16 August 2012

Magical Thinking in Germany

Germany’s environment minister Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democratic Party) is pushing for the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Germany. “We need eight to twelve new coal plants if we want to get out of nuclear energy,” Gabriel said on Friday at a meeting of the Mainz-Wiesbaden AG (KMW) in Mainz. With regard to the opponents of the planned coal-fired power in Mainz, the minister said: “Those who demonstrate against coal-fired power will get nuclear power plants instead.” Gabriel said, the decision about which power plants are built is the responsibility of companies and not politics. He added that new coal power plants would not increase carbon dioxide emissions.

First of all, old plants would be closed. In additon, the emissions trading scheme would limit the level of emissions. “You can build 100 coal-fired power plants and don’t have to have higher CO2 emissions,” said the environment minister.

Renewable energies would not be able to close the gap in energy supply that will arise due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants by 2020, said Gabriel. Even gas-fired power plants are not a real alternative because their power generation is expensive and thus not competitive for the energy supply of industrial production.
I had a bit of fun with the highlighted quote. 100 coal-fired plants and no higher CO2? Magic!

Yesterday, the current German environmental minister provides us with an updated and equally absurd quote:
German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said Wednesday the country will need to build more coal- and gas-fired power plants in coming years to ensure energy supplies, even as Germany is pursuing one of the world's most ambitious climate protection strategies. . .

Renewable energies have been booming in Germany in recent years and the renewable electricity production has already exceeded 20% of overall production. But the government has repeatedly said that there needs to be adequate backup power generation capacity to ensure that consumers and, more crucially, industry can be supplied with energy around the clock.

He also said that new fossil-fueled power plants like the 2,200-megawatt facility that RWE built in western Germany are contributing to climate protection goals.

"If one builds a new state-of-the-art lignite power plant to replace several older and much less efficient plants, then I feel this should also be acknowledged as a contribution to our climate protection efforts," Mr. Altmaier said.
 A 2.2 gigawatt lignite power plant as a contribution to "climate protection"? Magic!


  1. Roger "coal fired pants" is my vote for typo of the year especially given the topic of magical thinking. :-)

  2. -1-Papa Zu

    Ha! And 100 of them ... Now fixed, Thanks!

  3. Very odd. I can only guess that they're getting desperate to keep the lights on and are saying whatever they think they have to in order to keep the juice flowing.

    Along those lines, perhaps we're not putting on our politician-statement-parsing-hats correctly. You could build the 100 coal plants and keep emissions level so long as you don't do anything crazy like turn them on. So he's not technically wrong.

    Of course, he's also talking about using newer, more efficient plants to replace older ones. If increased energy efficiency is gained by inflating our tires or driving a hybrid, why wouldn't we count getting more energy out of coal for the same level of CO2?

    Not magic. Politics!

  4. Roger, I watched your lecture from your recent tour in Australia and was gobsmacked by the sheer volume of nuclear plants, wind farms, solar farms, etc. required if we are to avoid further warming. The task of such rapid build out seems impossible to me.

    Now Richard Tol has a working paper on the costs of a carbon tax and how in the USA it is unlikely to be able to make it revenue neutral if the goal is a 2 degreeC cap on warming.


    Frankly I think I'm suffering from magical thinking in thinking there is a realistic, economically pallitable solution to lowering CO2 given existing technology. If Tol's analysis is correct and you are correct in the scale of build out it seems to me that we have already crossed the threshold where the only options are geoengineering and/or adaptation.

  5. -4-PapaZu

    Tol had a guest post here last week on his new paper:


  6. All the Germans have to do is magically turn their CO2 into methanol, as you suggested...

  7. -6-tom harrigan

    Thanks ... actually Germany is turning its lignite into lakes, details:


  8. What 'renewable' power has done for Germany:


    Will the last factory owner to leave Germany please turn out the lights. Oh, wait, that won't be necessary.

  9. The simple solution is that they will have to buy carbon credits to cover the CO2 they are releasing from coal. The scam only reveals itself when one realises that these credits are handed out like below. There have already been other carbon trading related scandals in Europe.

    Carbon credits bring Lakshmi Mittal £1bn bonanza

    LAKSHMI MITTAL, Britain’s richest man, stands to benefit from a £1 billion windfall from a European scheme to curb global warming. His company ArcelorMittal, the steel business where he is chairman and chief executive, will make the gain on “carbon credits” given to it under the European emissions trading scheme (ETS).

    The scheme grants companies permits to emit CO2 up to a specified “cap”. Beyond this they must buy extra permits. An investigation has revealed that ArcelorMittal has been given far more carbon permits than it needs. It has the largest allocation of any organisation in Europe


  10. Game changer: The “green” nuclear. Molten salt thorium nuclear reactors. Much cheaper, safer, and cleaner.

    Feb 2011

    “China has officially announced it will launch a program to develop a thorium-fueled molten-salt nuclear reactor, taking a crucial step towards shifting to nuclear power as a primary energy source.”

    “The project was unveiled at the annual Chinese Academy of Sciences conference in Shanghai last week, and reported in the Wen Hui Bao newspaper (Google English translation here).”

    “If the reactor works as planned, China may fulfill a long-delayed dream of clean nuclear energy. The United States could conceivably become dependent on China for next-generation nuclear technology. At the least, the United States could fall dramatically behind in developing green energy.”


    June 2012

    “The U.S. Department of Energy is quietly collaborating with China on an alternative nuclear power design known as a molten salt reactor that could run on thorium fuel rather than on more hazardous uranium, SmartPlanet understands.”

    “Proponents of thorium MSRs, also known as liquid thorium reactors or sometimes as liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs), say the devices beat conventional solid fuel uranium reactors in all aspects including safety, efficiency, waste and peaceful implications.”


    The solution is there. Technology developed in the US in the 60′s. Just needs to be updated. Fortunately the Chinese (who do and will burn the most coal) are on to it. We can all breath easier.

  11. As many have pointed out before, the Czech Republic, France and others could make some money selling power to whoever needs it, including magically thinking Germans. And staying out the Euro makes it easier for Czech utilities to be competitive.

  12. 10. charlesH said...

    "Technology developed in the US in the 60′s. Just needs to be updated. Fortunately the Chinese (who do and will burn the most coal) are on to it."

    The Chinese will be building something on the order of 1,000 GW of something in the next 10-15 years. Even if they set aside a meager 5% of their energy capital investment budget for 'leading edge technology demonstration' it ends up being a pretty big number.

    In the US and Western Europe you have to force the early retirement of something to build faster then 20 GW a year. The Levy County Nuclear Project in Florida has been pushed back from 2016 to 2021+ due to lack of electrical demand.

    China doesn't have such problems.