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Dr. Marion McClary, Jr. is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and is the Co-Director of the School of Natural Sciences on the Metropolitan campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneack and Hackensack New Jersey. He received a B.S. in Marine Science from Richard Stockton State College and a Ph.D. in Zoology from Duke University.

Dr. McClary is a behavioral/physiological ecologist. He is interested in how behavior and physiology influence ecology and how the environment influences behavior, physiology and ecology. For his doctorate he studied how chemoreception mediates gregarious settlement of barnacles. His later work has focused on the distribution of barnacles in the Hackensack River of New Jersey, gastropod feeding on detritus of Spartina alterniflora and Phragmites australis from polluted and non-polluted areas, toxicity tests of Roundup on fiddler crabs and ribbed mussels, studies of Spartina alterniflora and Phragmites australis as habitat for ribbed mussels in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, and studies of benthic biodiversity prior to reverse osmosis in China. His current work focuses on benthic biodiversity in Kearny Marsh of New Jersey before and after capping of contaminated sediments, and benthic biodiversity in the Tenakill and Musquapsink Brook watersheds.

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The National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry (NCSSF) is a results oriented program that has a mandate to provide practical information and approaches that serve the needs of forest managers, practitioners and policymakers. The program’s mission is to improve the scientific basis for the development, implementation, and evaluation of sustainable forestry in the United States. NCSSF is currently focused on Criteria 1 of the Montreal Process: Conservation of biological diversity. The program emphasis is on developing the knowledge and tools most relevant to improving sustainable forestry practices on-the-ground over the next five years. The scope of our current mandate includes includes examining the needs for industrial and non-industrial managed forestlands in the continental United States.

The advancement of sustainable forestry and biodiversity conservation is currently limited by: a) crucial gaps in scientific understanding; b) insufficient transformation of research results into usable information; c) lack of tools to measure and evaluate progress; and, d) inadequate communication between researchers and practitioners. NCSSF addresses all these issues by using an interactive approach of conducting stakeholder dialogues as an integral part of planning, conducting and evaluating the NCSSF science program.

The blue ribbon commission overseeing the program is composed of both prominent scientists and diverse stakeholders in order to provide results that are highly credible as well as relevant to the needs of resource managers. To ensure research is transformed into measurable results on-the-ground, the program includes a set of knowledge syntheses and application assessments, laboratory and field research, tool development, and a sustained outreach and communication effort to help build consensus and involve the various communities of interest in the program.

NCSSF goes beyond being a traditional research program that simply produces and disseminates information. Communication and outreach are woven into the entire NCSSF program. The program plays a proactive role that engages the diverse communities of interest in an interactive learning dialogue to define what new knowledge is most relevant as well as how to produce and apply that knowledge successfully. The program includes a set of participatory processes not only for selecting and managing research but also for ensuring that the knowledge generated is developed in the context of the communities that use that information in their diverse missions. NCSSF’s approach of involving both the users and producers of knowledge in an ongoing dialogue enhances the relevancy and acceptance of the program’s results to diverse stakeholders.

The NCSSF science program uses competitively awarded grants to sponsor research by the best-qualified and most innovative researchers at institutions across the nation. The NCSSF program will make a lasting and tangible contribution to improving the health, maintaining the biodiversity and ensuring the sustainability of the nation’s threatened forests. The participatory approach being pioneered by NCSSF can serve as a model for future research efforts on other pressing societal issues.

NCSSF is conducted under the auspices of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), a non-advocacy, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the scientific basis for environmental decisionmaking.

Website: NCSSF homepage

Featured Environmental Classic

Title: Theory of the Earth
Author: James Hutton
Published in: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. I, Part II, pp.209-304, plates I and II.
Edition Used: Edinburgh: Printed for J. Dickson, Bookseller to the Royal Society. Sold in London by T. Cadell, in the Strand.
First published: 1788

  1. Prospect of the Subject to be treated of.
  2. An Investigation of the Natural Operations employed in consolidating the Strata of the Globe
  3. Investigation of the Natural Operations employed in the Production of Land above the Surface of the Sea
  4. System of Decay and Renovation observed in the Earth

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The flooded river basins of the Amazon make up this ecoregion. Avifauna diversity is extraoridinary with over six hundred and thirty species. Terrestrial mammal diversity is smaller because the habitat is often flooded; two narrow endemic primates inhabit this region, the white uakari monkeys (Cacajao calvus calvus) and blackish squirrel monkeys (Saimiri vanzolinii) . Also, the largest snake in the world, the great anaconda (Eunectes murinus), is found here. Much of the ecoregion is effected by human presence, because of the waterways used for transportation.

Location and General Description

This ecoregion in Brazil comprises portions of the low, seasonally inundated river basins of the central Amazon, including the Solimões River (name for the Amazon west of Manaus in Brazil), much of the Juruá, central Purus, and Japura/Caquetá Rivers, (Amazon), as well as the smaller tributaries to these. The eastern limit of this ecoregion lies at an extensive area of várzea at the confluence of the Japura and Solimões Rivers, 600 kilometers (km) west of Manaus. The urban centers of Tefé, Tabatinga, and Carauarí lie in or near the várzea in this ecoregion. These flooded forests are called várzea because they are seasonally inundated by overflow from whitewater rivers . Whitewater rivers are those which carry a great deal of suspended organic and inorganic sediment and have an ochre color. The elevation along this region ranges from 80 to 120 meters (m). With 2,500 millimeters (mm) of precipitation annually and 12 m fluctuation in river level, the Purus várzea is a complex and dynamic region. The temperature on average is 29° C and varies more over the course of a day than over the year.

The substrate of the várzea is composed of alluvial and fluvial recent Holocene sediments (less than 10,000 years old) loosed from the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains and carried in the powerful current of these mighty rivers. The rivers swell and overflow their banks each year from heavy seasonal rainfall in the catchments leaving the surrounding forest under 6 to 12 m of water for periods up to eight months each year. The nutrient rich sediments deposited on the landscape constantly renew the mineral richness of the várzea soils, rendering it much more fertile than the adjacent terra firme.

Both the geomorphology and biogeography in this region are influenced by very active fluvial dynamics. Over time (decades to centuries), the river course meanders across the floodplain making the várzea an ever-changing and heterogeneous landscape with a diversity of fluvial elements such as oxbow lakes, levees, meander swales, and point bars. The diversity of vegetation types found on the várzea reflects this landscape heterogeneity . Unlike the Upper Amazon Basin where the boundary between the várzea and terra firme is relatively indistinct, on the central Amazon floodplain the ecological difference between these forest types is more distinct. On the várzea, four vegetation types are defined and are delimited by the present and historical influence of the flood cycle. Three are on floodplain meanders, all resulting from the instability of the river courses: (1) sequences of successional vegetation, (2) forest mosaics, (3) and aquatic vegetation in poorly drained areas. The fourth type is permanent swamp vegetation in flooded river basins . The várzea forest performs critical ecological functions such as capturing and rapidly cycling nutrients, hosting a great diversity of freshwater fish and aquatic mammals, stabilizing the flooded soils and landscapes, and perhaps providing a source of new taxa that colonize the surrounding terra firme .

The várzea forest is continuous and has a rich understory with representatives from Zingiberaceae, Maranthaceae, and Heliconiaceae. These várzeas are richer in species than the várzea forests on the Lower Amazon. The floristic diversity of várzea forests tends to be lower than that of terra firme forests. There are many economically important tree species, such as the timber trees Carapa guianensis, Iryanthera surinamensis, Ceiba pentandra, and Calycophyllum spruceanum. Bactris tefensis is an endemic palm in this area. The most abundant trees on the levees are Ceiba pentandra, Hura crepitans, and Parinari excelsa, and on the low levee are Pterocarpus amazonicus, Eschweilera albiflora, Piranhea trifoliata, and Neoxythece elegans . Palms are relatively rare in these várzeas, as compared to upland forests, but include Astrocaryum jauari and A. murumuru, Bactris spp, and Mauritia flexuosa .

In the lowest areas, bamboo (Bambusa sp.) is abundant along with pioneer trees such as Cecropia spp., Pseudobombax munguba, numerous species of Ficus, and the palm Astrocaryum jauar. Virola surinamensis and Euterpe oleracea are restricted to flooded forests. Ceiba pentandra is the largest várzea tree and often has extensive buttress roots. Other trees characteristic of the várzea forest are Parkia inundabilis, Septotheca tessmannii, Coumarouna micrantha, Ceiba burchellii, Ochroma lagopus, and Manilkara inundata . The floodplain forests host a diversity of trees that produce fleshy fruit and are critical to the survival of fruit-eating fish that enter the forest understory during the flood. Some of these important trees include yellow mombim (Spondias mombim), jauari palm (Astrocaryum jauari), biribá (Rollinia deliciosa), tarumã (Vitex cymosa), and apui (Ficus spp.).

Biodiversity Features

In the region as a whole, 633 species of birds are reported. There are many aquatics, such as herons and egrets (Egretta and Ardea), ducks (Dendrocygna spp.), ibis (Cercibis spp., Theristicus spp.), and rosette spoonbills (Ajaia ajaia).

The mammal fauna of these flooded forests is relatively impoverished compared with adjacent upland habitat with 199 species reported for the region. There is a conspicuous absence of terrestrial mammals in isolated várzea forests where flooding precludes their existence year-round, and the river precludes migration. Where the várzea interdigitates with terra firme forest, terrestrial animals are more numerous as they are able to migrate seasonally. The Mamirauá Reserve is home to the two narrow endemics, white uakari monkeys (Cacajao calvus calvus) and blackish squirrel monkeys (Saimiri vanzolinii) . It also contains monk sakis (Pithecia albicans), endangered black-chinned emperor tamarins (Saguinus imperator), tamarins (Saguinus mystax), night monkeys (Aotus nancymaae), titi monkeys (Callicebus dubius), and bats (Scleronycteris ega) which have narrow distribution. Other mammals present include the peccaries (Tayassu spp.), agoutis (Dasyprocta spp.), pacas (Agouti paca), jaguars (Panthera onca), and the world’s largest rodents the capybaras (Hydrochoeris hydrochaeris). Various species of arboreal spiney rats (Echimys) are found in the floodplain forests in Upper Amazonia. The freshwater cetaceans, pink dolphins (Inia geoffrensis), grey dolphins (Sotalia fluviatilis), and manatees (Trichechus inunguis) are favorite aquatic mammals in these rivers.

Reptiles include the great anacondas (Eunectes murinus), black caimans (Melanosuchus niger) and spectacled caimans (Caiman crocodilus).

Very large fish live in these whitewater rivers and, during the flood season they roam through the flooded forest eating and dispersing fruits from the floodplain trees. These fish include the pacu (Metynnis and Mylossoma), tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum), pirarucu (Arapaima gigas), sardinha (Triportheus angulatus), and the smaller carnivorous characin, the pirana (Serrasalmus spp.). Many beautiful aquarium fish come from these rivers and blackwater tributaries and lakes in this region. They includes the discus fish (Symphsodon aequifasciata sp.), hundreds of cichlids such as in the genus Cichlasoma, assorted characins (family Anostomidae), tetras such as those in the genera Hemigrammus and Hyphessobrycon, and many catfish (families Aspredinidae, Corydoradinae, Doradidae, and Loricariidae).

Current Status

The várzea, because it lies along water "highways," is a region much affected by human activities, both historically and in the present. Today, the várzea is used for agriculture and forestry by smallholder farmers, and their systems tend to be biologically diverse agroecosystems. Hence, much of the forest is managed or unmanaged secondary forest. Small-scale ranching and extractive logging occur as well. Nevertheless, there is a certain amount of degraded deforested habitat. This region includes part of a large corridor of protected areas. They include the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve that lies entirely within the várzea, Amanã National Park which is half igapó forest (flooded by blackwater systems) and half adjacent terra firme, and Jaú National Park on terra firme and some igapó (not in this ecoregion), together covering 57,090 km2 and protecting one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems on Earth. These areas, particularly Mamirauá, have strong conservation programs.

Types and Severity of Threats

Large-scale fishing operations threaten fish populations. Over-collection of aquarium fish such as the discus (Symphysodon discus) also may threaten these populations. Gold mining occurring on the Purus and Japura Rivers results in mercury contamination of the water and its inhabitants. Large-scale cattle ranching and commercial logging threatens várzea forest in some areas.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation

These are perhaps the most extensive of the várzea ecoregions in the Americas. Delineations follow the ancient zones of uplift, and linework for eastern and western boundaries are derived from the locations of the Iquitos Arch and Purus Arch respectively. Linework for the extent of these seasonally flooded forests along the banks of the rivers was derived from IBGE in Brazil (following "fluvial influence, alluvial vegetation" classifications) and Navarro et al within Colombia (classified as "Forest with marked homogeneous tendencies of alluvial species. In the Amazon, a poorly developed tree canopy and abundant palms and herbs" are characteristic). Northern delineations are the Amazon Basin occurrences of this várzea habitat type, and does not extend into Orinoco Basin. Southern delineation is the middle Acre River.

Additional Information on this Ecoregion

Further Reading

  • Ayres, J. M. 1995. As Matas de Várzea do Mamirauá: Médio Rio Solimoes. CNPq, Brasília, DF.
  • Daly, D.C., and G.T. Prance. 1989. Brazilian Amazon. Pages 401-426 in D.G. Campbell, and H.D. Hammond, editors. Floristic inventory of tropical countries. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York, USA. ISBN: 0893273333
  • Daly, D. C., and J. D. Mitchell. 2000. Lowland vegetation of tropical South America. Pages 391-453 in D. L. Lentz, editor, Imperfect Balance: Landscape transformations in the Precolumbian Americas. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Ducke, A., and G. A. Black. 1953. Phytogeographical notes on the Brazilian Amazon. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 25: 1-46.
  • Fundação Instituto Brasilero de Geografia Estatástica-IBGE. 1993. Mapa de vegetação do Brasil. Map 1:5,000,000. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • Navarro, A.E.S., G.H. Peña, F.C. Lemus, J.R. Baquero, R.F. Soto. 1984. Bosques de Colombia. IGAC-INDERENA-CONIF, Bogota, Colombia.
  • Peres, C. A. 1999. The structure of nonvolant mammal communities in different Amazonian forest types. Pages 564-581 in J. F. Eisenberg and K. H. Redford (editors), Mammals of the Neotropics: the Central Neotropics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0226195422
  • Prance, G. T. 1979. Notes on the vegetation of Amazonia III. The terminology of Amazonian forest types subject to inundation. Brittonia 31: 26-38.
  • Puhakka, M., and R. Kalliola. 1993. La vegatación en areas de inundación en la selva baja de la Amazonia Peruana. Pages 111-138 in R. Kalliola, M. Puhakka, and W. Danjoy, editors, Amazonia Peruana: vegetación húmeda tropical en el llano subandino. Turku: PAUT and ONERN.
  • Silva, J.M. C. 1998. Um método para o estabelecimento de áreas prioritárias para a conservação na Amazônia Legal. Report prepared for WWF-Brazil. 17 pp.

Country Profile


Germany has one of the largest economies in the world, with a 2005 nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.8 trillion. In recent years, economic growth has resumed, after GDP contracted by 0.2 percent in 2003. However, high unemployment and sluggish domestic demand continue to dampen economic growth.

Owning to its large economy, Germany is one of the world’s largest energy consumers. In 2004, the country consumed 14.7 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of total energy, the fifth-largest amount in the world. Besides coal, Germany does not possess any sizable hydrocarbon reserves, so the country must rely upon imports to meet the majority of its energy needs. The lack of domestic hydrocarbon resources has led Germany to become a world leader in the development of renewable energy technologies, with the country becoming the world’s largest producer of biodiesel and generator of electricity from wind.


According to Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ), Germany had 367 million barrels of proven oil reserves in January 2006. Most of these reserves are located in northern and northeastern Germany. The country produced 170,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil in 2005, of which 67,000 bbl/d (39 percent) was crude oil. Over one-half of Germany’s crude oil production comes from a single field, Mittelplate, located in tidal flatlands in the North Sea. Mittelplate is a joint project of German oil and gas companies RWE and Wintershall AG.

Germany is the fifth-largest consumer of oil in the world, with consumption reaching 2.7 million bbl/d in 2004. Due to the size of the German economy and the lack of significant domestic oil production, Germany is also one of the world’s largest oil importers. The country relies upon imports for over 90 percent of its crude oil demand. According to Eurostat, Germany imported 2.1 million bbl/d of crude oil during the first seven months of 2006, slightly lower than the same period in 2005; most imports came from Russia (34 percent), followed by Norway (16 percent), the United Kingdom (12 percent), and Libya (12 percent). Germany also imports large amounts of refined petroleum products.


Domestic System

Germany has several large pipeline systems that deliver crude oil from import terminals along its northern coastline to inland refineries. The 440-mile Minveraloelverbungleitung (MVL) connects the cities of Rostock, Schwedt, and Spergau in eastern Germany. Majority-owned by France’s Total, MVL supplies oil refineries in Schwedt and Spergau with crude oil from an oil terminal at Rostock, with a capacity of 380,000 bbl/d. MVL also connects with the Druzhba crude oil pipeline (600,000 bbl/d) from Russia at the Poland-Germany border, near Schwedt.

The Norddeutsche Oelleitung (NDO) crude oil pipeline in northern Germany connects an oil terminal and refinery in Hamburg with an oil terminal in Wilhelmshaven. The 90-mile NDO has a capacity of 150,000 bbl/d. Another crude oil pipeline, the 240-mile, 300,000-bbl/d Nord-West Oelleitung (NWO), connects Wilhelmshaven with Wesseling, near Cologne, supplying oil refineries in the area.

International System

The Transalpine Oelleitung (TAL) connects oil refineries and storage facilities in southern Germany with Trieste, Italy. The system has two principle components: the 290-mile, 40-inch TAL-IG, which links Trieste with Ingolstadt, Bavaria; and the 140-mile, 26-inch TAL-OR, which links Ingolstadt to Karlsruhe, near the Germany-France border. The TAL system had an average throughput of 690,000 bbl/d in 2004. Another crude oil pipeline, the Central European Line (CEL), also used to connect Italy with Germany, and runs from Genoa to Ingolstadt. However, rising costs, environmental issues, and competition from the TAL forced the closure of the CEL in 1997. The line was subsequently converted to carry natural gas, and is now owned by E.ON-Ruhrgas and Bayerngas.

The Suedeuropauische Oelleitung (SPSE) connects the oil import terminals of Fos-su-Mer/Lavera, France to Karlsruhe, supplying several refineries in the area. A consortium of international oil companies owns the 480-mile, 670,000 bbl/d SPSE. Finally, Germany imports crude oil from the Netherlands via the Rotterdam-Rhein Pipeline (RRP), connecting Rotterdam with Wessling. The RRP is 200 miles long and has a capacity of 690,000 bbl/d.


According to OGJ, Germany had 2.4 million bbl/d of crude oil refining capacity in 2005, spread amongst fourteen facilities. The largest refinery is the 346,000-bbl/d Rheinland plant operated by Deutsche Shell, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. Other major facilities in the country include the 302,000 Karlsruhe refinery, 270,000-bbl/d Gelsenkirchen facililty (jointly owned by BP and Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA) and Total’s 225,000-bbl/d Spergau facility. About half of the refineries in Germany are joint ventures between several oil companies, while the others are wholly-owned by a single company.


Germany is the world’s largest producer of biodiesel. According to the European Biodiesel Board, Germany produced an estimated 33,000 bbl/d of biodiesel in 2005, or half of the total biodiesel production in the EU. Germany’s biodiesel industry association expects that production in the country will grown by 20-30 percent a year, backed by strong demand and new government requirements for blending biodiesel with conventional diesel fuel that will come into law in 2007. One of the principle drivers of biodiesel demand in Germany is the fact that it is exempt from excise taxes levied on conventional diesel sales; however, in 2006, the German government enacted a nine Eurocent per liter ($0.46 per gallon) tax on biodiesel fuels and planned to eventually increase the tax to the same level applied to conventional diesel by 2012.

Natural Gas

According to OGJ, Germany had 9.1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven natural gas reserves in January 2006, the third largest in the European Union (EU), after the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Almost all of Germany’s natural gas reserves and production occur in the northwestern state of Niedersachsen, between the Wesser and Elbe Rivers. Germany’s sector of the North Sea also contains sizable natural gas reserves, currently supporting the A6-B4 production project (see below). However, environmental regulations have curtailed the complete exploration and development of the area. Despite the lack of domestic production, Germany is the third-largest consumer of natural gas in the world, behind the United States and Russia, with 2004 consumption reaching 3.6 Tcf.

Sector Organization

Germany began to liberalize its natural gas sector in the late 1990s in order to comply with EU directives. Unlike other EU countries, though, Germany did not establish a national regulator for the liberalized natural gas sector. Rather, it relied upon negotiated access between suppliers, distributors, and transmission companies. Without transparent open access to the system, several large companies came to dominate the sector. In July 2005, Germany approved a new energy bill that vested regulatory oversight of the natural gas sector with the Bundesnetzagentur (BNA), an existing agency that also regulated the telecommunications and the postal system.

Private operators control Germany’s natural gas production. BEB, jointly owned by Royal Dutch Shell and Esso (a subsidiary of ExxonMobil), controls about half of domestic natural gas production. Other important players include Mobil Erdgas-Erdoel (also a subsidiary of ExxonMobil), RWE, and Wintershall. The largest wholesale distribution company in Germany is E.ON Ruhrgas, controlling about one-half of that market. Germany’s wholesale distributors also control most of the national natural gas transport network. Finally, there are thousands of small, independent companies active in the retail distribution sector, many wholly- or partly-owned by municipal governments.

Exploration and Production

In 2004, Germany produced 730 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas. The country is the third largest producer in the EU, behind the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Production has risen slightly since 1991, but the lack of new discoveries in the country could hinder future production growth. Over 90 percent of Germany’s natural gas production occurs in Niedersachsen. Germany also operates a single offshore natural gas field, A6-B4, located in the North Sea. Operated by Wintershall, A6-B4 came onstream in September 2000, and the project currently produces about 50 Bcf of natural gas per year.


According to Eurostat, Germany imported 3.0 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in 2004. The largest source of natural gas imports was Russia (46 percent), followed by Norway (33 percent) and the Netherlands (23 percent).


Domestic Pipelines - Existing

Germany’s domestic natural gas transmission network facilitates the movement of natural gas from import terminals to its interior consumption centers. Wingas operates the 440-mile Mitte-Deutschland-Anbindungs-Leitung (MIDAL) system, which runs the length of the entire country and connects the North Sea coast with Kahrlsruhe. With a capacity of 1.2 Bcf per day (Bcf/d), MIDAL allows Germany to import natural gas from Norway through receiving terminals in Emden and Dornum. Also linking the North Sea coast with the interior is the Norddeutsche Erdgas Transversale (NETRA), a 210-mile, 2.1 Bcf/d system operated by a consortium led by E.ON Ruhrgas. NETRA links the Emden and Dornum receiving terminals with eastern Germany.

There are two important spur lines off MIDAL. Wingas and E.ON jointly operate the 80-mile Rehden-Hamburg Gas pipeline (RHG), which connects Hamburg to the MIDAL system. Second, Wingas operates the 200-mile WEDAL system that links the MIDAL pipeline with the Belgian border near Aachen. Wingas plans to complete an expansion of the WEDAL system by the end of 2007 that should increase the capacity of the pipeline by 30 percent.

Wingas operates the Jamal-Gas-Anbindungs-Leitung (JAGAL) pipeline system, which brings Russian natural gas into eastern Germany via Poland. The 70-mile JAGAL I connects Mallnow, on the Polish border, to Baruth, south of Berlin. JAGAL II extends 140 miles from Baruth to Rueckersdorf, in the state of Thueringen. Overall system capacity of JAGAL is 2.3 Bcf/d.

Domestic Pipelines - Proposed

Wingas and E.ON-Ruhrgas have proposed the joint construction of a new pipeline in southern Germany. The Sueddeutsche Erdgasleitung (SEL) will consist of two parts, running from southwest Germany to the German-Austrian border. SEL-I will extend 160 miles from Lampertheim to Amerdingen, while SEL-II will extend 150 miles from Amerdingen to Burghausen. According to the two companies, they have completed a survey of the pipeline’s proposed route and are waiting on government approval before moving forward with the project.

International Pipelines - Existing

Due to its central location in Europe, Germany is an important transit center for natural gas imports from Russia and the North Sea. The 200-mile Sachsen-Thueringen-Erdgasleitung (STEGAL) extends from St. Katharinen, Czech Republic to Reckrod, where it connects to the MIDAL system. STEGAL allows Germany to import natural gas from Russia via the Czech and Slovak natural gas transmission systems. It is also possible for STEGAL to operate in reverse flow mode, facilitating the transmission of North Sea natural gas to the Czech Republic and Slovakia instead. In May 2006, Wingas completed an expansion of the STEGAL system that increased capacity to 0.5 Bcf/d.

E.ON Ruhrgas owns a majority stake in the 2.1-Bcf/d Mittel-Europaeische-Gasleitung (MEGAL) system, which has two parts. MEGAL-Nord is a 290-mile pipeline linking the Czech Republic and via Waidhaus, on the Czech-German border, and Medelsheim, on the French-German border. MEGAL-Sud extends 100 miles from Oberkappel, on the German-Austrian border, to Schwandorf, where it connects to MEGAL-Nord. Besides facilitating the transportation of natural gas from Russia to France, the MEGAL system also has several interconnections with Germany’s domestic gas transport network.

The Trans-European Natural Gas Pipeline (TENP), a joint venture of E.ON Ruhrgas and Italy’s Sname Rete, runs 600 miles from the German-Dutch border to Italy. This system also supports a reverse flow operation, so it would be possible to also use the TENP to transport Algerian or Libyan natural gas from Italy to Germany.

International Pipelines - Proposed

Russia has long sought an alternative export route to Western Europe for its natural gas. In September 2005, Germany and Russia signed an agreement to begin construction of the $5 billion Northern Europe Gas Pipeline (NEGP), a 750-mile system running beneath the Baltic Sea. The NEGP will have an initial capacity of 5.3 Bcf/d utilizing two, parallel pipelines. According to the plan, Russia’s Gazprom will take a majority stake in the project, with Germany’s Wintershall and E.ON each taking minority shares. The consortium officially began construction on the system in December 2005, with first flows through the system scheduled by 2010. Gazprom has also floated the idea of eventually extending the NEGP to the United Kingdom.

A consortium of natural gas companies, led by E.ON, has proposed the construction of the 130-mile Baltic Gas Interconnector (BGI). The BGI would extend from Rostock, Germany to a point in the Baltic Sea, where it would branch towards Copenhagen, Denmark and Trelleborg, Sweden. The project has won approval from Germany, Sweden, and the EU, but Denmark has yet to decide. Danish approval is crucial, because the planned route of the BGI passes through Danish territorial waters.

Poland has proposed the construction of additional pipeline connections with Germany that would facilitate imports of natural gas from the North Sea. E.ON Ruhrgas and Poland’s Bartimpex have proposed the construction of a pipeline from Bernau to Szczecin, Poland. Poland’s national oil and gas company, Polskie Gornictwo Naftower I Gazownictwo (PGNiG), announced in August 2005 that it also would like to build a new pipeline between the two countries to facilitate imports from Norway.


According to CEDIGAZ, Germany has an estimated 713 Bcf of working natural gas storage capacity, the largest amount in the EU and the fourth-largest in the world. The capacity is spread among 43 facilities. Wingas operates Western Europe’s largest underground natural gas storage site, the 150-Bcf Rehden facility in Niedersachsen.

Trading Hubs

In September 2002, BEB, E.ON, Wingas, and Norway’s Statoil established the North West European Hub Company (NWE-HubCo), an international natural gas trading hub located near the import terminal in Emden. In April 2004, NEW-HubCo merged with EuroHub, a competing trading hub in the Netherlands.


As of 2004, Germany had 7.4 billion short tons (Bst) of recoverable coal reserves, the largest in the EU. Over 97 percent of these coal reserves are lignite (brown coal), with the remainder composed of bituminous and anthracite (hard coal). Brown coal is Germany’s most important domestic energy source. According to Statistik der Kohlenwirtschaft, a German coal industry association, brown coal production represents over 40 percent of Germany’s total domestic energy production. Coal is an important part of Germany’s energy consumption mix, meeting 24 percent of Germany’s total energy needs in 2004.


Germany is the seventh largest coal producer in the world. In 2004, it produced 232.7 million short tons (Mmst), of which the large majority was lignite. The country operates ten mines, employing some 45,000 people. However, German coal production has declined rapidly since reunification in 1989-1990; in 1990, West and East Germany produced a combined 513.7 Mmst of coal. The closure of older, inefficient mines in the former East Germany has been the principle cause of this decline. Currently, over one-half of Germany’s lignite production occurs in the Rhineland region in the western part of the country.

Most of Germany’s hard coal deposits are deep below ground and difficult to access, making their extraction problematic and expensive. As a result, the government must provide large subsidies to the industry to maintain production. The German government plans to give the hard coal industry $3.6 billion in subsidies in 2005, down from $3.7 billion in 2004. According to an agreement reached with the coal industry in 1997, coal subsidies will fall to $2.3 billion by 2012. Brown coal production, on the other hand, is mostly feasible without subsidies.


Germany is the world’s fourth-largest coal consumer, at 279.9 Mmst in 2004. Germany’s coal consumption has declined from 407.9 Mmst in 1991, due to the closure of many coal-fired power plants in the former East Germany following reunification. Almost all of Germany’s brown coal consumption fires power plants, while the steel industry uses most of the hard coal.


With domestic coal production declining, Germany depends in part upon coal imports to meet domestic demand. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Germany imported an estimated 38.2 Mmst in 2005, of which 99 percent was hard coal. Poland was the single largest source of these imports, contributing 23 percent, followed by South Africa (22 percent) and Russia (20 percent).


In 2004, Germany had installed electricity generating capacity of 118.9 gigawatts. Also in 2004, Germany produced 566.9 billion kilowatt-hours (Bkwh) and consumed 524.6 Bwkh of electric power. The largest share of this production (61 percent) came from conventional thermal sources, followed by nuclear (28 percent), and other renewables (7 percent). Germany has an active electricity trade with neighboring countries, though it is usually a net exporter: during the first six months of 2006, Germany’s electricity grid industry association reported that the country exported 34.5 Bkwh of electric power while importing 22.4 Bkwh.

Sector Organization

Germany liberalized its electricity sector in 1998, per EU requirements, with the passage of the Energy Industry Act. Unlike other EU countries, Germany did not immediately establish a regulatory agency, rather relying on negotiated agreements between sector actors. There was general dissatisfaction with this arrangement, with the European Commission threatening to bring legal action against Germany. In response, Germany enacted a new energy law in July 2005 that vested regulatory oversight of the industry with the newly created Bundesnetzagentur (BNA), which also gained regulatory authority over the gas sector (see Natural Gas section for more information).

The new energy law also requires the creation of a set tariff schedule for network access, rather than the rates currently negotiated on a bilateral basis between suppliers and distributors. Germany’s competition office and BNA have stated that they will break existing, long-term contracts and enforce third-party access to the national grid. The government hopes that these new measures will reduce German electricity rates, which are some of the highest in the EU.

Four companies control the largest share of Germany’s electricity generation, the result of consolidation over the past several years: RWE/VEW; E.ON, Energie Baden-Wuerttemburg (EnBW), and Sweden-based Vattenfall. These four companies also operate Germany’s national transmission grid, as there is no unified operator for the entire country. Finally, there are numerous local distribution companies, many owned by state or municipal governments, which actually sell electricity to end users, though these companies often also own a small amount of generating capacity. Under the new German energy law, state governments, not BNA, have regulatory oversight of these smaller operators.

Conventional Thermal

Coal is the most important contributor to Germany’s conventional thermal electricity generation. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), generation capacity fired by brown coal represented 42 percent of Germany’s conventional thermal capacity in 2004, with hard coal contributing 37 percent. Despite the environmental concerns surrounding coal-fired generating capacity and Germany’s need to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, the abundance of domestic coal reserves should result in coal remaining as Germany’s most prominent electricity fuel source for the foreseeable future. However, natural gas generation has increased significantly in recent years. Since 1991, the share of conventional thermal electricity generation supplied by natural gas has increased from 7 percent to 16 percent, according to the IEA. The increase in natural gas has mostly come at the expense of oil-fired capacity.

Germany’s power market liberalization has begun to attract more foreign investors to the generation sector. Steag and Austria’s EVN plan to build the 700-megawatt (MW) Walsum 10 coal-fired power plant, with operations scheduled to begin in 2010. Norway’s Statkraft announced an agreement with Germany’s Mark-E to build a gas-fired power plant in Herdecke, with a capacity of 400 MW. Netherlands-based Essent has begun talks with German power companies about building a new gas-fired power plant in Germany.


In 2004, Germany was the fourth largest generator of nuclear power in the world, following the United States, France, and Japan. Germany currently has 17 operating nuclear power plants and two plants currently shut down (see below). All four of the major generating companies operate some nuclear capacity: E.ON holds stakes in twelve plants, while nuclear power represents about 20 percent of the generating capacity operated by RWE and 40 percent of the capacity operated by EnBW.

Nuclear power has long been controversial in Germany, with the Green Party calling for the closure of all plants in the country. With the Greens joining the governing coalition in 1998, the phasing-out of nuclear power in the country became possible. In June 2001, the German government passed legislation and signed agreements with the industry calling for the closing of all nuclear power stations in the country by 2022. Per the closure schedule, Germany shut down the Stade plant in November 2003 and the Obrighein plant in May 2005. In addition, it plans to close the Biblis and Neckerwestheim plants by 2009.

Other Renewables

According to Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act, the country aims to increase the share of electric power sourced from renewables to 12.5 percent by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. According to the IEA, Germany had 390 megawatts (MW) of installed solar photovoltaic capacity and 14,600 MW of installed wind capacity, or 43 and 40 percent, respectively, of the total capacity installed in the OECD.


Germany has a strong commitment to protecting its environment. It has actively promoted the use of renewable energy, both under the Kohl government with the Electricity Feed Law, and now under Schroeder's government with eco-taxes. However, Germany’s reliance on coal, particularly brown coal, for electricity generation and the heavy industrialization of the economy has lead to serious problems with air pollution, acid rain, and habitat degradation. These problems are particularly acute in the former East Germany.

Germany consumed 14.7 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of total energy in 2004, of which oil was 37 percent, coal was 24 percent, and natural gas was 24 percent. With an energy intensity of 7,174.8 Btu per dollar (2000, PPP) of Economy|economic output in 2004, Germany is below the average energy intensity for the 25 countries in the OECD.

Germany ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change on May 31, 2002. In 2004, the country emitted 862.2 million metric tons (Mmt) of carbon dioxide, making it the sixth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world and the third largest within the OECD. The EU has decided to meet its Kyoto obligations as a whole, rather than as individual signatories. Under the EU’s burden-sharing program, Germany must cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 21 percent relative to the 1990 baseline of 979.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during the 2008-2012 commitment period. The EU expected Germany to make such deep cuts because the country has already experienced a sharp decline in carbon dioxide emissions following reunification.

Further Reading