In The Netherlands, The Hague to be precise, on the 28th of September 2022, a group gathered in front of the Ministry of Economics and Climate. Speeches were given and songs were sung. The group consisted of scientists, activists from Ocean Rebellion, people from the ‘Waddenzeevereniging’ and the sea shanty ‘Utrecht aan Zeemanskoor’. Why? It was another attempt to convince the politicians inside the building that they should not drill for gas in the precious Waddenzee-area of The Netherlands.
Gas prices went up as we all know, and everyone, politicians inlcuded, started to panic. They took an old plan from the shelf to bring it to life again. Drilling in the Waddenzee for gas. The government is about to give out a license for it. The Waddenzee is a precious sea-area in the north of The Netherlands. It is UNESCO world heritage. Drilling there is a disastrous idea. And is it necessary? In one of the speeches, it was pointed out that already many experts on the Waddenzee-area in very different fields of expertise have been warning the government: ‘Don’t do it!’
Some reasons not to do it include: if you start drilling for gas now, the process of pumping it up takes years, so you will only be able to use much later. Secondly, a precious ecosystem will be severly damaged. Thirdly, the United Nations and the International Energy Agency called out not to set up new infrastructures for fossil fuels.
Several convincing speeches were given. One of them was given by Dr Paul Behrens, Associate Professor of Environmental Change at Leiden University. He had an interesting reason not to drill The Waddenzee to add. He pointed out, that a rapid energy transition is simply CHEAPER than sticking to the old-fashioned ways of energy! That must sound like music to the ears of politicians. And it creates massive economic, environmental, and social opportunities. And of course Paul’s mindblowing claim was based on scientific research. He recently wrote a book about it, see below.
So let us look a bit closer at what he was saying.
1. Not drilling is simply cheaper!
By transitioning fast to new energies, we can decarbonize at least 70% -80% of the energy system. And we do have affordable technology for this. Wind turbines and solar power for example are great tools for this transition. Also, doing it faster reduces costs. A recent Oxford University study shows the same.
2. National energy supply will be secured by a rapid energy transisiton
We will not be dependent on petrostates if we build up our own, national low-carbon energy system. We will be able to generate our own energy locally and across the integrated EU transmission system.
3. National economic security will also be secured!
Energy prices are crazy in Europe nowadays and are the largest driver in inflation across Europe at the moment. With a swift energy transition and also insulation of houses we will keep matters in our own hands. Wind, solar panels, and updating buildings to the new standards will work.
And why should we leave the Waddenzee alone? Paul calculated, the gas, gained from the Waddenzee won’t be that much. It would be a drip in a bucket…We would barely gain any money from this amount! The cost would be massive. We must resist and protest against short-sighted flash-in-the-pan ideas like new gas exploration that will doom our future to a hothouse planet.
It’s better to invest not in gas exploration, but use the money instead for home improvements, heatpumps and offshore wind. Those are investments in a liveable future.
Paul’s bottom line: investments in gas is money down the drain…. Worse, money to accelerate catastrophe.
After the speeches, activists from Ocean Rebellion embodied a dramatic waterlike movement. The Sea Shanty sang some spicy songs, ending with: ‘Time for a blockade’. Let’s hope the politicians listen to science, and choose the cheapest option… which is not to drill the Waddenzee, but invest in a rapid energy transition! So we won’t need the blockade after all.
Note: Paul Behrens recently wrote a book about his research: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: Futures from the Frontiers of Climate Science). Check it out if you will, we are not paid to mention his book;)
Pictures: Stefanie Wels, picture scientists: Nicole Bale
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