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.