GERMAN GRIP: From military power to economic power, permanence of German imperialism

Contributed by Samuel Furfari and Ernest Mund. Originally published in French in Atlantico.

Through its control of the decision-making apparatus in EU energy policy, Germany locks in optimal solutions, even down to the energy transmission of maritime propulsion.

Samuel Furfari and Ernest Mund

From military power to economic power, permanence of German imperialism
with Samuel Furfari and Ernest Mund

Germany has had and has special interests

From the reign of Frederick II to the Third Reich, few European nations have not been confronted with Germanic imperialism. Certainly, the latter was not the only one, Louis XIV and Napoleon also having left very bad memories on many battlefields. But, the permanence of a desire for hegemony is to be put on the German side and, to a lesser extent, on its close Austrian relative.

Can we still speak of German imperialism today? Certainly not, if it is a question of a military form, the underlying element no longer being the desire to extend borders or the imposition of race as was the case in the past. But other areas do exist where the Germans are doing everything to impose their views on European partners who do not share them and do not wish to do so. This applies in particular to the way of tackling vital energy problems for the population.

Its anti-nuclear hegemony

Germany and Austria are fiercely opposed to the use of nuclear energy, despite it being one of the most environmentally and socially safe energy sources. Led by Germany, the European Commission’s proposal for a European green taxonomy in 2021 — giving a green label to certain technologies — opposed nuclear energy. It took the determination of 11 Member States for the Commission to stop obeying Germany. After a close vote in the European Parliament, this procedure was finally adopted, but Austria did not admit defeat and filed an appeal with the European Court of Justice.

Despite claims to the contrary, nuclear energy is one of the safest technologies invented by man and it contributes very little to the carbon footprint of emissions linked to the production of electricity (20 g CO₂/kWh) . The Germans, fierce defenders of the environment, should logically adopt this almost zero-carbon technology to ensure massive electricity production in the years to come, given the increased role that will be attributed to it, particularly for mobility issues. . They abandoned it for ideological reasons and are obviously not ready to recognize a mistake in this matter.

Despite unambiguous declarations in favor of the environment, they do not hesitate to consume particularly polluting domestic coal. In terms of hypocrisy, it is difficult to do better, the motive jumping out immediately. A less obvious hypocrisy is that relating to natural gas, admittedly emitting less CO₂ (443 g CO₂/kWh) than coal (1058 g CO₂/kWh), but which nevertheless emits much more than nuclear energy.

The whole attitude of Germany seems to be dictated by the fact that, considering itself the leading industrial power on the continent, it refuses to engage in a sector which it would not dominate when solutions that are possibly less respectful of the environment could do business in sectors in which it excels, such as chemicals with the well-known giants BASF, Bayer and Merck. Here is an example that helps to understand the stakes of the policy conducted in Berlin.

Germany leads the decarbonisation of the maritime sector

Although the maritime sector accounts for only 3.2% of global CO₂ emissions, it is said that this sector must do its part in the fight against climate change. As with aviation, the maritime sector is governed by international organizations and not by the European Union. However, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a target of at least 70% decarbonization of CO₂ emissions and 50% decarbonization of all greenhouse gases from international shipping by 2050 compared to at 2008 levels. The IMO strategy calls for the effective adoption of low- and zero-carbon alternative fuels. These include the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which is mandatory for new ships.

The IMO recognizes that to achieve these goals, research and development will be essential, as they cannot be achieved with the use of fossil fuels alone. How to make zero-emission ships more attractive and direct investments towards innovative sustainable technologies and alternative fuels?

In the ongoing discussions on the Fit for 55 proposals at the European Council, Germany is leading the dance and succeeds in imposing, for the moment, the future use of only three solutions: hydrogen, ammonia and methanol , all three of which must be produced from renewable energies — that is to say, wind and photovoltaic solar energy, which in practice are the only ones tolerated.
Hydrogen would be produced by electrolysis of water from green electricity, a very costly solution from an energy point of view (breaking the water molecule requires 6.9 times more energy than breaking the methane per mole of hydrogen). Hydrogen presents enormous difficulties for its use in general, which excludes use at sea (see “The hydrogen Illusion” [1]). This is why we think we can produce ammonia from this hydrogen, the transport of this toxic molecule being done by the Haber-Bosch process, which is in the public domain, but was invented by the German giant of the BASF industrial chemistry. This green hydrogen can also be used to produce green methanol which is also a fuel.

When we know that after 49 years of unconditional financial and regulatory support, energy from wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels represents only 3% of primary energy demand, we are surprised to be able to consider greening everything on land and also on the seas. To think of producing ammonia or methanol to power ships is nothing but the cannibalization of the long-awaited green electricity on earth.

It should be remembered that Germany does not have a major oil group like the United States, Russia, China and its European partners (Shell, BP, ENI, TotalEnergies, Repsol, etc.). They lost everything in this area by paying war reparations at the end of the First World War. They hope that by relying on an economy based on renewable energies, they can dominate the world and destroy the competition of the big oil and gas groups.

The solutions that Germany refuses

However, there is an immediate and soon to be available solution, without having to resort to solutions that do not have a research base.

The first solution is the use of liquid natural gas (LNG). The 580 or so LNG carriers — a number that increases every week as demand for LNG is growing worldwide — that transport LNG across the oceans means that today as much gas is sold by ship as by pipeline. All of these ships are powered by engines that burn some of the gas they are carrying. They have been working this way for more than fifty years and there is therefore nothing more to demonstrate, even if the big engine manufacturers like Wärtsilä or Rolls-Royce continue to improve their efficiency. New cruise ships also run on LNG so as not to pollute the atmosphere with plumes of black smoke. This would not only reduce CO₂ emissions by around forty percent, but also eliminate sulfur pollution and fine particles due to heavy oil combustion in naval propulsion systems.

The other is the transposition of an experience even older than that of LNG. Nuclear propulsion has been widely demonstrated in military navigation, particularly in the United States and Russia (we have devoted an article to it in The European Physical Journal Plus [2] ) as well as, for the latter, in icebreakers. Today, projects are in preparation in these countries and also in the United Kingdom. Core Power, in conjunction with Bill Gates’ company TerraPower, is working to commercialize this technology. On February 9, 2023, a conference will be organized in Singapore to present this solution.

Why does Germany want to lead the whole of the EU into what seems to us to be a dead end? They prefer solutions that sound more like science fiction than concrete, quick fixes that could meet their quest to reduce global CO₂ emissions. Entangled in their ideology, they cannot accept a nuclear solution, and as for LNG, their historical error of having neglected this solution to ensure their security of energy supply, does not give them the time to consider it.

Is it a coincidence that one of the world leaders in electrolysers for producing hydrogen is the German company Thyssen and that BASF is a leader in the production of ammonia? The EU would be well advised to stop naively following Germany in decarbonisation. Not everything is green there. Former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston has said Britain has no eternal allies or perpetual enemies. He had said “Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and it is our duty to follow these interests”. Germany has learned its lesson and the decarbonization policy is its way to get there.

[1] Samuel Furfari, “The hydrogen utopia”, Amazon,
https://www.amazon.com/hydrogen-illusion-Samuel-Furfari/dp/B08KHGDZNS/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1637595927&refinements=p_27%3ASamuel+Furfari&s=books&sr=1-1

[2] Samuel Furfari and Ernest Mund, “Advanced nuclear power for clean maritime propulsion”, Eur. Phys. J. Plus (2022) 137 : 747, https://doi.org/10.1140/epjp/s13360-022-02980-5

1 Comment

  1. W H Marder-Madelung

    I do not share your views on how you see German politics in general (“permanence of German
    Imperialism”). Using such a “language polémique” may rather weaken your arguments in favour of not passing too speedily to so-called green energy.

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