Weekly Letter to the President
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ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 15, 2019
Mr. President: Climate change reports are seldom sanguine. Carbon dioxide, the
principal culprit, is at record levels, about twice the preindustrial value and a third
higher than even 1950. Without abatement it could rise to a thousand parts per
million in a self-reinforcing loop spiraling into an irredeemable ecological disaster.
The Germans are attacking the problem forcefully as demonstrated by the new coal
commission report issued at the end of last month.
In November 2016, the German Federal Government adopted its Climate Action Plan
2050 . It outlines CO2 reduction targets in energy, industry, buildings, transport and
agriculture. Energy is the most polluting; its emissions total the sum of all the others
except industry and energiewende (energy change) was a key aspect of the plan.
So even as our atavistic president is promoting coal, Germany, the EU economic
powerhouse, announced it is planning to phase out all coal-fired power stations by
2038. As outlined in the November 2016 plan, a commission comprising delegates
from industry, trade unions, civil society including environmental NGOs and policy
makers was appointed in 2018 to examine the issue and prescribe an equitable
solution. After eight months of negotiations and discussions, concluding with a final
21-hour marathon session, it has produced a dense 336 page document. Only one
member out of 28 cast an opposing vote, and Greenpeace added a dissenting option
as it wants the process to begin immediately.
The objective was a special challenge because of Germany's long industrial history
that has been coupled with coal mining. In brief, shutting down the last coal-burning
power station by 2038 will be the final step in the pathway outlined. An ambitious
alternative is to exit by 2035 if conditions permit. Total capacity of coal-using stations
in Germany is 45 gigawatts, and the report sets out an initial goal of 12.5 gigawatts to
be switched-off four years hence by 2022 -- about two dozen of the larger 500+
megawatt units. Progressively, eight years later by 2030 another 24 gigawatts will
have been phased out leaving just 9 gigawatts to be eliminated by 2035 if possible
but definitely by 2038 at the latest.
It is a demanding plan for coal has been deeply embedded with German industry. To
ease the pain for tens of thousands of workers and their families, the plan allocates
federal funding to deal with its broad ramifications i.e. job loss and displacement. An
adjustment fund will be used for those aged 58 and over to compensate pension
deficits. Funds are also directed towards retraining for younger workers and for
education programs designed to broaden skills.
It includes 40 billion euros to develop alternative industry in coal mining states plus
money not directly project-related. In addition further investments in infrastructure
and a special funding program for transport adding up to 1.5 billion euros per year
are allocated in the federal budget until 2021.
The change-over will raise electricity prices, so a 2 billion euros per year
compensation program for users, both private individuals and industrial, will continue
until 2030. This is designed to relieve the burden on families, and to maintain
Germany is not alone. The EU has issued an analysis of accelerated coal phase-out
by 2030. The Netherlands has its own energiesprong (energy leap) focused on
energy transition and energy neutral buildings, meaning that the buildings generate
enough energy through solar panels or other means to pay for the energy deficit from
their construction and use. This expertise is also being utilized in the UK.
By the end of Germany's enormous sector-wide endeavor, it expects to reduce CO2
emissions to roughly half through 2030 and 80-95 percent by 2050. The
comprehensive and complete nature of the program
could serve as a blueprint here in the US. The obvious question: If Germany with a
far larger proportion of its workforce associated with coal can do it, why can't the US?