Germany turns to the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel

Rob Schmitz/NPR
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Power Plant Manager Bernard Vendt stands on a platform jutting out from a smokestack, 20 stories above his company’s chemical park. Past the park’s menagerie of twisting pipes, scaffolding and chimneys below him is a waterway that connects these factories to their energy source.

“Over there, that’s our harbor,” Vendt says, pointing with one hand while the other keeps his hard hat steady in the gusting wind. “You see the yellow crane moving there? That’s where the coal has landed by ship.”

The coal’s destination lies underneath Vendt in a massive furnace whose heat will spin turbines and generate enough energy to keep this chemical park running through the winter, maintaining more than 10,000 jobs.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This coal-fired power plant is one of several nationwide that were scheduled to be shut down by the end of the year, to maintain Germany’s commitment to phasing out coal by the end of this decade. But with Russia cutting natural gas deliveries to Europe, and with no quick options to replace that energy, Germany is warily turning to its most reliable — and environmentally polluting — fossil fuel. At least 20 coal-fired power plants nationwide are being resurrected or extended past their closing dates to ensure Germany has enough energy to get through the winter.


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Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!