’cause more damage’

’cause more damage’

On Germany’s Rügen Peninsula, there is strong opposition to plans to build an undersea LNG pipeline. Residents fear environmental damage and tourists stay away. “The beach and the sea are part of our living room.”

Jay Hooks

White beach chairs line two long rows on the 60-kilometre of sandy Rügen Beach. In front of benches with striped umbrellas, dark blue sea waters gently sway up and down, awaiting the nearly one million tourists the Baltic Peninsula hopes to welcome this season.

But this apparent calm is deceptive: the atmosphere has been turbulent for months in a tourist hotspot in northeastern Germany. Residents and climate activists are turning against the peninsula’s accelerating expansion of LNG infrastructure. “New bike paths are twenty years away. LNG stations are only a few weeks away from being approved? Illegal,” says Mike Peltzer.

Peltzer, in his forties, was born and raised in Rügen, where he works as a physical therapist. He is one of the spokespeople for Zukunft Sellin, an action group that fights against nature disturbance across the peninsula. “In the Baltic Sea herring used to have a wonderful spawning area with seagrass beds. But the herring has almost completely disappeared due to the decay of the fields. Atlantic herring are coming back for it, but this is not a Baltic fish.”

The German emerges from the sweltering room of the Haus des Gastes in the neighboring village of Papi. Five police officers stand guard in front of the cultural center, while tensions rise inside when the top executives of the gas companies ReGas and Gascade speak. They talk about plans to import LNG to Germany, including from the United States, Norway and Qatar.

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An LNG tanker off the coast of Rügen.Beeld dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Boos out loud

“German companies like yours get natural gas from the US that’s broken up, made people sick and destroyed the environment,” says one of the islanders. Fracking (extraction of gas by hydraulic fracturing of strata, red.) is banned in Germany. You don’t even know how much you bought? Stefan Knape, chairman of the supervisory board at Deutsche ReGas, doesn’t seem to have the numbers ready. “Germany needs a lot of gas and that’s our revenue model,” says Knape. The boos come to him.

Together with gas importer Gascade, ReGas, as a pipeline builder, is one of the main executors of the federal government’s ambitious LNG plans in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Initially, Germany wanted to install a floating LNG terminal off the coast of Sellin, after Russian natural gas stopped flowing from the Nord Stream gas pipeline in neighboring Lubmen. After the protests, however, the government softened the plans on Rogen.

Protests were loudest in Binz, the peninsula’s chic seaside resort. If you stroll along the city’s beach promenade, you’ll understand why: it’s bustling with tourists, while high season hasn’t started yet.

Dutch tourists

“The beach and the sea are part of our living room, and they shouldn’t just be affected,” says Kai Gardeja, director of tourism for Binz, which also receives nearly 11,000 Dutch tourists each year. In town, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Economics Minister Robert Habeck have recently been welcomed with a concert. This protest had some effect. Because although the Rügen LNG terminal is closed, the 51-kilometer gas pipeline appears to be on its way. It is planned between the port of Mokran, on Rügen, and Lubmen, the port city where Nord Stream 1 came ashore.

Last week, German gas importer Gascade started work on the lower part of the pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Comparable to the League of Nature’s Moments, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) warns that the action will have a devastating impact on the marine climate. According to DUH, Gascade was running “too quickly.” Zukunft Sellin Peltzer is also important. “Because of Mokran’s industrialization, the vital environment of the Baltic Sea has already suffered a lot. A new pipeline is causing more damage.”

In the damp room at my door, Reinhard Liedtke, the mayor of Sellin, defends the German decision – despite energy transmission (Transition to Renewable Energy) – to focus on LNG. Do you remember the gas crisis: Russian natural gas used to be so comfortable, but then suddenly it fell off. We were shocked, the emergency generators could not be pulled, and the gas supply was barely full. The situation is not necessarily better this year.”

Excess capacity after 2026

Tourism Director Gardija laughs at the arguments and points to a recently leaked report from the German Ministry of Economy and Climate (where Habeck is in charge). This shows that the planned LNG terminals are not necessary. We’ve started a petition to get rid of the floating gas stations accelerator act. At least 80% of the residents of Rügen oppose this law.

Hannes Dam, Green Party spokesman in the state, agrees: “After 2026, LNG supply will far exceed demand. Excess capacity is unnecessary.” According to the politician, the people of Rügen and the greens of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have already won important victories. The protests reduced the number of LNG ships from four to two, the floating terminal was shut down and work on the gas pipeline was delayed for a month. “The closer we get to 2026, the less profitable the investment will be. Through training, we want to completely eliminate the LNG project.”

Activists protest against the construction of the LNG pipeline.  Image dpa/Image Alliance via Getty Images

Activists protest against the construction of the LNG pipeline.Beeld dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

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