Lützerath will remain. Even if the coal is eventually extracted, the name of the place will continue to be a powerful symbol of the courage and ingenuity of people who resist both a powerful corporation and the power of the state.
Lützerath is also a symbol of a policy that fails to recognise the signs of the times: the phasing-out of coal and the transition to a mode of production in which the good life for all, rather than the defence of powerful particular interests, is the central point of reference.
Responsible for the failed policy is the so-called “traffic light” coalition between the Social Democrats (SPD, red), the Liberals (FDP, yellow), and the Greens, which has been governing Germany since the end of 2021. Together with the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, formed by the Christian Democrats and the Greens, they made a deal with the German energy company RWE.
The latter would be allowed to destroy Lützerath, situated in the Rhenish brown coalfield, in order to extract the lignite stored underneath the village. In exchange, the company would abandon its plan to destroy five further villages in the region and commit to phasing out coal by 2030, i.e., eight years earlier than envisioned in the so-called “coal compromise” concluded between the German state, the federal states, and the energy companies in 2020.
Until the very last moment, a broad coalition of movements – ranging from Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, the Last Generation, and “Ende Gelände” to a local protest alliance, church groups, the Left party, and the Greens’ youth organisation – tried to prevent the destruction of Lützerath. Climate activists squatted in the houses left behind after the original owners were dispossessed and relocated. With enormous creative energy, they constructed a protest infrastructure and trained people in civil disobedience.
Given the climate emergency our planet earth is facing, with accelerating global heating and devastating biodiversity loss, any initiative by a government which proclaims its aim as “greening the economy” deserves critical examination for both its importance and limitations.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s announcement, on India’s 75th Independence Day, of the government’s plan to launch a National Hydrogen Mission is one such initiative by an emerging economic power in the global economy.
Its stated purpose was to make India a production and export hub for green hydrogen. This is also believed to be linked to India’s aim to reduce its reliance on oil from Russia and the Middle East which has come into the limelight during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
That hydrogen is a problematic green energy resource as an alternative to fossil fuels is not generally recognised. This obfuscation characterises Indian government’s “green” hydrogen mission too.
Different types of hydrogen
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but for commercial use on earth it is produced either (i) from fossil gas, usually by steam reformation, or (ii) by the electrolysis of water. Electrolysis technology splits the hydrogen from oxygen in water.
More than 98% of hydrogen used commercially is “grey” – produced from gas. Left-over carbon is joined with oxygen and released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Global hydrogen production’s carbon footprint is about four-fifths the size of the aviation sector’s.