In no other political project is the number of mistakes as great as in the case of the energy transition. A pioneer of the Greens is now speaking the truth: Those who rely entirely on wind and sun want the irreversible deindustrialization of the country.
What does Germany look like after the final energy transition? A paradise if you can believe the brochures of the Greens. The cows graze peacefully on lush meadows while the wind turbine gently turns on the horizon. The German family sits happily together at the dining table – black and white, old and young, grandma in the middle – and listens spellbound as Annalena Baerbock reports on the latest victories in feminist foreign policy in the “Tagesthemen”. The combination of modern and Biedermeier: Transformation can be so beautiful.
There is also another, less promotional view. She is represented by Ulrike Herrmann, business editor at the “taz” and thus the newspaper that feels committed to the eco-movement like no other in Germany. With a view to the energy transition, Herrmann speaks of green shrinkage. If you now think that this is surely another polemical dig at the Greens: far from it! Mrs. Herrmann means that in a positive way. When she talks about shrinking, she thinks it’s something worth striving for.
She wrote a whole book about it. It’s called “The End of Capitalism”. In it, she develops the utopia of an ecological planned economy in which a committee of climate wise men works to dismantle the system that has generated growth and prosperity for many years. Better prepare in advance that bananas from Costa Rica or grapes from the Cape are a thing of the past!
This is what the green future looks like: You only use regional and seasonal products because air traffic has largely stopped. The next holiday trip does not lead to Sardinia, but at best to Rügen. Of course you can still meet friends, but they all speak German again now. São Paulo, Bali or Mumbai are as far away as they were in Marco Polo’s time.
Energy has never been as expensive as it is now. But instead of panicking, you should calmly check potential savings at home. As our guide shows, there are many of them.
Necessary repairs? You have to do it yourself. A new jacket or dress? Only if you know how to use a sewing machine. Most everyday items are shared with the neighbors anyway: lawnmowers, drills, toys, books.
The good news is: washing machines, computers and the Internet should stay. “Nobody has to fear that we will end up back in the Stone Age and live in caves when capitalism ends,” reassures Ms. Herrmann to her readers. There’s just less of everything, or rather: If you’re lucky enough to own a computer, then it’s a device from the time when you still believed in growth.
Why the turn to less? Quite simply: no industrialized country can be kept going with sun and wind alone. There is an excess of energy, that’s not the reason. The sun sends 5000 times more energy to earth than the eight billion people would need, even if they all lived like Europeans. “However, solar panels and wind turbines only supply electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing,” writes Ms. Herrmann. “In order to provide for doldrums and darkness, energy must be stored – either in batteries or as green hydrogen. This intermediate step is so complex that green electricity will remain scarce and expensive.”
Ergo: if green energy is to be enough for everyone, the only option is green shrinkage. I rarely agree with people who work for the “taz”. But I think Ulrike Herrmann is right. Capitalist growth philosophy and the green revolution do not go together. I’m glad someone said it so clearly. Most people who are on the road for the Greens act as if everything can be reconciled: the Volvo in front of the door – and climate rescue on the go.
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I’m not sure everyone understands what it means to move away from fossil fuels as demanded by the climate movement. You can be happy with less. The happiest people are said to live in Bangladesh, according to an older happiness comparison study. Others see the Finns in the lead when it comes to well-being.
Be that as it may, things will change when the federal government’s coalition agreement is finally completed. Hard to imagine that we can, for example, maintain the medical standard to which we have become accustomed. A reassuring piece of information during the pandemic was that no country had as many intensive care beds per inhabitant as the Federal Republic. Does anyone seriously think it will stay like this once we get out of nuclear and coal?
Like I said, you can get by with less. Ulrike Herrmann recommends the 1970s as a reference decade. Even then, life wasn’t bad, she says: “It was the year when Argentina became soccer world champions and the first part of ‘Star Wars’ was in the cinemas.”
Agreed. Just don’t be unlucky enough to develop liver cancer or a degenerative muscle disease. There is a reason why life expectancy today is 81 years on average. On the other hand: 72 years is also a good age to retire. From the point of view of climate protection, every year of life is one too many anyway.
We are now hearing that we are in trouble because the energy transition has not been pushed forward decisively enough. But you can also see things the other way around. No other country in Europe has spent as much money on the expansion of renewable energies as Germany. Even before the attack on Ukraine, we had the highest electricity prices in the EU. According to green logic, we should be in a much better position today than our neighbors, but the opposite is the case.
The truth is: the backbone of the German energy transition has always been Russian gas and French nuclear power. Robert Habeck admitted it involuntarily when he was preparing his followers that the phase-out of nuclear energy would have to be postponed by a few months. Because we can no longer rely on Russia and France, nuclear power from Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg must now close the gap – at least until April.
According to the coalition agreement, the heat pump should adjust accordingly. 500,000 heat pumps are to be installed in German households every year. I’m curious how this will work. The road to the energy transition is paved with false assumptions. Do you remember Jürgen Trittin, the father of the can deposit, who promised the Germans that the energy transition would not cost them more than a scoop of ice cream? That turned out to be a very expensive scoop of ice cream.
The civil engineer Lamia Messari-Becker, long-time member of the Advisory Council on the Environment, evaluated the plans in an interview in “Spiegel”. Habeck should end this aberration, she said. Most houses in Germany are not suitable for the use of heat pumps. If you try anyway, you’ll end up with a horrendous electricity bill. There isn’t even enough equipment or craftsmen to install the pumps.
The responsible State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Patrick Graichen, was recently asked where the 60,000 fitters who would be needed to put the ambitious plans into practice should come from. Well, he said lightly, then a couple of tilers will have to lay fewer tiles. I’m afraid that Trittin’s ice ball bet against Robert Habeck’s heat pump plan was a highly serious matter.
Ulrike Herrmann’s book about the end of capitalism made it to number one on the bestseller list. The audience who can get something from the return to the seventies is bigger than I thought.
After all, the music was definitely better back then. I’m getting the old discs out now. If it’s a reversal of progress, then at least to the sound of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. As Janis Joplin sang: Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.
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The readers love him or hate him, Jan Fleischhauer is indifferent to the least. You only have to look at the comments on his columns to get an idea of how much people are moved by what he writes. He was at SPIEGEL for 30 years, and at the beginning of August 2019 he switched to FOCUS as a columnist.
Fleischhauer himself sees his task as giving voice to a world view that he believes is underrepresented in the German media. So when in doubt, against the herd instinct, commonplaces and thought templates. His texts are always amusing – perhaps it is this fact that provokes his opponents the most.
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