Phase-out of German lignite use demanded

NGO calls for nuclear talks to include general debate on energy environmental impacts

German environmentalists today called for an end to the use of lignite, or brown coal, which currently generates a quarter of German electricity. Bund (Friends of the Earth Germany) called for lignite's continued use to be included in discussions due next year on phasing out the use of nuclear power, citing its "disastrous effects" on the environment.

The German government's intention to end the use of nuclear power is already focusing political attention on the environmental impacts of other energy sources. Bund is calling for a national strategy to avoid carbon dioxide emissions rising as a result of the phase-out. It is particularly opposed to lignite use, since its incineration produces 30% more carbon dioxide for each unit of electricity produced than hard coal, and nearly double the amount produced by natural gas.

Uwe Leprich of the group told ENDS Daily that "energy consensus" talks due next year between the government and the nuclear industry were an opportunity to give "new impetus" to discussions on the environmental effects of different energy sources. The statement echoes similar claims made by national environment minister Jürgen Trittin at international climate change talks in Argentina earlier this year.

Germany is one of the world's largest lignite producers, extracting 177m tonnes in 1997 virtually all of which was used in electricity generation. Three new lignite mines are due to be opened soon in Germany, the largest of which is expected to yield a total of 1bn tonnes starting in 2006.

A leading lignite producer described Bund's demand for a lignite phase-out as "wishful thinking". A spokesperson for Rheinbraun, which is developing a new lignite mine in North Rhine Westphalia said that any suggestion to phase out both lignite and nuclear power - which together generate 55% of German electricity - "could not be taken seriously".

Follow Up:
Bund, tel: +49 228 400 97; Rheinbraun, tel: +49 221 480.

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