Energy supply vs. Social stress - How long will the Rhenish area survive before it becomes a pit for Lignite?
On 18/04/2018 six interest groups had a heated discussion in the town hall of Holzweiler about the question of “Should the Rhenish Lignite mining area stick to the original size or be reduced in size?” The different parities all gave their point of view, ideas and proposals and formed allies to convince the others of their opinion. Boring you say? Not at all! Let me show you. Maybe you can even sympathize with the one or the other interest groups.
Right from the start the party of the environmentalists argues that especially the disruption of nature because of deforestation and the following mining is a major problem, because the soil needs time to regenerate which can surely take up to 10 years. “But we don’t just leave the things as they would be then”, RWE member Laura argues. The RWE asserts that they have experts like biologists, scientists and a lot of people working on recultivation afterwards. “Of course, that all takes some time, but we are not leaving things in total chaos, as you make it seem”.
Apparently, that’s not a thing the farmers are very happy to hear. 10 years would clearly be too much time and even though they may get a new field for compensation, as the government points out, it isn’t enough as farmer Merle emphasizes. The new field may be less valuable, less fertile, in short just not the same.
At that point the settlers join in supporting the ideas of the farmers. On top of all that whole villages with dozens of homes are simply taken away and the compensation methods don’t include the material value of the houses or the new ones may be even more expensive and because of that people are getting indebted. For all the involved parties really emotional thoughts. Leaving their home behind, knowing it will be destroyed completely soon. One of the strongest cons for the side of the villagers. “We don’t want a new house!”, Paul, one of the villagers makes clear. “We want to stay in our own homes!”
Remaining objective the government responds that if villagers feel treated unfairly they can always go to court, but of course they try to compensate and satisfy all the parties most appropriately. “What else do you want us to do?”, government member Clara interrogates.
The group of consumers on the other hand doesn’t see either any problem with renaturation and relocation rather focusing on the positive aspects of the actual lignite which would be mined. “Having an own, independent energy source is worth a lot. We still need the lignite to satisfy the huge demand of energy supply at the moment” consumer Max declares.
But do we really still need the lignite? Why not move to renewable energies? That was also one of the biggest issues of this discussion.
Immediate approval on the part of the environmentalists, farmers and settlers. It should be more invested into renewable energies. They would produce more jobs, protect the environment and the domestic nature by reducing greenhouse gases and the production of other gases bad for humans and plants and would ensure the reduction of lignite mining and therefore also the remaining of the village. “Why then should we continue to mine?”, Sophia from the environmentalists askes.
Doubts on the side of the government, the RWE and the consumers. Cutting the lignite supply drastically would cost more jobs than earn, the consumers’ persistently reply. Moreover, lignite is the cheapest and most precious energy source at the moment considering that renewable energy just isn’t developed enough yet and makes up only about 9.4% of the overall energy share. We simply can’t rely on them for now while lignite guarantees a solid energy income. “We have to think about what’s best for our economy at the moment” RWE predicates, more aggressively by now. “We can’t afford cutting lignite mining just now”.
In the end the parties again indicate their main claims on the topic. Yet there is no clear solution in sight. Maybe we’ll hear again about this topic soon – as the two board members Anila and Lisa pointed out. Who knows? Until then I would like to ask you:
What opinion are you of? Is lignite mining still contemporary or do we have to concentrate on something else? We would be happy to receive your letters with your point of view and maybe also solution proposals.
Press: Sonja Reinecke for Holzweiler Evening Standard
Photographer: Lisa Thomas