German coal protesters shut down lignite mine

germany coal protestA group of activists protesting the use of coal in Germany were teargassed over the weekend after breaking through police lines, RT reported on Sunday.

A police spokesman quoted by AP said officers used pepper spray, batons and tear gas against the demonstrators in an attempt to remove them from the lignite mine site, operated by German company RWE. Around 1,200 police were deployed to the protest, organized by the group Ende Gelande, which means “here and no further”.

The protesters achieved their goal of stopping the open-cast mine's 220-metre-long bucket-wheel excavators.

“These coalfields pose an existential threat to humanity, which is why our movements need to step in once again and shut them down,” according to writer and activist Naomi Klein, quoted in The Guardian.

Germany has faced a backlash over its increasing use of coal despite its "energiewende" plan to transition to renewables. Under the plan's so-called feed in tariff, utilities are required to buy electricity from green power producers at fixed prices, but utilities preferred cheaper coal plants when renewables failed to deliver. The increase in coal use was exacerbated by Chancellor Angela Merkel's accelerated phase-out of nuclear power. The upshot is that in Germany, coal now accounts for about 45 percent of power generation. In 2012 and 2013, despite energiewende, emissions actually rose.

To try and salvage its emissions target of a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2020, in December Germany proposed a levy on coal-powered generation, much to the chagrin of German coal producers.

RWE said the levy would force closure of two of its three lignite mines and 17 of 20 power stations. In response, the government decided to get the cuts from other sources, paying operators to retire smaller lignite operations, the Guardian reported.

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