By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
In a major victory for the environment, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the country will be completely rid of coal power by 2038.
Citizens are largely in support of this movement, not only fearing the increasingly evident impacts of climate change, but also showing intense desire to protect the historical Hambach Forest, which has been slowly decimated over decades to mine lignite, a high-polluting soft coal.
Despite overall support across the nation, concerns have also been raised. Germany currently relies on coal to fulfill nearly a third of its energy needs, and the switch to alternative energy will come at a great cost to Germans. A report by Bloomberg states that a minimum of 40 billion euros ($45.6 billion) will be needed to compensate companies that will be affected by the change, and Merkel states this money will come from taxpayers.
The alarm caused by these figures is understandable. However, what many fail to recognize is the dramatic economic benefit a transition to clean energy will have. While the cost “up front” may be great, the efficiency of alternative energy sources would save the German people money in the future. Furthermore, the labor necessary to install and maintain fixtures such as solar panels and wind turbines will create jobs.
That’s not only true for Germany, by the way, but also the U.S. The Union of Concerned Scientists projected that if the U.S. were to shift 25 percent of its power to renewable energy sources by 2025, such an industry would create three times as many jobs as producing the equivalent amount of energy from fossil fuels.
Even without considering the economic benefits of clean energy, one cannot reasonably argue that paying to ensure a safe, sustainable future for Germany is a poor investment. In Europe alone, coal and the mining process associated with it are responsible for 23,300 deaths annually and thousands more injuries, according to the same Bloomberg report.
In addition to the direct deaths caused by the processing of coal, fossil fuel emissions account for 65 percent of the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. By pledging to reduce fossil fuel emissions, Germany, in turn, is pledging to stop contributing to the degradation of our planet and ensuring a safe future for generations to come.
While financial concerns are valid, the positives of switching to alternative energy far outweigh the negatives, and Germany will only benefit from making such a change.