Why does coal still get subsidies?

Oil and coal: subsidies without end

The Energy and Climate Weekly Show: From hurricanes on the assembly line, lazy industrial bosses, Germany's subsidy records and lurching oil companies

An unmistakable sign of climate change is that the records are piling up. The consumptive sea ice in the Arctic is well on the way to reaching at least the second largest minimum ever observed in September - with a good chance of even setting a new record.

Likewise, this year will possibly be the warmest, but with a high probability at least the second warmest in the history of temperature records, as the data from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA in New York show. The past 12 months were almost as record warm as an equally long period from September 2015 to August 2016, except that El Niño conditions prevailed in the Pacific at the time and El Niño years are regularly particularly warm. However, this intermittent weather phenomenon is currently not in sight.

And then there is another record of a special kind that is haunting the southern United States. On Wednesday (local time) Hurricane "Laura" will hit the US Gulf Coast, just 24 hours after tropical storm "Marco" hit the same region. Such a dramatically rapid succession of tropical cyclones has never been observed on the US coasts

"Marco" first approached the Mississippi estuary as a hurricane, but then lost some of its strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm. The winds were getting weaker, but he still had plenty of precipitation in his luggage.

Quite different storm "Laura", which intensified on Tuesday within a very short time, as the broadcaster CNN reports. At the beginning of the week it had already caused devastation and nine deaths in Santo Domingo and Cuba, on Wednesday, according to the predictions, it will continue to gain strength over the warm sea as it moves towards the border region between Louisiana and Texas.

Not interested in progress

Now even the mirror has understood. The Hamburger Wochenblatt, previously not known for socialist ideas or even a greater distance to the interests of German industry, castigated the head of the Federal Association of German Industry in a comment last week. In the Rheinische Post, he said that climate protection was "becoming an ever greater challenge for domestic industry" because nothing was happening in other countries.

That is of course absurd, as the Spiegel author points out. Rather, it would look as if German industry wanted to avoid everything from running too far ahead on the path that the whole world must follow anyway. So much for the pioneering spirit of the self-absorbed German economy.

Strictly speaking, the text is not an editorial contribution, but a guest commentary by Christian Stöcker. He is a cognitive psychologist and teaches at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. The Hamburg magazine has meanwhile begun to deal more seriously with the topic of the climate crisis, after which it used over and over again excessive alarmism for more than 30 years, only to later accuse scientists and climate protectors of hysteria. For some time now, scientists have been letting various scientists have their say in their own contributions.

Fossil Subsidies

Meanwhile, one cannot say that parliament and government are dealing with the unfolding climate crisis more far-sightedly than the leaders of German industry, who are primarily looking to profit. In Germany, for example, fossil fuels are still subsidized on a massive scale. Germany is even the front runner in the EU in this respect, reports the research network Investigate Europe.

With at least 37 billion euros annually, the consumption of climate-damaging fuels is favored. That would be more than 400 euros per inhabitant. There are tax breaks of 12.5 billion euros for aviation fuel, while the diesel privilege means that the tax authorities can escape 11.5 billion euros. The energy-intensive industry also receives 5.4 billion euros per year from other electricity consumers. The legislature requires them to pay higher network charges and more surcharges for renewable energy sources. In addition, there is the free allocation of emission rights to cement manufacturers and steelworks, among others.

It doesn't look much better in the other EU member states. With more than 137 billion euros annually, according to Investigate Europe, the burning of coal, diesel, gasoline and kerosene and thus fueling the climate crisis is promoted. That fits neither with the rhetoric of most governments nor with the joint decisions - in 2013 the EU members agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

The one-eyed king

In this context, they had also committed to deliver so-called National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). The plans should be presented by the end of 2019 at the latest and explain, among other things, how the individual countries intend to abolish their fossil fuel subsidies.

However, as always with regard to climate protection, when it comes to subsidies, "hurry up with a while" is the popular maxim for action. Various governments exceeded the deadline by several months, the federal government even needed until mid-June, as Investigate Europe reports. But even until then, Berlin had not been able to present a plan for withdrawing from the subsidies. More time is needed for a scientific evaluation. It's really a completely new topic that you haven't had time to deal with before.

The plans have now been examined by the Commission, which reports on them to the EU Parliament. Only three countries had actually done their homework and provided a reasonably reasonable overview of their subsidies: Estonia, Ireland and Italy, the latter being the only one to receive praise from the Commission for providing a detailed analysis. But even Rome does not name an exit date - the one-eyed man is still king among the blind - and Estonia frankly declares that it is not thinking of ending the subsidies.

Profits collapsed

You can only be lucky that sometimes the market works for the right side. In view of the fact that the oil price has been bobbing for months under 50 US dollars per barrel (159 liters), the profits of the large oil companies are collapsing.

BP reports a loss of $ 6.7 billion for the second quarter and has to write off another $ 9.2 billion, while Royal Dutch Shell posted a meager profit of $ 638 million (a decrease of 82 percent year-on-year), but had to write off $ 16.8 billion, and Exxon Mobil even reports its second consecutive quarterly loss. In the second quarter, the minus was 1.08 billion US dollars. The subsidy was seven percent lower than in the same period of the previous year.

The answer came straight away. Compared to September 2019, the Exxon share has now lost a good 40 percent of its value and is now even out of the Dow Jones Index at the end of the month, in which it has been listed since 1928 - at the time as Standard Oil of New Jersey.

As a result, the economic weight of the US energy sector continues to decrease. Corporations like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook or Amazon now each have a larger market capitalization than all oil companies put together. This begs the question of how long they can keep US politics in their grip.

In the short term, everything seems to be the same. The Democratic Party Conference recently has clandestinely removed the rejection of fossil fuel subsidies from the election platform, as reported by the British Guardian and others. After vigorous criticism from the climate protection camp, however, presidential candidate Joe Biden hurried to row back. Subsidies are to be abolished in the first year of his presidency.

Demands on the EU

We had the meeting of four young climate protectors (Greta Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer, Anuna De Wever van der Heyden and Adélaïde Charliér) with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday https://www.heise.de/tp/news/Was-heisst -here-system-change-4875969.html. The meeting also served to hand over an appeal signed by around 125,000 people, wrote Greta Thunberg in advance.

Merkel is the addressee because Germany will hold the EU Council Presidency in this half-year. The four young women are the authors of the appeal, which calls for an immediate stop to all investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and all fossil subsidies. The EU states would also have to list the emissions from shipping and air traffic in their statistics and draw up a budget for the emissions that are still permitted for each year. Democracy must be protected and the climate emergency treated as such.

Overexploitation of nature and people

Elsewhere too, the disputes about the old, fossil fuel economy and the climate protection that it stands in the way continue. For example in Australia, where the Indian company Adani wants to expand the Carmichael coal mines. In this country, the Fridays for Future project was announced because Siemens will supply the signaling technology.

The open pit is on the land of the Wangan and Janllingou, two indigenous groups who do not want to come to terms with their expropriation. The Guardian newspaper reported that the Queensland provincial government only deleted its title last year.

On Monday, writes the paper, members of the Wangan and Janllingou started blocking access to the open-cast mine. They wanted to fight for their sovereignty and territorial integrity. The conflict over coal is apparently mixed up with memories of the unpunished colonial crimes. From the 18th century onwards, European conquerors hunted down the inhabitants of Australia, murdering them many times and driving them from their lands.

The forms and intensity of violence have changed, but the bottom line is still today that major economic interests take precedence. If a corporation wants to get the natural resources under your house, it may be expropriated.

This is also provided for in German mining law, which dates back to the imperial era, and people in the lignite regions still experience it first-hand today. On Sunday there will be demonstrations for the preservation of the last threatened villages in the Rhineland, in Keyenberg at the Garzweiler II opencast mine.

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