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Germany: Back to the future
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  • I work in Germany for six weeks every year, for maybe 30 years now. Every year that I go, I see that the Eastern part--which was an epic environmental disaster--is cleaner than the previous year. I travel around on modern, high speed trains, or I take the city busses and trams which run every few minutes. Unlike the American busses where I live in California, these busses do not usually emit gigantic clouds of diesel fumes which are orders of magnitude more harmful than most emissions. Food, water and air quality are good. My first year in Halle, I thought I was going to croak in the hotel room because of the air pollution. That's all gone now.

    In many parts of Europe, I see more and more wind turbines for wind power, and unlike France, I don't see in Germany Nuclear reactors everywhere I look--they are there, but not as many. Of course France is an amazing country as well, but they loves their nuclear plants.

    Germany has a long tradition of heavy industry and manufacturing, but they have been cleaning up and rebuilding the country continuously for years, and it shows. I see solar panels along the high speed rail tracks. It isn't a perfect country, but they do a lot of things right, and in many respects I feel provincial when I return home to California. California is great, of course. But we don't have quark balls, either. Or medical insurance.

    In the Netherlands, where it rains all the time, they did a study years ago which showed that the entire country could be run on solar power, even though the sun does not come out very often. So my question is, why don't we do this? And the answer is of course that solar power is free energy, no one will make money on it. But eventually, when solar panels are highly efficient, self-installing and cheap, that--or another, as yet unknown source of power--will replace the burning of dinosaurs. Hopefully soon.

  • @DrDave

    And the answer is of course that solar power is free energy, no one will make money on it.

    Actually there is already a budding economy around Solar Energy. Sunlight is free but harnessing it can be a profitable venture.

  • In October 2012 the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that coal accounted for half the increased energy use of the prior decade, growing faster than all renewable energy sources.

    With the current pace of introducing the renewable energy sources, there are little chances to complement the increased energy use by solar, wind, or any other renewable energy sources.

  • @igorek7: With regards to the whole world energy consumption, your statement is probably right. But regarding the specific situation in Germany, it isn't: The comsumption of electric energy in Germany has reached its peak some years ago and is now slowly decreasing, mostly due to the introduction of energy saving measures. The ratio of renewable energy amongst the primary energy use in Germany is now at ~ 10%, and rising at an increasing pace.

    I'm sure that after a while, more and more countries will come to the conclusion that "consuming more energy" does not equal "progress" once you've reached a certain level of consumption. Even US-Americans will one day realize that insulating your houses is not just "for sissies", but allows for saving lots of energy without any decrease in quality of living.

    Yes, the German decision to increase the ratio of renewable energy by legislative measures / subsidies is a very expensive one - on a short time scale. But I am pretty confident that it will pay off in the long run.

    And while Germany is on the path of migrating its power sources, the Swiss and Austrians will gladly buy German coal power cheap while there's lots of sun and wind, store it in their pumped-storage hydropower plants and sell it back at higher prices to Germany when there's little sun and wind... ;-)

  • @karl It's like saying that a glass is already 1/10th full, while I argue is that it is filled 9/10th with the dirty water. Will/when the Germany's renewable energy reach at least the 1/4 as in Spain, or would it be overpowered by the fossil fuel energy sources? The current situation is not certain, and it is not unique to just Germany:

    Investments in constructing new coal power plants are increasing again in Europe. Between 2012 and 2020, approximately about 80 power plant units will be newly constructed or replaced, which is almost twice as many as in the prior period of equal length. On average, the new power plant units will be twice as large. Hence, the capacities for electricity generation from coal to be constructed from 2012 to 2020 will be about four times as large as those constructed between 2003 and 2011.

    In any case, the efforts has to be done on the world scale, as the environmental impact from the human activity has reached the global level. BTW, according to just updated estimations by the IEA, global carbon dioxide emissions reached record highs last year (1.4 per cent up to 31.6 gigatonnes) despite improvements in the US and China, meaning the world is unlikely to limit global temperature rises to the 2 per cent government target.

  • @igorek7

    Thing is it is all pointless. You can't lecture locust swamps. They just do not listen. Same for all people. As big populations live according to same laws and principles.