Germany, a year after the invasion: still wending the wrong Wende

Magical thinking hasn’t left Germany, even after her bad-actor energy pusher double-underlined the bold capital letters that Poles, Baltics, Georgians, and of course Ukrainians have been writing about him for years: that Germany’s energy pusher, Vladimir Putin, is an aggressive warmonger and liar and that any promise he makes isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

During the years that Germany’s eastern neighbours were warning about him, Germany pretended that Putin wasn’t so bad. Nordstream 1 and 2 are evidence that German leaders’ desire to secure the energy to sustain German heavy industry and get German citizens through cold winters outweighed whatever misgivings they may have had about the string of war crimes, assassinations, invasions, annexations, and internal repressions that Russia has committed under Putin. The Nordstream 2 joint declaration was signed after Putin seized Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. As he pursued this aggression against a peaceful, sovereign neighbour, Putin looked his many foreign interlocutors in the face and denied he had the foggiest idea of who the Little Green Men were or whom they worked for. Many of those interlocutors included high German officials.

The Germans are not stupid. They knew exactly what kind of man they were dealing with. They knew, as everybody did, that Russia is a “gas station run by the mafia,” and that Putin is the godfather.

But the German leaders also knew they needed gas, and they knew, in spite of what they had proclaimed repeatedly to the world after they launched Energiewende, that hydrocarbons purchased from Putin—and not wind or solar or geothermal or any of the other allegedly environment-friendly types of energy they proclaimed they were transitioning to—would be their main energy provider. Next to procuring Russian hydrocarbons, whatever was happening in Ukraine was of secondary or tertiary concern.

Nonetheless, Germany’s chancellor, in early 2023, a week after releasing the Leopards, told the world that Germany will by 2030 have carpeted 2 percent of its land mass with wind turbines, one of Energiewende’s preferred “energy sources.”

If wind and solar were capable of anything like what their proponents claim, Germany would not have spent the entirety of the Putin era cutting decades-long deals for Russian blood-hydrocarbons.

Left unmentioned was that the Energiewende has been in existence for a quarter century, and has made giant strides toward that 2 percent—and that in spite of this multi-decade and half-trillion-Euro effort, the primary focus of Germany’s energy policy still remains procuring as much natural gas as possible.

This is because a goal of carpeting x percent of your sovereign land territory with wind turbines is actually achievable, whereas a goal of running your economy on wind power is not. Though many people believe the two things are the same, they are absolutely not the same. I believe Germany’s chancellor is fully aware that a wind-powered Germany will never happen, and that as long as wind is in Germany’s electrical system Germany will never stop needing hydrocarbon-powered electricity generation. In other words, the Energiewende was just a fable that German leaders told their federal coalition partners, their citizens, and the world.

This bizarre situation is a function of Germany’s national politics, and not an indication that anybody other than the Green Party actually believes the magical thinking that says wind and solar will play anything larger than a very minor role in powering Europe’s mightiest economy at any point in the future, let alone 2030. If wind and solar were capable of anything like what their proponents claim, Germany would not have spent the entirety of the Putin era cutting decades-long deals to purchase Russian blood-hydrocarbons.

It is very interesting that the Greens, self-styled pacifists, have out-hawked the chancellor on Ukraine. Does that mean they are emotionally and intellectually capable of honestly revisiting their core organizing principle, anti-nukery, in light of the fact that the prime financial beneficiary of German antinukery was Putin, and that German money from gas sales is paying for Putin’s war in Ukraine? It’s not too late to drop magical thinking from the Energiewende. Germany is capable of decarbonizing its energy, more capable in fact than anybody. But that can only happen if it abandons antinukery. Nuclear is the only Wende that can take Germany to where it says it wants to go. Call it the Atomwende.

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