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How a Country With One of the World's Largest Economies Is Ditching Fossil Fuels

As the U.S., and apparently Canada, moves into being a major supplier of death fuels, some countries are going in a different direction. America doesn't lead anymore, because our government is full of conservative christian dipshits.

The country is headed for 80 percent renewable energy and has complete buy-in from all political parties.

December 19, 2012 |

Wind turbines between Poitiers and Angouleme in France. Nearly 200 nations launched a fresh round of United Nations climate talks in Doha on Monday.
Photo Credit: AFP

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

In the shadows of what was for many another disappointing international climate negotiation at COP 18 in Doha, the German energy transformation or “Energiewende” has all the signs of a modern miracle: A complete shift of the world’s fourth largest economy to 80% renewable energy and complete buy-in from all political parties—from the most conservative to most liberal. So, where is the sustainability energy Kool-Aid and how can we get some for the U.S. Congress?

The Perfect Energy Plan?

No matter who one seems to talk to in Germany, whether it’s the conservative member of parliament or the kid of the street, they all seem to agree on one thing: climate change needs to be addressed and they’re going to do it. Conflict arises, however, when asked HOW to do this and the Energiewende plan of Germany is touted as an inspirational and socially-responsible movement by one of the worlds’ leading economies, while others see it as a plan doomed to failure. According to a 2012 Economist critical analysis of the plan, “To many the Energiewende is a lunatic gamble with the country’s manufacturing prowess. But if it pays off Germany will have created yet another world-beating industry, say the gamblers.”

So, what is this transition plan and is it an energy and climate innovator or, as skeptics claim, a plan made to fail? The targets are impressive. The Energiewende includes phasing out all nuclear power by 2022 and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels and shifting the nation’s energy sources to 80% renewables by 2050. Additionally, the Renewable Energy Act gives priority to renewable energy in the energy grid before dirty forms of energy, securing a place for renewables in the energy marketplace. The plan also includes major expansions of the energy grid, consumer-based incentives, market-based emissions reductions and, all in all, reads as a gigantic climate and renewable energy high five.

In stark contrast, the world is watching closely as the U.S. undergoes a climate-unfortunate “re-industrialization”. Our own domestic energy transformation includes the “shale gas miracle”—or curse—of untapped natural shale gas reserves and the increased call for hydraulic fracking—a method of natural gas extraction that has lead to dramatic health and environmental concerns by many communities and a burgeoning anti-fracking movement. Many speak of the “shale gas miracle” as the key to U.S. energy independence. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a 44% increase in U.S. natural gas production from 2011 to 2040. Additionally, according to a November, 2012, L.A. Times article, “The U.S. will become the world’s top producer of oil by 2020, a net exporter of oil around 2030 and nearly self-sufficient in energy by 2035, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.” The popular rhetoric of U.S. energy independence seems to be the only climate or energy discussion to have successfully infiltrated U.S. media and crossed party lines—with “energy security” as a close runner-up. However, as we learned as teenagers, all this “independence” comes with a price (think: global climate change) and increased responsibility (is it time to become a global climate player?). Germany, on the other hand, has historically been an energy dependent nation (currently importing 70% of its energy) with longtime dependency of natural gas from Russia and coal and oil imports from a diversity of countries. As the U.S. leads the way in per capita greenhouse gas emissions, our “energy independence” being centered on an INCREASE in fossil fuel extraction is problematic. No matter how you look at it, Germany is phasing out fossil fuels and the U.S. is phasing up fossil fuels.

Alternet

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The Germans have long had a tradition of environmentalism, this is not surprising, and I'm very glad that the biggest economy in Europe is taking these important steps, hopefully countries like China will follow their lead. America seems to be leading backwards in this field.

Definitely backwards. =(

China is going green but it is still is building dirty power plants to cope with the ever growing demand for energy because of the growing number of cities they are building. 

One Village. called White Horse village is being turned in to a city and was documented by the BBC News. 

From what I remember reading somewhere that China actually has more green energy plants compared to the US. 

Germany is the leader in the EU on green energy and the other members of the EU  watch what they do then tend to generally follow what they are doing and apply it according to their needs.

As for America look at who is benefiting from the increase in dirty energy sources. The top 1%that is who!! Heard an interesting tit bit of info this morning on the BBC about the 1%. In that 93% of the money spent by the government to keep the economy going went to the 1%!

As for America look at who is benefiting from the increase in dirty energy sources.

Exactly!

PFC Energy’s Top 50 Energy Companies for 2009:

Rank Company TICKER Market Cap Primary Business Country
1 PetroChina PTR $353.10 Integrated NOC China
2 ExxonMobil XOM $323.70 Integrated IOC US
3 BHP Billiton BHP $201.10 Diversified Minerals Australia
4 Petrobras PBR $199.20 Integrated NOC Brazil
5 Royal Dutch Shell RDS.A $186.90 Integrated IOC Netherlands
6 BP BP $181.80 Integrated IOC UK
7 Sinopec SHI $159.30 Integrated NOC China
8 Chevron CVX $154.50 Integrated IOC US
9 TOTAL TOT $151.40 Integrated IOC France
10 Gazprom OGZPY.PK $144.20 Integrated NOC Russia


And if we look a Exxon for instance:

We get to see who's at the receiving end of all this money. A very exclusive circle of very well-to-do people, the new aristocrats.

http://www.energy.eu

germany sits at 25 cents per kilowatt hour, twice the cost of france. As well, wind is heavily subsidized, above the market value of it's production. Germany however has well managed heavy finance in other departments. The subsidy programs will collapse long before they hit 80%.

As well, wind is heavily subsidized, above the market value of it's production.

That's something you want to do when looking for and developing alternative sources of energy. The essential thing here is anything that goes 'against' the oil market is good for the planet. Not 'against' to destroy it, we'll still be needing oil for a long time, but 'against' its damaging grip on society.

I'd want to do exactly the same 'against' any corporation that would try to monopolize water.

Not from anything I can read. We subsidize planet killing fuels to a tune of 50 billion a year, (when all cost are added in), in the U.S., while Germany spent 37 billion euros in 2010 subsidizing life.

Every piece of data I see says Germany will succeed in its endeavor. 83% of Germans know that climate change is real.

InsideClimateNews (Berlin) -- The view from the Reichstag roof on a sun-drenched spring afternoon is spectacular. Looking out over Berlin from the seat of the German government, you can see the full sweep of the nation's history: from Humboldt University, where Albert Einstein taught physics for two decades, to the site of the former Gestapo headquarters.

I'm not here to see this country's freighted past, however. I've come to learn about what a majority of Germans believe is their future—and perhaps our own. There is no better place to begin this adventure than the Reichstag, rebuilt from near ruins in 1999 and now both a symbol and an example of the revolutionary movement known as the Energiewende. The word translates simply as, "energy change." But there's nothing simple about the Energiewende. It calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power and embraces clean, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The government has set a target of 80 percent renewable power by 2050, but many Germans I spoke with in three weeks traveling across this country believe 100 percent renewable power is achievable by then.

The first installment of Clean Break: The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation -- and What Americans Can Learn From It, an Amazon ebook

Such a massive power shift may sound impossible to those of us from the United States, where giant oil and coal corporations control the energy industry and the very idea of human-caused climate change is still hotly contested. Here in Germany, that debate is long over. A dozen years of growing public support have driven all major political parties to endorse the Energiewende. If a member of parliament called climate change a hoax or said that its cause is unknown, he or she would be laughed out of office.

"The fight now, to the extent that there is one, is over the speed of the transition," Jens Kendzia told me as we stood on the Reichstag roof. Kendzia is chief of staff for a leader of the center-left Green Party, which crafted the legislation responsible for the Energiewende's success.

In an interview later that day, Dr. Joachim Pfeiffer, a leading spokesman for the center-right Christian Democrats, boasted about the Energiewende's progress under his party.

"We'll definitely get to 35 percent renewable power by 2020," he said, referring to the next official target. "In fact, we'll probably reach 40 percent."

Pfeiffer isn't happy about every aspect of the campaign. He thinks the German public's call to eliminate nuclear power by 2022 was "an emotional reaction to what happened at Fukushima." But he's quick to add that this is just his personal belief. After all, the leader of his own party, Chancellor Angela Merkel, made the nuclear phase-out national policy in 2011. "Eighty percent of Germans are now against nuclear power," Pfeiffer explained, placing his hands on the table palms face up, in a gesture of capitulation. "It's over."

The U.S. wasn't always so timid. Thirty years ago, we led the world in renewable energy research and production, and Jimmy Carter's White House was the first government building in the world to install solar panels on its roof. 

The pervasiveness of the Energiewende was driven home for me on a six-hour train ride through the German countryside. Gazing out the window as the train raced from Hamburg in the north to near the border with Switzerland in the south, massive wind turbines and rooftops covered with solar panels were seldom out of sight. A couple of hours into the journey we rounded a bend and the scene took on a surreal quality. Yet another cluster of barns and outbuildings came into view, the red ceramic roof tiles nearly hidden by blue, solar photovoltaic panels. The buildings swam in a sea of bright yellow rapeseed—the raw material of biodiesel fuel. On a distant slope, the long thin blades of three wind turbines revolved in unison as if choreographed. I was suddenly seized by the desire to grab the well-dressed man in the seat next to me, who was engrossed in today's Die Zeit, and demand that he look out the window and tell me if this Energiewende parade is real or a moveable tableau staged for foreign journalists.

The numbers I gathered on my trip seem as unlikely as the scene out the window.

Twenty-five percent of Germany's electricity now comes from solar, wind and biomass. A third of the world's installed solar capacity is found in Germany, a nation that gets roughly the same amount of sunlight as Alaska. A whopping 65 percent of the country's total renewable power capacity is now owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities, leaving Germany's once all-powerful utilities with just a sliver (6.5 percent) of this burgeoning sector.

Still, major hurdles remain in Germany's quest for 100 percent renewable power. More than 5,000 miles of power lines need to be added to the electrical grid to accommodate the new energy sources—at a staggering cost of $25 billion. And researchers will have to find a more cost-effective means of storing energy produced by solar and wind power.

But Energiewende advocates approach these hurdles with the same mindset they've used to clear earlier ones. When I asked Hans-Josef Fell, the chief architect of the Energiewende's legal framework, about the energy storage problem, he immediately corrected my terminology. "It is not a problem," he insisted. "It is a task." By keeping their eyes on the prize of 100 percent renewable power, supporters have achieved more than anyone outside their ranks had thought possible.

There will never be oil independence in America because it all goes into the world market. Why don't reporters understand this simple fact?

I was reminded by the article above about President Carter having solar panels installed on the roof of the White House; the first government building in the world to have renewable energy installed. Then Reagan came in and ripped it down. 

Fucking stupid Americans.

Obama's plan is to open up the shale gas. America continues to ignore climate change. Chris Hedges has a good article Stand Still for the Apocalypse where he condenses an 84 page World Bank report "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 ℃ Warmer World Must Be Avoided.

Addressing Climate Change should be the #1 item on Obama's to do list.

In Australia, Wind Power Is Already Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, And Solar Is Right Behind

By Jeff Spross on Feb 10, 2013 at 10:00 am

According to the latest research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, electricity from wind power can now be supplied more cheaply in Australia than power from either coal or natural gas — and solar and other forms of renewable energy aren’t far behind.

Older coal-fired power plants from the 70s and 80s still compete at lower prices than renewables — but only because their construction costs have depreciated. For the deployment of any new power generation in Australia, renewables now appear to be the way to go.

Australia currently charges polluters $23 in Australian dollars per metric ton of carbon they emit, but the study concluded that wind power would still undercut fossil fuels even without that correction of the market’s failure to properly build in the costs of carbon pollution:

The study shows that electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm at a cost of [$80 per megawatt hour in Australian dollars], compared to [$143 per megawatt hour] from a new coal plant or [$116 per megawatt hour] from a new baseload gas plant, including the cost of emissions under the Gillard government’s carbon pricing scheme. However even without a carbon price (the most efficient way to reduce economy-wide emissions) wind energy is 14% cheaper than new coal and 18% cheaper than new gas.…

Think Progress

The exploding fertilizer plant in Texas is reinforcing the arguement for organic fertilizer as in horse manure and composted vegetable waste.

In Britain, organic fertilizer is big business. One producer produces over 30,000 tonnes a year.

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