plants came back online this month.
“The three lignite units each have a capacity of 300 megawatts (MW). With their deployment, they contribute to strengthening the security of supply in Germany during the energy crisis and to saving natural gas in electricity generation,” RWE said last month.
Commenting on the dismantling of wind turbines to make way for expanding a coal mine, Guido Steffen, a spokesperson for RWE, told the Guardian, “We realize this comes across as paradoxical.”
“But that is as matters stand,” Steffen added.
Only a short while ago the world was transitioning rapidly to the use of clean-burning natural gas, much of it produced in the United States. The Biden administration’s war on fossil fuels in this country, short-sighted “green” policies worldwide, and the war in Ukraine have changed all that. The world is now rapidly returning to the use of coal
Last week, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said that the world is now “transitioning to coal.” Saad al-Kaabi, Qatar‘s energy minister, noted: “Many countries particularly in Europe which had been strong advocates of green energy and carbon-free future(s) have made a sudden and sharp U-turn. Today, coal burning is once again on the rise reaching its highest levels since 2014.”
The demand for coal will reach a record high in 2022. The International Energy Agency has reported that coal use in Europe is up by seven percent in 2022. It jumped 14 percent in 2021.
Coal will continue to be a sought-after energy source as “rising gas prices after 2030 will make existing coal-fired generation (plants) more economic,” the IEA says.
Analysts are now projecting “a huge gas-to-coal fuel transition in power and industrial sectors” of Europe.
Qatar’s Saad Al-Kaabi says that European “green” policies are responsible for high energy prices and that leaders in the West “don’t have a plan.” Energy shortages have forced them to return to the most dependable sources — coal and oil. They are now scampering to ensure energy security for winter, when many believe it likely that there will be power blackouts in the U.K. and Germany.
Lignite is low-quality coal, which when burned produces massive amounts of pollutants. Generating electricity from lignite produces twice the amount of carbon dioxide as natural gas. Lignite is heavy and uneconomical to transport long distances. This means building power plants in close proximity to wherever mines are.
The economist Dieter Helm has criticized the lignite power generation as “about as dirty as you can get”.
Lignite is typically extracted by surface mining or what is commonly referred to in the United States as strip mining. Giant shovel-like extractors remove overlying layers of topsoil from several square miles of land, while groundwater is pumped into nearby waterways or abandoned mines. In Germany, lignite extraction amounts to excavating the original 1869 Suez Canal 16 times per year.
Groundwater depletion extends in a subterranean funnel far beyond the mining boundaries.
All over Europe coal-fired power plants that were mothballed as part of a plan to transition fully away from fossil fuels are being put back into service. In some cases, gas-fired power plants are being converted to burn coal instead. In Germany alone at least 20 coal-fired power plants are being resurrected or extended past their closing dates to ensure Germany has enough energy to get through the winter.
As with so much of what has happened since Joe Biden was elected all of these wounds are self-inflicted. When Donald Trump left office the United States was energy self-sufficient, we were exporting natural gas to Europe and low energy costs were driving economic growth. The increased use of natural gas had brought down carbon emissions to record lows.
Now, we see energy costs going through the roof and the world’s economy in free fall. Biden has crippled the American fossil fuel industry. Biden has poured jet fuel on a war in Ukraine whose ripple effects have had disastrous impacts on European economies and the quality of life of the citizens of a host of European nations. Many Germans are turning to burning wood to heat their homes as the price of natural gas skyrockets.
Green New Deal proponents continue to chant about the fantasy of a world living completely on so-called renewable energy sources. They make absurd claims about the practicality of making this transition using currently available technology. That all sounds wonderful in academic circles and online chat rooms. In the real world, where we all live, the reality is much starker.
Europe is transitioning - to coal. We are headed in exactly the wrong direction.