Germany’s Green Dreams Meet Harsh Reality

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Germany’s Green Dreams Meet Harsh Reality

For a country that prides itself on showing green leadership, and hosting the IPCC meeting, the reliance on coal illustrates the sheer difficulty of turning visions into reality.

Germany is in the bizarre position of being the world’s largest producer of solar power – and of lignite.

The dark cliffs of brown coal stretch for miles, exposed to the air for the first time since they formed from a swampy forest that lay along the shores of the North Sea 17 million years ago.

Ancient twists of branches, compacted and dusty, lie inside the coal, a reminder of a process that once sucked huge amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air, only for it now to be released back into the atmosphere.

The mine is one of several operated by the Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall and its managers are bullish about the prospects.

In addition to the lignite already earmarked for extraction, they say there are another 1.6 billion tonnes approved for future mining in this area alone and demand remains high.

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