Germany has long been a bugbear of ours at The Pipeline, because it has spent more than a decade pursuing the most utopian approach to the environment in the developed world. Dubbed die Energiewende (meaning "the energy transition/turning point"), this series of policies and regulations has been ordered toward getting that nation of 83 million people off of all traditional energy sources (oil, natural gas, even nuclear), and completely replacing them with so-called "renewables," and in a much shorter time span than any other similarly disposed country.
That being the case, you will imagine our surprise at seeing reports of the surprisingly hard line that Germany's ruling coalition government — which includes that nation's Green Party — has begun taking against environmentalist protestors. The center of this crackdown has been the tiny, uninhabited hamlet of Lützerath in western Germany, whose handful of structures had been scheduled to be demolished as a nearby coal mine expanded into the area. Unfortunately for all involved, before this plan could be executed Lützerath became a cause célèbre for environmental activists from Deutschland and beyond. A few thousand of them (though the exact numbers are disputed) occupied the area, refusing to leave for well over a year. According to a particularly melodramatic report in the New York Times,
The activists... prepared themselves to defend the half dozen houses and farmyards with their bodies. They barricaded themselves in a complex of barns and other structures. They erected and occupied tall watchtowers. They carved out a tunnel network. They nested in the branches of 100-year-old trees.
As you can imagine, the increasing media attention eventually attracted everyone's favorite environmentalist publicity hound:
Climate strike week 230. We are currently in Lützerath, a German village threatened to be demolished for an expansion of a coal mine. People have been resisting for years. Join us here at 12 or a local protest tomorrow to demand that #LützerathBleibt !#ClimateStrike pic.twitter.com/hGrCK6ZQew
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) January 13, 2023
(Thunberg was eventually arrested, though the arrest appears to have been staged for propaganda purposes.)
Eventually the authorities had enough and decided to move in. Here is more from the NY Times:
The fight for Lützerath was long, but the end, when it finally came, was quick. In a matter of days this past week, more than 1,000 police officers cleared out the hundreds of climate activists who had sworn to protect the small village, once home to 90 people but no church, which was scheduled to be razed as part of a sprawling open-pit coal mine in western Germany.... For years, environmental activists had hoped to forestall the fate of Lützerath — possibly the last of hundreds of villages in Germany to fall to open-pit mining since World War II. For a while, it seemed that the activists would succeed.
That report's lyrical tone, which makes it sound like they're describing the Fall of Berlin, is ridiculous, although typical of the Times' overwrought, dishonest ideological bent. But the above also serves to downplay the clashes between activists and the police, which became intense at times, judging by footage on the ground:
On Jan 11, German police clashed with climate protesters over control of the village of Luetzerath. It's slated to be torn down to accommodate the expansion of a nearby coal mine. Germany's schizophrenic energy strategy remains dysfunctional. Take a look:pic.twitter.com/mpuhIG2d96
— Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) January 11, 2023
When police moved in earlier this week to remove violent illegal occupiers at the #Luetzerath autonomous zone in western Germany, they were attacked with firebombs & arson attacks. #Antifa are among the rioters & have been assaulting press as well. pic.twitter.com/QodMS58zKp
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) January 15, 2023
— Fairness im Rheinischen Braunkohlerevier (@FairnessB) January 15, 2023
(The headline above reads: "Attack on the police. The so-called 'friendly' protest in Lützerath.")
These are shocking images, especially since just a short time ago the combatants in this conflict were natural allies. For years now the German government has been working on behalf of these activists to create artificial energy scarcity, with the expectation that wind and solar would step in and fill the void. That had the unintended (though foreseeable) consequence of increasing the country's addiction to Russian natural gas. When the war in Ukraine (and the still-unexplained sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines) forced them to go another direction, they had no choice but to lean on domestically produced (and carbon intensive) coal. Even the Green Party can see that they can't afford to give that up now.
Which is to say, they've been forced to accept the fact that they've painted themselves into a corner and now they're stuck. Perhaps this will teach them a lesson about the dangers of utopian thinking. But chances are, once the war ends and energy markets stabilize a bit they'll get right back to driving the country into the ground. And, as history shows, utopian thinking is what Germans do best, and most dangerously.