To many activists, Lutzerath, an abandoned hamlet in Germany, encapsulates the nightmare of the global energy crisis. For months campaigners blocked the site’s demolition, after Robert Habeck, the country’s energy minister, allowed a utility firm to mine for lignite—the dirtiest form of coal—under its graffitied houses. As a giant excavator swallowed its way closer, hundreds of police, unfazed by the pyrotechnics propelled at them, dragged protesters from their stations. Now the village is empty; its last buildings gone.
In their panic to keep the lights on, policymakers across Europe and Asia are reopening coal mines, keeping polluting power plants alive and signing deals to import liquefied natural gas (lng). State-owned oil giants, such as the uae’s adnoc and Saudi Aramco, are setting aside hundreds of billions of dollars to boost output, even as private energy firms mint enormous profits. Many governments are encouraging consumption of these dirty fuels by subsidising energy use, to help citizens get through the winter.