Author: L. Michael Buchsbaum


L. Michael Buchsbaum

L. Michael Buchsbaum is an energy and mining journalist and industrial photographer based in Germany. Since the mid-1990s, he has covered the social, environmental, economic and political impacts of the transition from fossil fuels towards renewables for dozens of industry magazines, journals, institutions and corporate clients. Born in the U.S., he emigrated to Germany and Europe to better document the Energiewende.

Coal collapse in Western Europe: Nations accelerate closure plans

We are all looking for some good news. Here’s some: coal is tanking globally, nowhere faster than in the EU including the UK. With over 8.3GW of generation capacity coming offline during the first half of the year, coal-fired energy has fallen by almost a third across Europe. Even better: at least another 6 GW of capacity is scheduled to shutter during the second half of 2020 as Spain and Portugal join Sweden and Austria in ending their coal ages. As part of a series on the global decline of coal in 2020, L. Michael Buchsbaum takes a look at Europe, where coal is increasingly unwelcome.

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Free falling: Coal crashes throughout Trump’s America in 2020

Though Trump promised to save America’s coal industry, the latter appears to be in worse shape than ever. Over a dozen coal companies have filed for bankruptcy over the past two years and as investors pour resources into green energy instead, the U.S. Energy Information Agency now projects that renewables will overtake coal this year for the first time. However, cheap fracked gas is flooding the coal space. During the presidential campaign America’s gas burn has soared. In the second piece of an on-going series, our lead blogger, L. Michael Buchsbaum, looks at coal’s collapse in the United States.

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Playing Out: Covid-19 helps stop coal’s endless global expansion

 New data reveals that for the first time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the world’s fleet of coal-fired power stations has grown smaller. With economies in Covid-19’s grip, more coal capacity was retired during the first half of 2020 than the amount that came online. Though terrible for the climate, make no mistake, King Coal’s reign isn’t ending just for environmental reasons. Coal has become bad for business and banks are starting to freeze investments. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes a deeper look in the first of his Playing Out of Coal series.

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Not presidential: Down-ballot victories propel clean energy advances

In the 2020 American elections, neither the Democrats nor the climate achieved the clear victory for which many of us wished. But across party lines, voters are demanding action to address the nation’s rapidly changing climate. In several cities and states, particularly out west—voters demanded energy progress. Given how divided Washington remains, these subnational decisions may enable regional carbon neutrality to progress faster while providing actionable models for the entire nation to follow. L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the election results.

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Narrow victory: A divided Congress may force Biden to temper climate ambitions

The initial sense of relief the world felt over Donald Trump’s defeat needs to become much more tempered—in particular through the lens of climate and energy ambitions. Given the near 50/50 split in the Senate, essentially mirroring a starkly polarized electorate, with each passing day that Trump and many of his loyal Republican allies refuses to concede, the chances of bold reforms happening within Biden’s term narrow further. Though more Americans voted for Biden than in any other election, the Democrats have essentially been defeated in both houses of Congress, in so far as they gained neither control of the powerful Senate nor managed to hold, let alone increase, their previous majority in the House of Representatives. Though there are many tools he can still use, by no means will Biden be able to freely wield his power, including whatever climate mandate we wish he had won. L. Michael Buchsbaum discusses what a weakened Biden can still accomplish.

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Fracked by his words: Biden walks a fine line on fossil gas

Climate change and the energy transition have become driving themes of the U.S. presidential race. Stable genius Trump still doubts the science. The POTUS proudly boasts that by unleashing fracking, he’s made America great again –turning it into the world’s largest oil and gas producer. His challenger, former vice president Joe Biden, has made the greening of America’s economy central to his Covid-19 economic recovery plan. Biden intends to lead an “energy revolution” aimed at achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035 while cutting U.S. emissions to net zero no later than 2050. Center to the fight is the future of fracking. Biden’s been forced to walk a tight rope between progressive Bernie Sanders supporters who want to ban it, powerful party insiders who still profit from it, and moderate swing voters economically dependent on it. As usual, Trump is exploiting these divisions as he desperately clings to power. Lead blogger L. Michael Buchsbaum takes us through.


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The Hydra has many heads: ExxonMobil perversely profits from climate change

Months after global prices collapsed, oil and gas behemoth Exxon Mobil is facing unprecedented losses. While publicly struggling to adjust to new realities, behind the scenes Exxon is coopting messaging around climate change to steer lucrative tax subsidies towards expanding dubious carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects that will only help them produce more oil and gas. Worse, as Covid-ravaged Americans cued their cars into miles long food lines, Trump ensured relief funds went not to them, but to Exxon instead. In the same way that Big Oil didn’t become ubiquitous gently, they will not go gently into their good nights either. L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews how one of the largest global carbon polluters is using Covid-19 and climate change to enrich itself.

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Dream derailed: Coal plant Datteln IV upturns Deutsche Bahn’s green ambitions

Germany’s state-owned railroad, Deutsche Bahn (DB), proudly boasts it’s the largest green electricity user in the nation. With uptake scheduled to grow to 80% by 2030, in tandem with the newly passed German coal-exit laws, DB aims to become 100% renewable by 2038. But by beginning the long-sought phase-out by simultaneously firing up of the new Uniper-owned Datteln IV coal plant, Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition government has thoroughly derailed the railroad’s green ambitions. In one of the worst missteps on Germany’s tortured road towards carbon neutrality, politics has turned Deutsche Bahn into the land’s largest publically-funded greenwasher. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes a look

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Green illusions: will the EU’s Clean Hydrogen plan worsen our climate crisis?  

To achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050, in early July the European Commission (EC) published their new Hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe. Though the promise of a future green hydrogen-based system is the main selling point, in reality the near-term hydrogen economy will be dependent on a nightmarish mix of fossil gas-derived “grey” hydrogen, later supplemented by “blue” hydrogen, itself dependent upon the proving out of non-functional carbon capture and sequestration technologies (CCS). Behind the scenes, the oil and gas industry and their allies are pushing for a “technology-neutral” hydrogen future, thus ensuring them a handsome stream of profits. Despite the green label, there is every reason to suspect that the coming hydrogen transition will be exponentially dirtier than expected. L. Michael Buchsbaum reminds us to be skeptical in Part II of a series on the promises and pitfalls of green hydrogen.

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Silver bullet or Trojan Horse: Clean Hydrogen poses as much promise as pitfall

Heralded as the missing puzzle piece within a fully decarbonized economy, the European Commission has determined clean hydrogen is the 21st Century solution to arresting climate change. Published in July, their new Hydrogen Strategy is also a jobs plan and pathway towards unifying the EU around a holistic energy and economic policy. But despite being framed as a green energy program, there’s a growing realization that the transition will be dirtier than expected. For the short term at least, the plan rests heavily on using fossil gas as “a bridge fuel” once again. L. Michael Buchsbaum reports in the first of a series on the evolving hydrogen revolution.

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