Who's Worse for the Environment: Merkel or Trump?

Who has a worse track record on the environment: President Trump or German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Let's investigate.

Trump Stance and Results

On September 19, amid chatter that Trump might reverse his climate stance, CNBC reported Trump is still pulling out of Paris Agreement.

One day ago the LA Times reported As Trump administration touts coal at U.N U.S. cities and states target climate change.

Politico commented just today on How the Bonn climate talks survived Trump.

It's Politico's subtitle that carries the bang: "The White House sparked a furor by pushing coal, but U.S. negotiators largely stayed the course from the 2015 Paris deal."

Thus, despite all the bluster, and no matter which side of the debate you are on, not much has changed in the US regarding the climate debate.

Merkel Stance and Results

Merkel preaches adherence to the Paris climate-change goals, but her policies do nothing to meet them according to a Eurointelligence report on November 16.

Jasper von Altenbockum points out the monumental hypocrisy of Angela Merkel's environmental policies - in the context of her speech at yesterday's climate summit in Bonn. Emmanuel Macron was able to commit France to exiting coal-powered energy in 2020. The reason he is in a position to do so is France's long-standing reliance on nuclear energy. Germany cannot do the same because Merkel herself insisted on the country's exit from nuclear power, as a result of which the country continues to rely on coal. So, Germany got it the wrong way around. This is why we are in the absurd situation where Merkel lambasts Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris accord, while she herself is not taking the necessary action to meet her pledges under the accord.

Altenbockum makes the point that Germany's energy policy is a total mess, with dozens of reforms all interacting with one another in mysterious ways. There is no way that Germany can meet the various threshold targets for 2030 and 2050. The reason, as a he points out, is that Germany's entire industrial structure - notably the car industry - is incompatible with the goals of the Paris climate accord. In other words, Germany has very similar problems with the Paris climate goals to the US', with the only difference that Germany pretends to adhere to them while the US does not.

Germany's Climate Change Hypocrisy

On the 17th, Eurointelligence offered this expanded edition, in relation to the collapsed coalition talks with between CDU/CSU, the Greens, and FDP (emphasis mine):

One of the things that became absolutely apparent during the German coalition talks is that the CDU, CSU and FDP are pursing a climate change policy very similar to that of Donald Trump.The only real difference with Trump is that the latter was more honest about it, by pulling out of the Paris Accord altogether.

Germany is currently on course of missing all its climate targets, both in the near term (for 2020) and in the longer term (for 2030). And Merkel suffered a huge diplomatic setback yesterday at the global climate summit in Bonn, where the German government was confronted by an initiative of 20 other countries including the UK, France, Italy, and Canada, to commit to an exit from coal-fuelled power stations. Canada gets most of its energy from wind power. The UK is committed to an exit by 2025, but coal currently only constitutes 15% of its total energy supply. The UK will expand its gas-power and nuclear sectors.

Germany's dilemma is, of course, the result of Merkel's decision to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 before phasing out coal, as well as the large share of the manufacturing industry in its total economic output. At the moment 40% of German energy supply is coal-based. The climate targets require either massive de-industrialisation, or a shift in attitudes towards nuclear energy.

Climate Change Fight

Also from today, Bloomberg reports Coal Back as Flashpoint in Climate-Change Fight after Germany and Poland come out in support of dirtiest fossil fuel.

Coal emerged as the surprise winner from two weeks of international climate talks in Germany, with leaders of the host country and neighboring Poland joining Donald Trump in support of the dirtiest fossil fuel.

While more than 20 nations, led by Britain and Canada, pledged to stop burning coal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her country’s use of the fuel and the need to preserve jobs in the industry. Meanwhile Poland’s continued and extensive use of coal raised concerns that the next meeting, to be held in the nation’s mining heartland of Katowice, could thwart progress.

Coal Energy Share

US vs EU

Those numbers are from 2015, taken from the October 2016 Energy Matters article Primary Energy in The European Union and USA Compared.

EU energy production from coal in 2015 was 20% vs 22% in the USA . Germany is at 40%, and rising.

Jobs from Coal

The US can create more jobs from coal without using any more coal.

How?

U.S. coal exports have jumped more than 60 percent this year due to soaring demand from Europe and Asia, according to a Reuters review of government data, allowing President Donald Trump’s administration to claim that efforts to revive the battered industry are working.

The increased shipments came as the European Union and other U.S. allies heaped criticism on the Trump administration for its rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, a deal agreed by nearly 200 countries to cut carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like coal.

Europe's Largest Coal-Fired Plant

Don't Blame Trump For This

"Polish coal trader Weglokoks is due to get its first ever shipment of US coal after Donald Trump has promised Poland’s pro-coal government US energy. The move comes as 19 nations signed a coal phase-out deal."

Nineteen UE nations signed an accord to phase out coal. Germany and Poland did not sign.

Germany is probably one of the safest places to use nuclear power unlike Japan's earthquake-prone region.

But Merkel bowed to pressure to phase out nuclear energy. That means German use of coal will be on the rise.

Can you blame Trump for being willing to ship US coal to Europe?

CO2 vs Other Pollutants

Concern over carbon dioxide (CO2) is more than overblown in my opinion. Other concerns are not.

Coal is the leading source of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a smelly, acid-rain producing pollutant. Coal also produces Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollutants, which can burn lung tissue and exacerbate asthma.

Coal also releases mercury and fly-ash particulate matter. Mercury causes brain damage (think of the Mad Hatter), and particulates obstruct visibility while contributing to chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death.

Even if one thinks global warming is a scam, there are numerous reasons to be concerned about coal.

Diesel vs Gasoline

The debate over diesel vs gasoline goes on and on. A couple of points are generally agreed on. The first is that diesel produces slightly less CO2. The second is that other contaminants in diesel are worse.

Here is an excerpt from a Conversation Fact Check: Fact Check: are diesel cars really more polluting than petrol cars?

The near EU-wide plan to encourage people to buy diesel vehicles in the past number of years is another example of the lack of connection between air pollution policy and climate change policy, and the difficulties of considering CO₂ emissions separately to the many other thousands of compounds that human activities emit. Replacing petrol cars with diesel ones does result in lower CO₂ emissions and climate impacts but it has clearly been worse for human health.

Alone on Diesel

There is only one country left promoting diesel: Germany.

Not only is Germany far behind on gasoline engines, it is far behind when it comes to electric engine capacity.

And recall where German electricity is from: coal.

Nonetheless, Merkel has the gall to criticize Trump over the environment while the EU imports US coal.

Peak Merkel

Peak Merkel has long ago come and gone. It happened with the refugee crisis.

She may not survive this mess. If the Greens and CSU fail to come to terms, new German elections may be in the works.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (12)
No. 1-12
Germ
Germ
Snow_Dog
Snow_Dog

It’s hard to replace coal with a snap of the fingers. It’s dense energy output scales up to the demands of modern living. Still, it’s messy and ultimately a hazard. Can’t Europe use more nat gas?

GardenMaven
GardenMaven

"Canada gets most of its energy from wind power."????? Where does that quote come from? Not true! The Eurointelligence report of November 16 doesn't know what it's talking about. In Ontario where I live 4% of our power is from wind energy, yet it costs us 20% of our electrical bill. Ontario pays 11-13.5 cents per kWh for wind power. The average price in the U.S. is 7 cents. The average price for Ontario nuclear, water and nat gas is 7 cents.

CautiousObserver
CautiousObserver

“Can’t Europe use more nat gas?”

It appears Europe can only consume more natural gas if they stay on Russia’s good side:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia_in_the_European_energy_sector

It is an open question how many years the United States can sustain huge amounts of natural gas production from fracking and whether or not the import of liquefied natural gas will be a viable option for Europe in the future.

YVR
YVR

Coal isn't the only fuel that produces NOx when it's burnt. All fuels produce to some extent NOx, but the amount produced can be reduced if the fuel is burnt at lower temperatures.

Stuki
Stuki

It not really correct to claim the Germany is far behind on neither gas engines nor electric ones. Heck, aside from perhaps aerospace, I doubt there is many fields Germany is far "behind" in.

More correctly, Germany does not have near the lead in gas and electric engines, and neither does anyone else, simply because both are much simpler to make of decent quality, than an “acceptable” passenger car diesel.

So, whereas with diesel, where performance/emissions/longevity benefits can at least theoretically offset the higher cost of German design and manufacture; when it comes to gas and electric engines, there is no such great difference. Hence cheaper sources are 99% as good as BMW or Honda or GM or Tesla, or whomever else is currently at the cutting edge of gasoline and electric engine development and manufacture. Which is not the kind of environment supportive of German manufacturing wages, nor their 12 weeks of paid vacation.

Grumblenose
Grumblenose

It is actually quite cheap to scrub more pollutants out of coal combustion fumes. But not CO2 (if you think CO2 is a pollutant) - no-one has yet found an economic way to do that. Personally I think the mass hysteria about the dangers of CO2 is absurd - it has never had much effect on the climate in the past (there are multiple lines of evidence supporting this) and it's unlikely to do so today.

johnfolger
johnfolger

did you know merkel was in a VW stunt ,,the most people in a vw,,1944 there were 2ssin the front and merkel an soros were in the back with 2 dufall bags with 6000000 insenerated people from europe.

wootendw
wootendw

Coal should be allowed to die a natural death without government help or hindrance.

ReadyKilowatt
ReadyKilowatt

(quote from the post)
"For at-risk nuclear plants they are the result of regulatory ratcheting, politically motivated overreactions and industry self-imposed reactions intended to ward off too many new regulations. Nuclear plants built in the 1970s and operated by a staff of 250 people now have payrolls in the range of 700-1000.

They are not producing any more power, but they produce an amazingly voluminous flow of documentation. They employ full time security forces that rival the size of the guard force present at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base when I served there in the 1980s."

Because nuclear power is so scary to irrational minds, we're going to be in a horrible spot in a decade. The idea that retro-tech of wind power is somehow better than advancing technology because it is politically preferable is abhorrent in my mind. And the complicated ways of bringing intermittent sources into the grid (because customers want the lights to come on and the coffee maker to work even though the wind isn't blowing) means the system is always just about to fall out.

I don't work in the electrical power industry, I'm just a fan boy.

KidHorn
KidHorn

There are many new nuclear technologies that are failsafe and don't produce nuclear waste. At least in theory. But, the typical human is a moron and their opinion is easily swayed, so we won't be able to use them any time soon. Unless you live in China. Most people think microwave ovens cook via radiation. The same kind used to operate nuclear power plants. Most people have absolutely no understanding of how CO2 warms the earth. Even many so called experts get it wrong. But most think they know how it works better than those who studied thermodynamics.

Stuki
Stuki

The idea of “failsafe,” risk free, self-sustained, controlled nuclear fission, in a practically limited space (make the reactor space large enough, and you can stick a supernova in there while keeping it “contained”); is way into crank territory. Up there with George Soros already having one of those things powering the supercomputer he uses to control people’s minds. Ditto fusion is even further out there. Soros being an alien sent to suck people’s brains out and burn them in his fusion reactor, perhaps….

Not that at least fission can’t be made fairly safe. Most nuke plants haven’t had accidents so far, and understanding and technology is advancing to where things need be even less risky today and in the future. But “need be” is not the same as will be. For all its warts, the second half of the 20th century did, in the West, correspond with an unusual and, as is now becoming clear, unsustainable (bought by debt, promises of “other people’s money” and blind faith in things are different this time) degree of social cohesion, commonality of purpose and interests, social order and “peace.” Which provided what is likely to prove a once in a millennium ideal climate for huge, centralized undertakings that require seriously long term horizons and large scale risk management.

As that reality continue to unravel, it becomes more and more important to rely less on megaprojects requiring Uranium-mine-to-technology-provider-to-end-user military safeguarding, as well as ROI measured in millions of stable, paying users over a hundred years; and instead focus on technologies that lets every man, or small, cohesive group, provide for his/its own sustenance. Which wind, solar, wave and, for that matter fossil, does to a much greater extent than anything even remotely realistic related to nuclear power. It’s not as if there aren’t enough renewable and/or fossil energy available for earthly undertakings (once/if we venture into space in a serious fashion, nuclear become more of a necessity.) Some of them may be costly compared to the current mainstream, but they will come down in price if necessary; and what passes for current mainstream, is so inefficient and wasteful that there are plenty of gains available from working on the problem from the opposite end as well.