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Liquid gas plans: The ecologically questionable LNG offensive


The federal government is pushing ahead with investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure at a rapid pace. Criticism of the liquid gas terminals has recently been ironed out - the effects on the climate goals could be far-reaching.

Dear reader,

These days, a turning point is looming not only in the Bundeswehr, but also on the German coast.

For years, Germany relied on cheap Russian pipeline gas to power millions of homes, industry and, in the future, larger numbers of gas-fired power plants that should enable a faster phase-out of coal and the energy transition.

For a few weeks now, the government has been working on a hard course correction: instead of pipeline gas, liquefied natural gas should soon cover as much of the demand as possible, landed by ship from all over the world.

For this, it is said, Germany needs new terminals to be able to unload the freight.

They should now be built.

And fast.

The turning point is not the change of gas supplier, but the fact that the traffic light government, which came into office with extensive climate policy ambitions, is now suddenly investing in new, fossil-based infrastructure - and how it is going about it.

A terminal costs around 800 million euros.

The federal government is planning several, for which Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner quickly released three billion euros from the federal budget.

Climate Minister Robert Habeck, together with his cabinet and party colleague Steffi Lemke, have just formulated a draft for a so-called LNG Acceleration Act, which should make it possible to set up the terminals in an expedited process.

Two studies consider new terminals in Germany to be unnecessary

On the other hand, ecological reservations about the gas offensive are not well received by the Greens.

Referring to the possible endangerment of an underwater biotope, the association "Deutsche Umwelthilfe" had called for the construction of one of the planned plants in Wilhelmshaven to be halted.

A position for which a Green Minister should actually understand.

Instead, the politician promptly asked the organization to withdraw: If in doubt, a lawsuit could cause Germany to become more dependent on Russian energy imports again, according to Habeck: "You shouldn't do that at this point."

As understandable as the desire for a speedy turn away from Putin's gas supplies is, the Green Minister's demand that a nature conservation organization should ignore nature conservation concerns due to an idiosyncratic interpretation of national interests makes people sit up and take notice.

Especially since the organization relies on applicable law.

And not only about the ecological effects of the terminals, but also about the long-term effects on the climate and the sense of the whole project.

Because it's not as if there aren't any liquid gas terminals in the whole of Europe.

On the contrary: More than twenty of them are in operation in the EU, but recently they were not fully utilized.

There seems to be a shortage of the gas itself, but not of the corresponding systems.

So does Germany need the terminals at all?

A study commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, for example, recently answered no.

In order to become independent of Russian gas by 2025, there is no further need for additional LNG terminals in the EU apart from a single new plant in Finland.

The gas that previously came from Russia could instead be replaced with the existing infrastructure, the expansion of renewable energies and savings, according to the paper.

The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) also considers the construction of new terminals in Germany to be unnecessary "due to the long construction times and the sharp drop in demand for natural gas in the medium term".

Gas supply contracts of at least 20 years?

Added to this are the climate effects of the fuel.

Because the liquefied natural gas intended for export often comes from unconventional sources, where fracking is used to produce large amounts of energy and gas leaks, LNG "can be as harmful to the climate as coal," said climate researcher Niklas Höhne on ZDF.

In general, it can be said that liquefied gas tends to have a worse climate balance than pipeline gas, also due to the complex regasification process.

However, it is unclear whether the short-term bridging of Russian deliveries with LNG would really be that short-term.

A few weeks ago, Climate Minister Habeck traveled to Qatar to secure LNG capacities for Germany, which are then to be discharged at the new terminals now planned.

As the Reuters news agency reported, Qatar is demanding that Germany guarantee fixed purchase quantities for a period of "at least 20 years" so that a contract can be concluded.

That would mean that the Federal Republic would still have to buy correspondingly large quantities of liquefied natural gas in 2042, although the government wants to have achieved complete net climate neutrality for the entire country just three years later.

"The issue of contract lengths, which could potentially jeopardize Germany's decarbonization goals, is part of the ongoing talks," according to the report.

So, despite all the haste necessary, there is a strong case for examining the short- and long-term effects of the LNG offensive very carefully, rather than making hasty decisions.

It would be desirable if the responsible federal climate minister did not first have to be urged on by an environmental organization.

If you like, we will inform you once a week about the most important things about the climate crisis - stories, research results and the latest developments on the biggest issue of our time.

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Yours, Kurt Stukenberg

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-05-13

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