(Reuters) – The eastern German state of Brandenburg approved plans on Tuesday to allow utility Vattenfall to mine a further 200 million tonnes of brown coal from 2026, a move critics say will cause pollution and also force 800 people from their homes.

The decision by Brandenburg’s cabinet, made up of centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the more radical Left party, highlights the complexities of Germany‘s energy policy, which aims to promote renewable energy.

“We are committed to the expansion of renewable energy,” said Woidke. “However, brown coal is indispensable as a bridge into the era of renewable energy.”

“Furthermore” Woidke asserted, “Alcohol is indispensable as a bridge into the era of sobriety. Water is indispensable on the path to being dry, and punching yourself repeatedly in the face is a critical step towards the goal of not having a broken nose”.

Ok, I confess. I made that last paragraph up. The first bit, however, was reported by Reuters this morning. There’s just no way I could have made that bit up…

Next week I’m off to Perth for a keynote address the international uranium industry on the topic of air pollution, climate change and why these concerns should very much be their business. I look forward to sharing the materials and reporting back next week.

Until then, some more food for thought. This Tweet (which is very much a product of the research I have undertaken for the keynote next week) sparked a lot of discussion this week. While I did my best with 140 characters it remains open to much interpretation. Mike Shellenberger in particular aired his thought process in response, which I found very interesting. Love to hear your thoughts! Until next week.


  1. Brown coal demand is holding up pretty well in Oz as well
    The aim of increased SA-Vic transmission seems to be to increase brown coal power imports when RET mandated windpower isn’t enough for a surplus to sell interstate. Tas is thinking about a second underwater HVDC cable to sell wind and hydro on the NEM and import brown coal power at other times. Unlike the hapless people of Morwell residents of Adelaide and Hobart don’t get to see brown coal burning close up.

    German energy policy is like a roadblock in a theocratic country. Suppose you were driving a fusion powered car made from recycled materials then a sign said ‘only horses and buggies from now on’. Another sign says ‘watch out for tsunamis’. It’s decidedly weird when people can excuse increased emissions, chopping down pristine forests for ‘biomass’ and high power prices all in the name of phasing out nuclear, still ~15% of the German electricity mix I believe.

  2. I might add that in both SA and Germany brown coal could be the remedy to rising gas prices, emissions be damned. Germany may fear Russia turning of the tap a la Ukraine. SA fears having to compete with the Gladstone Qld LNG plant which starts next year. It would be a bit much to start a new SA coal field to replace the declining Leigh Ck so it’s probably easier in effect for windy SA to swap obligatory wind power for brown coal power in less windy but more coal rich Victoria.

    Given that 52% of SA’s electricity is gas generated according to the AEMO 2014 fuel report that almost certainly means an increase in emissions attributable to SA. First reason coal is more carbon intensive than gas; second reason coal plant is less flexible at load following. But at least it’s not nukular which is what Weatherill & co. fear more.

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