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Green Energy: Exploitative Strategies for the Energy Transition

Energy is needed in all areas of life and the demand continues to rise. A large proportion of the supply is generated from fossil fuels, whose emissions are the main cause of the climate catastrophe. What alternatives we have to deal with the demand for energy is therefore a major issue. One solution that is often discussed is the use of hydrogen. But is this really the solution? Are there other alternatives?

Why Is There an Energy Crisis?


Why do we need so much energy?

► Energy is needed everywhere, for mobility and transport, for heating, for production and in many other areas. As long as society continues to produce and consume more and more, the demand for energy will continue to rise at the same rate

Where does the energy come from?

► People in the affected regions often suffer from health problems or lose their homes because they are displaced for the extraction of fossil fuels or for the production of supposedly green energy. Even  „green energy“ production is associated with greenhouse gas emissions and social problems, particularly affecting people with fewer rights and privileges. The energy produced is often utilised in the Global North. The social and ecological consequences remain primarily in the Global South, where in many cases not even the basic energy requirements are met. At the same time, the G20 countries, for example, account for 80 percent of global energy consumption.

What are possible alternatives to fossil fuels? What is currently being planned in terms of (supposedly) sustainable energy? And what impact does this actually have?

Hydrogen = A Climate Saviour?

Machine with Arrows: H2O to H2 and O2.
Hydrogen is not a source of energy, but must first be converted with the help of other energy sources. The production process requires a lot of water. For hydrogen to be climate-neutral in the end, the energy required must be generated completely emission-free; for example by solar panels or wind turbines. No energy production can be completely climate-neutral, as it always requires the appropriate infrastructure and technology, which in turn cannot be provided without releasing greenhouse gases. Hydrogen can therefore never be produced in a completely climate-neutral way.

The German Hydrogen Strategy

The energy demand in Germany is too great to be met entirely with hydrogen from renewable energies. This is why Germany, like many other countries in the Global North, is planning to import a large proportion of its hydrogen.

On the following map, you can get an impression of individual hydrogen projects and their impact in the respective exporting countries. You can also see alternatives to the energy shortage in the Global South.

Please note

The map deals with events in which violence is inflicted on BIPoC people. There are no pictures of violence, but violent events are depicted.



Hydrogen Strategy

There Is Another Way! Equal Energy for All

As the map shows, Germany and the Global North as a whole are trying to import large quantities of hydrogen in order to become less dependent on fossil fuels. However, the production of hydrogen often goes hand in hand with massive socio-ecological problems in the Global South. A further increase in demand for hydrogen would have devastating consequences in the exporting countries, especially for people affected by discrimination and poor people.

In order to really phase out fossil fuels in an ecologically sustainable and socially just way, we would need to reduce energy consumption, particularly in the countries of the Global North and above all in the richest 10 percent of the world's population.

The 2000-Watt Society as an Alternative

Person cooking and other electrical utilities.
One possible solution is the proposal of a 2000-watt society. The aim is to ensure that the global climate does not warm up more than 2°C. The basic idea behind the proposal is to achieve global equality where all people are entitled to the same amount of energy and the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Accordingly, each person should not be entitled to more than 2000 watts of continuous energy and should not emit more than one tonne of CO2 per year. This includes the energy required for the production, transport and disposal of products used.

Where Does the Idea of the 2000-Watt Society Come From?

Person on a factory line.
The concept of the 2000-watt society comes from Switzerland, where it has been anchored as a long-term goal in energy and climate policy since 2002. When the concept was created, 2000 watts was the average electricity consumption worldwide and it was established that the standard of living in Switzerland could be maintained with 2000 watts per person.

Furthermore, although the calculations refer to a global implementation of the concept, many countries in the Global South have a per capita consumption of way less than one tonne of CO2 emissions per year.

CO2 Emissions and Global Injustice

A globus with people and vehicles on top.
The fact that people have different needs and requirements that are linked to CO2 emissions (e.g. travelling by plane to visit family who live further away) is not taken into account here. The issue of unequal blame for the climate catastrophe from the Global North and South is also neglected here.

Class Struggle vs. Climate Struggle?

A burning globe with different people.
This shows that many climate policy approaches do not take sufficient consideration of the issues of global poverty, wealth and power, in fact they even use them to their advantage. It is primarily the state and companies in the global North that have the actual power to shape climate policy and they often focus purely on profit interests and the preservation of the place of business. The responsibility is consequently distributed to individuals - which means that the problem lies with the poor population in the global North, who cannot afford the "right consumption" (e.g. electric cars and LED lamps). Therefore, we need an approach that combines climate and class struggles internationally, radically questioning the capitalist property system and the growth imperative, which are responsible for the destruction of the climate in the first place.

To get a feel for how much energy 2000 watts actually is and how a 2000-watt society would change global energy consumption, you can take this quiz.  

(Kopie 6)

2000 Watts, Is That a Lot or Too Little?

Resistance in Rügen: What's Happening on the Island Right Now?

Hydrogen is currently being discussed in almost all areas as an alternative to fossil fuels - as a substitute for fuels in the automotive and aviation industries and as a substitute for oil for heating and for gas-fired power plants. The German government's plans to further expand the LNG infrastructure are particularly prominent at the moment. The plan is to transport imported, climate-damaging liquified gas to Germany. This is justified by the fact that the infrastructure could later also be used to transport hydrogen. A shift to hydrogen however, is often only possible after a very expensive conversion. It would in fact be cheaper to build a new hydrogen infrastructure directly. Ideally, if green energy would be produced locally and there would be a significant reduction in energy requirements, then there would not be a requirement to build any new infrastructure.

H2 Ready?

"LNG is fine because it's ready for hydrogen"? This argument makes no sense:

"the S4F [Scientists for Future] study clearly shows that there is no need for this argument in terms of energy or climate policy. It would be more important to drive forward the development of capacities for hydrogen production exclusively from renewable energies and thus also the expansion of renewable energies."

- Matteo Feind, Fridays for Future

Nevertheless, new LNG terminals are currently being built on the island of Rügen, Germany. They will be used to transport natural gas into the German gas grid. There have been protests against the expansion of natural gas infrastructure for years, including on the island of Rügen. Local residents and climate activists are joining forces here. One example is the "Rügen Against LNG" initiative.

Resistance against LNG exists globally. Here you can learn more about the resistance in Rügen as an example.

Rügen against LNG

Sources: Energy

Using and Sharing!

This article is part of the series Exiting the Crisis! - Understanding Crises and Paths to Global Justice, which was produced in cooperation with Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie (external link, opens in a new window). Online Editing by Alina Kopp. This article is published under the terms of the Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0 (external link, opens in a new window)! Share, use or adapt it for your educational work. Don't forget to republish it under the same conditions and mention L!NX and the authors.

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