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The coal mine that ate Hambacher forest (bbc.co.uk)
93 points by jfk13 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 131 comments





> To add insult to injury, the coal that is extracted here is brown coal, also known as lignite, which emits particularly high levels of carbon dioxide.

This surprised me, because surely you get one molecule of CO2 per atom of carbon in the coal, regardless of the kind of coal. But it seems there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my stoichiometry - lignite has a higher moisture content than other coals, so more of the energy liberated goes into boiling that water, so there is less energy produced per unit of carbon, which means more CO2 per unit of energy:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978008100...


I had a power company as a client once, years ago. They had a plant that burned lignite. I was new to the industry and asked what that was.

The response they gave me was “it’s like burning dirt.” Man, lignite is nasty stuff.

Burning freaking dirt. Can’t wait for this stuff to be outlawed.


Lignite is more accurately described as "slightly more flammable dirt". It is an absolute outrage that we still burn it for energy.

Huh I would have guesses that the difference was in hydrocarbons themselves - the opposite of how Methane is peak hydrocarbon efficency by having four hydrogen bonds per carbon - if it has less energy/carbon dense configurations resulting in more CO2 than even other coals because it was made up of more wasteful structures like "rings" of carbons.

The scale of the scars on the earth here is pretty staggering: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Hambach+Forest/@50.89999...

That reminds me of the "mountain top removal" going on in the Appalachians.

Bring up google maps for West Virginia, zoom out so that the entire state is visible in the browser window, and you can see all the scars.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/West+Virginia/@38.1864602,...


Impressive, aren't they? The industrial muscle keeping people warm and happy.

I assume Germany has a modern program of mine rehabilitation, so you're only able to see the parts that are currently part of the active mine. The historic mine footprint of an old mine is probably twice or thrice what is visible; much larger but invisible from satellite because it has been rehabilitated.

Eg, the area just north-west of Tagebau Hambach is probably mine rehab; you can tell because it is a deeper green than the surrounding farmland and if you look closely the massive contours of the waste emplacement areas might be visible.


That's correct (I live nearby). What you also don't see was what was in the way of the mine before it got there. It was populated space, all the towns got cleared out. Normally when someone blows up thousand-year-old cultural monuments we call it terrorism, but not when it's RWE (the mine operator) doing it. The compensation people get is nowhere near proportional to the damage - they get paid based on a fictional estimate of the value of their home. And they don't get to choose whether they get evicted or not.

RWE recently bulldozed a centuries-old church and surrounding town. They get away with it because of a fuckup by local politicians a while back. RWE was supposed to pay for the right to exploit that land, and local councils agreed to an offer to pay them in shares instead of in money. Now local council budgets are dependent on RWE dividends and therefore although technically they co-own RWE, in practice RWE owns them. The saddest thing is that lignite mining is not even commercially viable anymore - so these mines only continue to operate because of state subsidies (federal subsidies, which then partially end up in local councils via said dividends). The terrorists operating the mines claim that it's critical to keep them running because of the jobs that would be lost, but a couple years worth of the subsidy would be sufficient to pay the entire workforce (around 20k people nationwide work in that industry) their salaries for life. Meanwhile solar subsidies got cut for being "too expensive", shrinking that sector by 4x as many jobs. The fuckers now want to accelerate the pace of extraction because they have to shut down by 2038.


I cannot agree more! The only ones profiting from coal subsidies are RWE and company while evryone else pays for it. It would be much more worthwhile, even for RWE themselves, to just use the coal subsidies and plaster all active and potential strip mines with solar farms. But then we are talking about old German politics and corporate culture, so that won't happen anytime soon.

You are forgetting the part where RWE is also paying the income of a whole lot of miners, who would suddenly be without a job if the mines where to be closed.

That is the biggest political hurdle here, it's not solely RWE being greedy, a lot of it has to do with nobody being able to offer these miners any job alternatives once their mines are closed.

Yet these miners make up a substantial part of the population in certain German states, thus the result that majority of Germans want to exit coal but in those places where coal actually matters there's vehement opposition to closing them down [0].

[0] https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/kohleausstieg-meh...


20k miners against 100k wind power employees that now have to deal with zero new wind turbines being build in Germany, or 80k solar power employees who lost their jobs when the solar subsidies were axed...

There are a lot more "coal power employees" than just miners. Comparing entire sectors to just a subset of one is unfair.

Even the coal lobbyists admit that there are at most 50k jobs if you also count component suppliers and the like. 50% of the 20k direct employees are also 50 or over. We could just pay them early retirement and would get away cheaper than the damage the extra CO2 causes.

Could you please source that claim about the number of jobs being affected?

I find it somewhat implausible that whole German states could have such vastly different opinions on the coal exit when those directly affected supposedly only makeup 20k-50k people.

Because those kinds of numbers regularly embezzle where these people are spending their money. Wouldn't be the first time whole German communes suddenly become underdeveloped due to the biggest employers in the region shutting down/leaving.

That's why I can fully understand the people in those regions, they are presented with a choice that has no apparent advantage to them, only disadvantages.

Would you vote for your own job/income getting regulated in non-existence, when nobody offers you an alternative? Because that's the current situation: Nobody is offering alternatives to those people, yet everybody expects them to just give up their livelihoods.


I only have a German source: https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/braunkohlewirt...

> Der Bundesverband Braunkohle wies auf Anfrage darauf hin, dass seine Unternehmen auch für Beschäftigung bei Zulieferern sorgten und spricht von insgesamt etwa 50.000 Arbeitsplätzen.

> The German lignite coalition pointed out on request that their companies also provided employment for suppliers and speaks of a total of about 50,000 jobs.

Of course all of those jobs are concentrated around the mines. For those communities closing the mines is hard. But imho getting rid of lignite ASAP and just giving the affected people as much money as they got from working is the right way forward.


And how many jobs do you actaully get from one mine today? 10 when you used to have hundreds due to automation. These jobs are gone and won't come back regardless of mining or no mining. That nobody manages to communicate that to the people and offer them alternatives is a large reason things like the AfD. Doesn't help that politicians in these regions are largely in corporate pockets one way or the other doesn't help.

20k, roughly. Subsidies directly paid to them for just staying home would be much, much less then they are now for RWE and co. And honestly, 20k ain't that much in country of 80+ million people. Alao the problem would be much less severe if we hadn't countinued to actually train new miners until abcouple of years ago. Just keeping the existing ones employed until a very well earned early retirement would have avoided that 20k affected people. But hey, then the utilities and mining companies would have earned a lot less in subsidies.

> You are forgetting the part where RWE is also paying the income of a whole lot of miners, who would suddenly be without a job if the mines where to be closed.

In all fairness, Germany lost about four times as many jobs when we destroyed our solar industry.


The only thing I'm aware off is that the Groko has been giving out way fewer licenses for PV installations, which has lead to a considerable slow-down in building out PV capabilities.

But afaik we didn't really destroy the industry, we just lost our edge [0], which has in part to do with industrial espionage [1], and in other parts with China simply out manufacturing anybody else as soon as they get the gist of building something.

[0] https://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/wirtschaft/Der-Niederga...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON#Examples_of_industrial...


They ruined the home market, while China heavily subsidized theirs. It was a failure of politics.

That the German manufacturers were subsidy chasing production dilitantes did help neither. But yes, politicals played a role. Still do in solar to this day.

There was a very good joke in the satire/comedy TV show "Die Anstalt" recently:

The reason saving these coal jobs is more important than the solar jobs, is because the former are NOT RENEWABLE.


The jobs at risk are not only those in the coal industry but also the jobs powered by the coal. You can't run a business without electricity. So if coal makes up about a third of the power then about a third of the jobs in Germany could be lost.

Of course coal can and should be replaced by something better but thats gonna take a while and Germany has chosen to phase out nuclear before coal so this is a consequence of that decision.


Last year Germany exported about 9% of its electricity. So the country could reduce their use of lignite (~ 24% of total energy produced) by at least this amount.

And I think the math is off there - if Germany cuts 24% of its energy production over a couple of years, energy may become more expensive, driving away the factories using extreme amounts of electricity[1]. It would not result in losing a lot of jobs, and may even force some industries to become much more efficient (thus generating an advantage over competitors).

[1] eg, Aurubis in Hamburg using 1 billion kw/h per year with less than 7000 employees to refine copper


Sure but then power lines needs to be built from where the power is produced to where it is used. This is also part of Energiewende but it is not that easy to just put up high voltage lines through a densely populated democracy. It could take years or even decades to build a new grid.

Their competitors are also becoming more efficient over time and if you have no capacity at all in a region no new factories can be built there. High paying jobs could be replaced by low paying jobs.

Not saying it shouldn't be done but I understand it's a political balancing act. Ideally a global carbon tax, making it the same for everyone, would help but i've given up hope on that.


That logic doesn't apply neatly because 40% of their electricity comes from renewables which aren't necessarily dispatchable. They might be exporting, eg, solar surplus at noon and have exactly what is needed at night.

I recall some of their neighbors were annoyed a year or two ago because Germany was dumping surplus and destabilising their grids.


The jobs at risk are not only those in the coal industry but also the jobs powered by the coal. You can't run a business without electricity. So if coal makes up about a third of the power then about a third of the jobs in Germany could be lost.

That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard.


Why do you think people mine coal? To upset environmentalists?

It is mined because it enables people to do things. It creates material wealth. It is completely reasonable to say that there are ramifications to shutting down coal. Germany has not increased their access to electricity through the Energiewende [0]. Apparently that is intentional, which shows remarkable political will; I can't see it flying in most countries. Wouldn't want to be poor in Germany.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Germany


Germany could close some of its coal plants immediately if it ran the mostly idle gas plants at capacity.

Don’t know specific situation in Germany, but gas turbine plants in my country are “mostly idle” because they are there to keep the grid stable (they spin up fast to cover peak demand). They can’t be run at capacity.

Irsching Power Station in Germany has a mixture of 770 MW peaking capacity (not suitable for routine use) and 1429 MW of idled high efficiency combined cycle gas turbine capacity. The latter type of unit is suitable for directly replacing coal fired plants. CCGT units have enabled the United States to rapidly replace coal fired power with gas fired power over the past decade. Replacing coal with gas isn't enough to reach climate goals, of course, but it certainly is better than continued coal use. Also, even CCGT installations not intended for peaking can respond faster to changing net demand than coal plants can, which makes them a better complementary source for renewables.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irsching_Power_Station

There are another 1200+ megawatts of mostly-idle CCGT capacity at the Knapsack and Herdecke sites:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-20/merkel-s-...


The future is going to be ugly. I am not sure how I feel about capital punishment, but given how bad things could get in a future dystopia, the death penalty for environmental crimes of this magnitude would seem tame.

Here is an area in eastern germany with lot's of opencast mining in the past (much bigger than what RWE did) - the lakes are former mines but there are some serious problems especially regarding quality of water and water levels

https://goo.gl/maps/2r1ZhDMHZVHf21ug8


Yes, there is such a program. There is a region in eastern Germany, that was known as the 'death triangle' during the DDR -- the region between Bitterfeld, Halle and Borna (https://www.google.com/maps/@51.364936,12.2644447,63124m/dat...). The region was dominated by coal mining and chemical industry -- greyish-black snows and acid rains were not uncommon. If you look at the map today, there are lots of lakes where there were extensive coal mining projects in the past. Nowadays they are a popular tourist destination.

That has echoes of the “Siberian Maldives” [1]. An ash lake that has turquoise waters, due to toxic pollutants, where lots of people go to take selfies ignoring the warning signs posted to not go in the lake... but people still do.

[1]https://time.com/5623538/toxic-waste-dump-selfies/


I was barely alive at that time, so I only know these stories from my family members. But I've seen photographs of the time, that confirm it happened, albeit I doubt that it happened on a regular basis.

Nice guessing, but nope. Old earth movements of that scale are anything but invisible on satellite pictures.

Here's a map that shows the area before mining began in 1978: https://www.bund-nrw.de/fileadmin/nrw/bilder/Braunkohle/1975...

So the rehabilitation area is in fact only the very prominent forest directly to the northwest of the active mining, a third to half its size rather than twice or thrice.


I'm a mining engineer with previous experience as a rehabilitation planner in a coal mine. Technically I suppose I am guessing when I say that is a hill and it is not natural. However it is an extremely educated guess.

I assure you, it is a hill and it is not natural. It is clearly mine rehabilitation. I've been responsible for a very similar looking hill, in fact. Not quite as nice looking from a satellite photo I must admit, they've got a better shade of green.


It is rehab, I've been there and had to drive around it to get to the vantage point.

Edit: The pit looks like some lunar surface from one of the vantage points - it's wide enough to be larger than your field of view. Also, I'm not sure whether rehab is the right word for it, it's an area they built out of the non-coal material they had to dig out. IIRC the pitch for the pit was to turn it into an artificial lake.


If it can be rehabilitated, is it really so bad? Some are also coverted to lakes, in the hopes of creating attractive leisure destinations.

And this can take decades, until swimming in the water doesn't impact health. Let alone the fact that the additional water to maintain the water level in an unnatural lake like that may be needed elsewhere. What many people forget is that during the excavation all kinds of metals and materials are uncovered leading to red water for the first couple of decades until everything is settled. I am from a german region (Lausitz) where all of that happened and believe me when I say that I'd rather have some out-of-the-job miners than big patches of land filled with lakes instead of "home towns".

It was the last old forest in Germany. Like, it was a forest for 12000y, basically since the last ice age. Individual trees are only a couple hundred years old, but the ecosystem you get from many generations of trees growing in a mostly unmanaged forest is rather unique and due to the time scales involved irreplaceable.

Forests take time to grow and mature. Animals that live in these forests often have nowhere to go when these are cut down. Especially smaller species may not have the ability to flee when the saws come. Also, forests in Germany often are reduced to unconnected patches separated by open fields. Large connected forests are rare.

Rehabilitation won't reverse the CO2 emissions. So yes, it's really so bad.

Sure, could always be worse. But coal is probably the worst form of gathering energy.

The only benefit is the quick ramp-up enabling them to jump in to gaps where e.g. atomic power ramps up to meet demand.


Thanks for the link. It's staggering.

This is happening in Eastern Germany, too, near Spremberg. If you turn off labels and zoom out a bit, you can see spot them in several places. Impossible to hide global destruction like this.

It's interesting (and scary) to watch us gobble up the Earth. Have a look at Merauke in Papa New Guinea and the surrounding ~100km. Mostly the jungle getting turned into farms, but there are also huge palm oil plantations that are cropping up in the middle here and there. They are huge too.


Thanks for the link.

What's most crazy is when you compare it to the nearby city of Köln (1+m inhabitants). It's almost the size of the city center!


Indeed, you can have all of germany on screen and still see it.

For someone who has been to Germany the scale and number of windturbines is amazing. It seems odd that they only account for 14% of their electricity production. By comparison I can't remember seeing any solar power infrastructure and yet that accounts for 7%.

Depends a lot on the area. Most of the solar installations are in the richer southern areas on private houses, whereas the large wind installation can be mostly seen in eastern and northern germany.

This might be true about sheer number of installations, but by wattage most of the power comes from massive solar fields, not rooftop PV. According to Wikipedia [0], the five biggest installations are all in the Brandenburg area (a poorer region in the northeast), though anecdotally I see medium size fields all the time along the railways in Bavaria.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany#Photovo...


Lots of conservative backlash against wind energy in the south. "Asparagus landscapes" was a slogan used to get votes of people who don't want wind turbines around.

Also fear mongering for infrasound etc.


That aside, the north is better suited for wind energy because topological reasons. The sea would be even better. Problem is the still lacking infrastructure to transport energy southward where heavy industry actually needs it.

I don't know where you got your numbers from. Wind power generated 20% of electricity in 2018 and 26% in the first half of 2019.

AG Energiebilanzen says its 17.3% for 2019.

Source: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-energy-c...


The article. Admittedly there is another 3% for offshore wind turbines but I haven't been that far north.

the linked article cites "Clean Energy Wire" as the source.

Probably because wind turbines are much taller than solar panels.

Sure. I mean that is pretty obvious. But I think what I was surprised by is that solar is generating half as much energy while being below the 'noise floor' in terms of visual impact, such that I have no recollection of seeing any large solar installations.

In this context the ecocide caused by the construction of windturbines is especially alarming

Do you mean the death of birds due to wind turbines? As best as I can tell, that is dwarfed by the birds killed by domesticated animals.

Or to apples to apples it killed by coal for that matter. It is a bizzare mental blindspot that people never ask that question - but birds always seem to come up mainly as NIMBY pretexts anyway.

The impact on the environment is severe in many aspects. The impact on the power grid as well. Germany already have to pay other countries to accept Germany's excess electricity in the other countries's power grids.

you say "domesticated animals" but is that not cats exclusively?

Democracy Now! also covered the protests at the end of 2017 [1].

[1] https://www.democracynow.org/2017/11/15/special_report_from_...


OT but the picture of the gigantic machine is a bagger 288. An engineering marvel.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagger_288?wprov=sfla1


If interested in some footage from protests and the site in general - https://twitter.com/JoanieLemercier

[flagged]


> Might be worth noting, that at the same time historical forests are being cut down for wind power

It is practically never the case that a forest is cut down for wind power. You cut down a couple of trees for the turbine grounding and for some ways to reach them. But really if you look at the numbers it's not that much. The forest is still there afterwards. That's very different from "cutting down a forest" like it's done for opencast mining where nothing is left afterwards.


Do you know what the German protesters are proposing as an alternative? Germany banned nuclear, brown lignite is bad, extensive mining destroys forests, wind power destroys forests and is bad for birds, Germany is not a good candidate for solar, and so on. So what's next?

Germany is actually an excellent candidate for solar (though not nearly as much as places like Spain). It has an enormous solar installed base that produces a sizeable amount of energy, and had the buildout incentives not been cut a couple years back solar would be the second biggest electrical energy component today. Meanwhile coal is still heavily subsidized, to the tune of 4 billion euros yearly.

Also you can easily put solar over e.g. car parks, in which case you don't even need a proper roof if you funnel water from the panels towards the gutters without splashing the users walking to the cars. The cost should be within 30% of the panel price itself for a decent-size parking lot, less if you can get economies of scale through standardized modules that are placed next to each other to form rows for the cars.

A bonus would be that the cars don't heat up as much/get packed with snow.

And the land isn't wasted, because there is no reason not to have a roof over a paved parking lot other than the fact that a roof costs money to build and maintain, which isn't an issue with solar. You already can't use the land for plants/nature, so you might as well put your solar there instead of some open field/grassland that can be used for something else.


> You already can't use the land for plants/nature

You can put plants on rooftops, we just don't.


You ever see those projects where they generate biofuel from algae growing ontop / against building using special build tanks? Its really cool.

Cool, but also energy efficient?

It certainly beats bare roofs. AFAIK photosynthesis is still more efficient than photovoltaic, too. In any case, it's easier to store biofuel than electricity.

Solar apparently hasn't become viable after years of subsidization. And the problem of storing energy is still not solved. There is no solar power at night.

Subsidization of coal would of course be equally wrong.


Solar is already cheaper than coal without subsidies. That alone counts as viable even if given the most pessimistic assumptions like "no power storage" it could leave generators running only at night.

> Solar apparently hasn't become viable after years of subsidization

Whether that is true or not: How do you expect it to become viable when coal is subsidized?

> And the problem of storing energy is still not solved.

Source?


Isn't it common knowledge that the energy storage problem still isn't solved. What solution do you think exists?

For one, "isn't it common knowledge" does not strike me as a particularly well-informed position.

"The energy storage problem" really never was an energy storage problem. It is a political problem of paying for it, because everyone calculates the costs of building storage systems and pretends that the future costs of continuing the burning of fossil fuels are zero, and then decides to go the "cheaper route" that simply has future generations pay for everything, and potentially orders of magnitude more than building storage systems now would cost.

As for technological solutions that do exist, the most important thing is that there is not the solution. If your topology allows for it, pumped hydroelectric is great. If you are the Netherlands, maybe not. Or rather, it's still useful for peak loads, but not for any kind of long-term storage. Batteries have become cheaper and are great for really fast reaction times to be able to deal with fast fluctuations in production, plus they are very efficient, so they are great for daily cycling. Also, just controlling demand better ("smart grid") can solve part of the actual problem (imbalance between demand and production), so you don't actually need as much storage. Or rather, you can even use the demand side for storage: You can, for example, cool down warehouses a degree or two more when you have excess energy in the grid, thus reducing demand later. For long-term storage, Power to gas seems promising: It's pretty inefficient, but it can achieve a high energy density, and efficiency doesn't matter that much for the exceptional case of extremely low renewable production over a large area. Plus, chances are the efficiency can be increased.

Ths point is: There is no silver bullet, but lots of solutions that can be combined to achieve a stable electricity supply from renewable energy sources.


> Whether that is true or not: How do you expect it to become viable when coal is subsidized?

Cutting subsidies to coal and/or increasing subsidies to solar just raises the cost of energy for end users, which does not affect the average HN user, but will affect the average citizen.

Germans already paying a ridiculous amount of money per kilowatt hour (in fact, we are the first world country with the highest electricity price, 40 US cents as compared to 12 US cents you would pay in the States).

Raising subsidies is an antisocial move that will lead to increased public unrest, at a time when we see right-wing politics raising it's ugly head again.

In the end, the pot goes to the spring till it breaks.


> Cutting subsidies to coal and/or increasing subsidies to solar just raises the cost of energy for end users

Source? And does that include the future costs of the environmental impact for the end users that will still be alive by then?

> Germans already paying a ridiculous amount of money per kilowatt hour

What exactly is ridiculous about a price that reflects the actual costs?

> (in fact, we are the first world country with the highest electricity price, 40 US cents as compared to 12 US cents you would pay in the States).

If you are paying 40 US cents per kWh for electricity in .de, then that's because you chose to, not because that's the market price.

> Raising subsidies is an antisocial move that will lead to increased public unrest, at a time when we see right-wing politics raising it's ugly head again.

So ... we should implement right-wing politics so that right-wing politics doesn't win? What's even the point of that argument?


> Source?

"Source" is not a magic incantation that invalidates a statement. When subsidies change, price goes up, we have seen that repeatedly happening in the German electricity market, most prominently with the EEG.

> environmental impact for the end users that will still be alive by then?

You try to derail my point by underhandedly claiming I want more coal, which is false. I am pro-nuclear until we get fusion (also technically a nuclear technology) working. "But the costs are hidden, deconstruction will have to be paid by the taxpayer". Maybe - but when we were nuclear and before we installed bird-shredding and insect-killing wind farms, before we made everyone pay for large amounts of money to gift to rich homeowners to put solar on their roofs, electricity was considerably cheaper.

> What exactly is ridiculous about a price that reflects the actual costs?

The actual cost of power generation apparently can be a lot lower, because the hypercapitalist US pays about a third of our price.

Also, if you need to prop up an energy source with money, obviously it is not cost-effective.

> If you are paying 40 US cents per kWh for electricity in .de, then that's because you chose to, not because that's the market price.

I pay about 46 Eurocents per kilowatt hour, or around 52 US-Cents, with EnBW (900 kw/h per year[1], fixed costs factored in). Arguably, I could lower that to about 42 Eurocents per kilowatt hour if I change to Yello, who are famous for buying large amounts of nuclear electricity. Which, btw, is about to end here. With my low consumption, savings of about 36 Euros are just not worth it.

[1] So here I am - a single who moved to a small flat, all the lights are LEDs (which are considerably more expensive than the old ones), cooking rarely, enterntainment coming from a low-wattage laptop, actually turning off everything before leaving the flat ... I have done my part. I won't be painted as some kind of environmental monster or a right-winger because I do not support risking the social cohesion of our society to provide for some people's green renewable fantasies.

> So ... we should implement right-wing politics so that right-wing politics doesn't win?

So, what exactly is right-wing in not making the price of electricity rise to appease some crypto-right-wing Greens?


> "Source" is not a magic incantation that invalidates a statement.

That is correct. The statement is already insufficiently justified all by itself. "Source?" simply points out this pre-existing problem.

> When subsidies change, price goes up, we have seen that repeatedly happening in the German electricity market, most prominently with the EEG.

So, if we were to completely subsidize electricity for all citizens ... the price paid by citizens would go up? And that is because when we forced utilities to buy certain forms of energy at a fixed price, they passed that cost on to the customer? Are you really sure that that is your argument?

> You try to derail my point by underhandedly claiming I want more coal, which is false. I am pro-nuclear until we get fusion (also technically a nuclear technology) working.

You seemed to object to cutting subsidies for coal. But well, I guess your plan then is to increase the share of nuclear energy by continuing the subsidy for coal!?

> "But the costs are hidden, deconstruction will have to be paid by the taxpayer". Maybe - but when we were nuclear and before we installed bird-shredding and insect-killing wind farms, before we made everyone pay for large amounts of money to gift to rich homeowners to put solar on their roofs, electricity was considerably cheaper.

Erm, what? So, maybe the costs are hidden and will be paid via taxes ... but the prices that didn't include those costs were considerably cheaper? And that is supposed to be an argument for what exactly? That we should pay rich homeowners with taxes rather than increased energy prices?

And shredding birds somehow also magically kills the insects that those birds don't get to eat? Or what is that argument about?

> The actual cost of power generation apparently can be a lot lower, because the hypercapitalist US pays about a third of our price.

So, how much of the long-term costs of electricity generation in the US are included in the retail price? We don't want to be comparing apples to oranges, do we?

> Also, if you need to prop up an energy source with money, obviously it is not cost-effective.

How does that follow?

> I pay about 46 Eurocents per kilowatt hour, or around 52 US-Cents, with EnBW (900 kw/h per year[1], fixed costs factored in). Arguably, I could lower that to about 42 Eurocents per kilowatt hour if I change to Yello, who are famous for buying large amounts of nuclear electricity. Which, btw, is about to end here. With my low consumption, savings of about 36 Euros are just not worth it.

Well, that's certainly not representative. I pay ~ 0.27 EUR/kWh effective, though at ~ 3000 kWh per year, which makes a big difference for the effective price--and as such, I doubt you can reasonably compare your 0.50 USD to some average 0.12 USD in the US.

> So here I am - a single who moved to a small flat, all the lights are LEDs (which are considerably more expensive than the old ones)

Wut?

If we assume your typical "60 W" LED lamp lasts 10000 hours, that's 3 EUR for the lamp (if you buy reasonable quality somewhat cheaply) plus (assuming 6 W) 60 kWh of electricity, which at 0,46 EUR/kWh costs 27.60 EUR, so a total of 29.60 EUR.

The same amount of light from incandescent lamps is 10 60 W bulbs at ~ 0,40 EUR each, plus 600 kWh of electricity, that would be 276 EUR, so a total of 280 EUR.

What kind of LED lamps do you buy where LED lamps are "considerably more expensive"?! Even if we assume cheaper electricity, or terrible lamps that blow out after 1000 h, or that the incandescent bulbs were for free ... how do you manage to make LED lamps more expensive?!

> I won't be painted as some kind of environmental monster or a right-winger because I do not support risking the social cohesion of our society to provide for some people's green renewable fantasies.

I don't care whether you are a right-winger, your suggestion amounted to implementing right-wing policies.

As for whether those "fantasies" are bad policy or not, your arguments so far have not been particularly convincing.

> So, what exactly is right-wing in not making the price of electricity rise to appease some crypto-right-wing Greens?

The unjustified assumption that this is about appeasing anyone, and not about finding the best solution for an actual problem.


The rest of your post does not warrant a response, but the insect thing may be something you are not yet aware of, so ...

Dr. Franz Trieb of the DLR institute of technical thermodynamics has found some interesting correlations about the decline of insect populations and the creation of windparks, and considers them a major factor (next to pesticides) in what we call the "insect apocalypse":

"Fluginsekten - Studie zu Wechselwirkungen von Fluginsekten und Windparks" https://www.dlr.de/tt/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-2885/4422_re...


[flagged]


Indeed, nuclear fission is the only viable known technology to bring the world a first-world level of available energy. It’s too bad that ignorance and fear keeps it off the table.

> I don't think they have a clear concept of a viable solution.

Do you have a clear concept of a viable solution? (Hint: Killing the ecosystem that sustains humans is not it.)


> Do you have a clear concept of a viable solution?

Nuclear. Solar farms take 450 times more land than nuclear to produce the same amount of energy (source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/05/08...)


Sorry, but that's just a dumb comparison. For one, solar farms don't use land the same way nuclear power plants do, in terms of effects on the environment/ecosystem (you potentially can even do agriculture on the same land ...). Then, you can't install nuclear power plants on rooftops, but you can put solar panels there, thus using no land at all. And finally, you avoid a lot of losses and don't need as much distribution infrastructure when you have solar panels within the city where the energy is being used.

Also, I don't see how you could build sufficient nuclear capacity in time to sufficiently reduce carbon emissions without compromising safety (after all, nuclear energy is inherently extremely dangerous--the fact that we so far have been able to operate it very safely does not mean that that is an inherent property of the technology that we could maintain if we tried building hundreds of gigawatts in a decade). Nuclear (fission) energy might have been a sensible route in the past, but it doesn't seem so right now.


I think nuclear is the best current solution, but it is too late to build nuclear plant now because it requires 40 years to be cost effective. I hope that solar will become better than nuclear in less than 10 years.

Solar less space efficient even at maximum capacity.

I'm not the one claiming there is an easy solution. I think Bill Gates also said the people claiming there is an easy solution is the biggest problem with fighting climate change, so maybe read his essays on the topic.

But you claimed that protesters demanding a solution were a problem, or that they were unjustified because they couldn't offer a solution. Why would people have to present a solution in order to demand for their future to not be destroyed?

After all, "solving climate change" is technologically a solved problem. Humanity has all the technological knowledge to switch to carbon-free energy production. The problem are the costs of that switch based on current technology. But if we can't reduce the costs further, that still does not invalidate the demand of protesters who don't want to be stuck with paying the massive price of having to deal with a broken ecosystem later. It's still a perfectly justified demand that current generations pay in order to avoid costs for future generations.


No I said the protestors claiming there is an easy solution is the problem. They believe everything could just be switched over to renewables at no cost, in fact, they think it would be cheaper to do so.

You do the same. You claim it is "technically a solved problem". It really isn't. You are just naive about "renewable energy".


> No I said the protestors claiming there is an easy solution is the problem.

Source?

> They believe everything could just be switched over to renewables at no cost,

Source?

> in fact, they think it would be cheaper to do so.

So, how do you know that is not the case? (And no, pretending that climate change won't cause any costs is not how this works. If your stance is that climate change won't have any costs, that's on you to demonstrate.)

> You do the same. You claim it is "technically a solved problem". It really isn't.

So, which part of it is not technically solved?

ntzm 10 days ago [flagged]

Capitalism will destroy this planet

Please don't post unsubstantive comments, or flamebait, or take HN threads into ideological battle.

Please do review and follow the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.


In case of Germany, it's anti-science anti-nuclear "environmentalists" that are destroying it. Energy is needed regardless of the economic structure of society. Now which kind of energy will it be? Germany chose coal and now they're reaping the consequences.

> Germany chose coal and now they're reaping the consequences.

Heh, nope, everyone does reap the consequences... That said, nuclear power is no viable long term solution and if we imported uranium from Russia, everybody would start to cry again.

Being anti-nuclear isn't necessarily anti-scientific. It is a risk assessment. While I tend to have favored nuclear power, especially towards the current energy setup, I don't think it was a catastrophic decision.


Nuclear was always less than 15% of Germany's primary power consumption. Renewables something like 5%. We need to get to 100% carbon neutral. Whether we have to replace 80 or 100% with wind and solar shouldn't make that much of a difference.

Nuclear fission is the only non-carbon technology that could realistically get to 100% supply. Ending its generation in Germany was a mistake.

I think you need to qualify that first statement with a timeframe. Otherwise, it is clearly untrue. 100% supply is realistically possible with only renewable energy -- within a few years by investing in storage, local wind power in South Germany where the main demand is etc.

I agree that it was a mistake, but there are several studies showing how Germany can switch to ~100% wind+solar.

What do they propose to deal with massive swings in generation and demand? Hydroelectric pumping? Batteries?

Build enough batteries and hydro to last for a few hours to a few days and use power-to-gas for longer periods of low generation (e.g. winter and no wind). There is already infrastructure in place for strategic gas reserves. We just need to build additional gas plants to meet demand when wind and solar are at production minimums.

But batteries and hydro are extremely expensive at grid-scale. How economically uncompetitive are you willing to make Germany in exchange for not using nuclear?

Nuclear is also extremely expensive. Personally I see opportunities in being an early adopter of technologies that have to become quite popular over the next few years if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change, but I'm not enough of an economist to have a strong opinion.

I would also be okay with building some nuclear, put nuclear and renewables don't go very well together, and I believe it's much harder to build enough nuclear plants quickly enough to replace all fossil energy consumption than it is to build enough wind turbines.


All of those, plus "smart grid" stuff to get better control over demand, plus Power to Gas (electricity to methane) and gas turbines (very inefficient, but existing infrastructure can store huge amounts of energy, and efficiency isn't the primary concern for the exceptional case).

I highly doubt about it considering how much they already spent and how (very) far they are from that goal.

Being anti-nuclear (fission as we use it today) is not per se anti-science. If you do some research on how humanity has dealt with nuclear waste in the past and how it is still dealing with it, you may come to a different conclusion.

Socialism has destroyed quite a bit of nature. (look at the Aral sea, for example). What exactly would you is it about capitalism that supposedly destroys the planet?

And how would you propose to remedy the problem?

I mean by starving a couple of million people, as it is wont to do, Socialism could help curb the consumption of resources. I give you that.

And again, lols for the downvotes. You are ridiculous.


Would you please read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when posting here? They ask you not to use this site for ideological battle, nor to post in the flamewar style. Downvotes of such comments are correct on HN.

Yes, someone else started it, but users here are asked to follow the guidelines whether someone else is or not.


Sorry I don't understand your criticism. Is it not allowed to discuss capitalism or socialism, it is automatically an "ideological battle"? That doesn't make sense imo.

It's not allowed to foment generic ideological arguments with indignant rhetoric. "Socialism starved a couple million people" is a classic example. All that has been repeated countless times. It is predictable, therefore it does not gratify curiosity, therefore it's not what HN is for, and that means it's off topic.

If you have something genuinely new to say, that might be ok—but then an internet forum is not a good medium for that; you should write a book or a scholarly essay instead, and maybe link to it here.


It seems to be news for the person blaming capitalism for the woes of the world, though. So discussion is not welcome? Why can't people just ignore threads they are not interested in?

Afaik a lot of stories repeat on HN, so the "newsworthiness" criterion seems a bit arbitrary. Also, shouldn't it make a difference if it is a top level thread? I wouldn't submit a story about "socialism starving millions of people".

I know, your "new" policies have been in place for a while, but I think you really kind of destroyed Hacker News. I don't understand why you worry about curbing discussions in deeply nested threads, as they would be easy to ignore by people who don't care. I don't think you worry about SEO or anything like that, so really, what is your incentive?

Also, there are lots of "boring" and repetitive threads on HN (like on global warming), I think you may actually single out "capitalism vs socialism" for ideological reasons. I don't believe you that nobody is curious about capitalism vs socialism anymore. On the contrary, the "battle" is more relevant than ever, with socialist having a real shot at the US elections. It is a question that affects most of us a lot more than most topics would.


That's like saying a gardener shouldn't worry about weeds because those who don't like them needn't look at them. The trouble is that if one allows such discussion, it spreads and takes over. It doesn't just stay static. Worse, it has feedback effects. For example it drives away users who find such rhetoric boring and lame, and attracts users who enjoy heated repetition. We want the first group here more than the second, because the first makes HN more interesting (higher signal) while the second makes it less interesting (higher noise).

We can't be passive about such effects. They can quickly develop into a vicious circle that destroys the site. HN will only survive as an interesting place for thoughtful people if it avoids that, so this is an existential issue and why I (we) moderate that way. I'm sad you think I've destroyed Hacker News, but would submit that if moderation doesn't evolve as a community grows, one ends up with the default dynamic of internet forums: decay followed by heat death. HN was actually started as an experiment in avoiding that dynamic [1], so in my view we're aligned with its original spirit when we do this. "Our hypothesis is that by making a conscious effort to resist decline, we can keep it from happening." [2]

You're right that the threads about global warming are almost as repetitive. The same logic applies to those.

Really though, if you want to make a case about the quality of the site, you shouldn't be posting things like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20419652.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/hackernews.html

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html


I still don't quite see the issue you have with my comment. I personally find it a good argument against Socialism, or at least a good reminder that Socialism is not an automatic solution to the world's problems. And is it really common knowledge how the Russians destroyed the Aral sea? I know it wasn't always known to me, and I haven't read about it that often. If it is common knowledge, why do people propose Socialism as a solution to environmental problems?

What would be a good comment on Socialism, in your opinion?

I know you have a policy against politics, or used to have it. It doesn't seem to be strictly enforced, though (see global warming, feminism and so on).

I know why you have your policies, but I am not convinced that they are optimal. Have you ever even tested them against alternatives?

I've been on HN since it was called Startup News. I actually almost hate it now, because of some of the policies. Sure, maybe you don't want people like me on the site. Your call. I know several oldtimers feel the same, though.

You have actually found some ways to make users hate you, which is an achievement in itself. For starters, how about a warning that you are beyond your posting limit BEFORE people spend time and effort to write comments?

And it feels very one sided now, so not as interesting as it used to be (is it really the quality of my comment, or just criticism of Socialism that is the issue?). Still, I keep coming back, admittedly. But grudgingly so.

Edit: looking through the policies again, I still don't see how my comment is supposed to break the rules: "Essentially there are two rules here: don't post or upvote crap links, and don't be rude or dumb in comment threads.". It's not a crap link, and it is not rude or dumb. Imo, of course. That the same argument has been made before can hardly be a deciding factor, because then you'd have to shut down the site right now.


~20 million people die every year, because it is not profitable to feed them, and give them clean water and medicine.

So please think about that number. Deaths solely due to a lack of profitability.


Can you give a citation? Where does this happen? Is it really just capitalist unwillingness to deliver food, or are these people in the hands of dictators, and it is capitalist unwillingness to sacrifice soldiers to topple them? And do capitalists start wars, or governments?

It's people and exponential growth. Doesn't matter what -ism you put on the end of your shovels.

That’s quite the Malthusian viewpoint. Alternatively: “Malthus theory, which holds that since the world’s resources are more or less fixed, population growth must be restricted or all of us will descend into bottomless misery. Malthusianism is scientifically bankrupt — all predictions made upon it have been wrong, because human beings are not mere consumers of resources. Rather, we create resources by the development of new technologies that find use for them. The more people, the faster the rate of innovation. This is why (contrary to Malthus) as the world’s population has increased, the standard of living has increased, and at an accelerating rate.“

https://space.nss.org/the-significance-of-the-martian-fronti...


I'll take your Malthus and raise you a Bartlett. https://bollocks2012.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/the-greatest-s...

Also, from your linked article from random space cadets: "Unless people can see broad vistas of unused resources in front of them, the belief in limited resources tends to follow as a matter of course."

Sorry, but O(2^n) is going to grow faster than O(n^3), which is the fundamental limitation of the speed of light for a space-faring civilization expanding in a shell from its origin.

Exponential growth just does not scale.


*At the cost of catastrophic ecological destruction.

This specific strawman comes up so often that it ought to have its own name. Just because one guy underestimated the carrying capacity of the Earth a long time ago, and failed to predict farming practices that would eventually wreak havoc on the environment, doesn't make the population variable off-limits for discussion. Is it any more realistic to expect billions of people to voluntarily revert to an ascetic lifestyle?


Really the two are in feedback loops that may correlate and require certain strategization and working smarter instead of harder. Improved agricultural yields produce surplus food per person which allows a shift to industrialization which enables more secondary tertiary areas of specialization which can boost yields and give other benefits.

This dates back to the bronze age even and technically stone age in mesoamerican and neighboring southern native american cultures.


Sure - so the problem with capitalism is that it allows populations to grow too much? Or in what sense is capitalism to blame?

Capitalism is the best solution to manage our greed without killing ourselves while preserving our freedom.

I don't like it either, but I never trust anyone who says he had no self-interest.

And the current growth fetish isn't innate to capitalism.


I am asking for it, I know it.

Capitalism saved the planet if not the people on it and has will continue to improve the lives of everyone it touches?

why, because it an economic system based on private ownership over means of production and profit. by that reasoning it implies your right to your own person is guaranteed.

how is that important, well the easiest way to understand it is that anywhere in the world where private and personal property rights are not respected by the government the people are put at risk. go look where the greatest tragedies of our current world are and you will see that.

can capitalism lead to some bad outcomes, yes, but overall it is the basis for many forms of governments with good outcomes. it has reduced death by starvation and disease simply by the abundances created.

when you respect the rights of your people it is far easier to respect the rights of the Earth you live on.


> "It's heavy to see how your home just gets destroyed," says Omo. "The treehouse that you built and where you lived and where you spent so much time. And then you see hundreds and hundreds of cops running through your home. It's a heavy thing to see."

I'm astonished by this hypocrisy. Not only have they squatted on someone else's property, they did it not just to live in a forest, they did it as activists: with the exact purpose of creating the image of police brutality to create public backlash and affect the parties involved.

Even if their cause was completely just and good (which is a different conversation that I'm not prepared to have), they're getting at it by manipulating the media and purposefully creating the coverage they planned. This exact destruction was the main purpose of them building these houses, in this spot, to begin with.


Actually squatting is legal within its limit. One might also bring the counterargument that RWE legally squatted other people's properties and evicted them - while creating immense cost for the tax payers. [1] Not everybody was so comfortable with moving away.

'The old Immerath is ... demolished for the Garzweiler II opencast mine. Since 2006, the former residents have been partially relocated to the newly formed village. ... "When I was at the construction site, everything was in ruins. That was a shock. A man from outside approached me and said why we gave up the village without a fight. We resisted for years. People should not think wrong. "' [2]

[1] https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u...

[2] https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u...


Just curious, what would be your preferred method to attract media attention or fight climate crisis in general?

I think the main purpose of building those houses was making it impossible to fell the trees around them.



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