The global energy world reacts to crises – climate and environmental pollution knows no borders. When states rely on oil – in conversation with Thomas Wegener, on the social commitment of GrowExpress Ltd. in Ibadan, Nigeria, by Dr. Thomas Schulte, lawyer and specialist author from Berlin.
Oil, coal, gas – is the end of fossil fuels within reach due to worldwide crises? In 2005, fossil fuels covered 81 percent of the world’s energy needs. As of 2019, energy obtained from renewable energy sources accounted for 13.8 percent of global consumption. Currently, the supply of energy issue is under discussion due to the global crises. Although it was stated that the global community could consume less oil, less coal, and less gas, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the challenges are rather growing due to the developments of war and global pandemic, for example.
Oil – strategic raw material
The issue of fossil fuels affects every continent including Africa. The largest oil producer in Africa is Nigeria and holds 75 percent of the oil. Thomas Wegener has traveled professionally through numerous countries in Africa, which resulted in his commitment to GrowExpress Ltd. as a social agricultural project in Ibadan, Nigeria. Nigeria lives from oil like no other African country. „But unfortunately, from an ecological and economic point of view, Nigeria, as a petroleum country, is not without conflict, but in tense condition. Not only has the raw materials sector displaced agriculture, but the black gold is seen as both a curse and a blessing. Despite the abundance of raw materials, debt, corruption and a lack of legal security have worsened living conditions and encouraged rebels and unrest,“ explains Thomas Wegener.
GrowExpress: Helping people to help themselves with farming, sowing and harvesting
After the oil discoveries a few decades ago, Nigeria had neglected its own agriculture. Thomas Wegener, a native of Berlin, considers himself a citizen of the world. Professionally, he gathered a wealth of experience and a network for decades on the African continent. He is committed to sustainable perspectives beyond the professional with a model farm entrusted by the Nigerian seed to produce food. „The motivation lies in helping people to help themselves,“ says Thomas Wegner. Within this framework, the block farming concept, which combines economic efficiency with social responsibility, is pursued in an exemplary manner. Land that has been fallow for 70 to 100 years is returned to agricultural use through ecological tree field management. The involvement of local farmers, mostly retarded single women, who also benefit from these economic activities through education, respect as well as income, together bring forward the resurgence of agriculture in one of the most fertile parts of West Africa, in the state of Nigeria.
Impact of the crises on the energy transition
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest calculations in a World Energy Outlook explain that, for one, the pandemic as well as current crises are reshaping the energy world. The oil industry has faltered and renewables, such as wind and solar power, appear crisis-proof. Commenting on the study’s findings, IEA Director Dr. Faith Birol says „We see many signs today that the energy transition is gaining momentum“‚ stricter climate targets and more money for green alternatives are on the way. The recent conflict illustrates that dependencies in the energy sector are very problematic. But the current crises also show that the transformation of the energy industry must be considered for all eventualities, adds Thomas Wegener.
Companies and states react
The control of crises, such as the Corona pandemic, is closely linked to developments in the energy industry, because the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies counts as an impetus. Studies show that in the long run, crises like the Corona pandemic, conflicts, and wars play a major role in shaping the expansion for renewables. „The consensus is that the era of coal needs to be rethought; we thought the age of fossil energy had been sealed,“ Thomas Wegener contends. At seven percent, coal demand in 2020 was lower than it had been for more than a decade.
Experts assumed that demand would not recover, but the recent crisis in Europe could lead to a rethink. The strongest demand comes from China. Studies show that the once most powerful energy source in the world is in retreat. Although the current situation has changed, the energy turnaround is still necessary. Nigeria faces the challenge of countering the economic upheavals following the end of the oil age. GrowExpress relies on the farm project for this purpose.
Raw material land and cultivation
How does the GrowExpress „state farm“ work, we ask Thomas Wegener. „The involvement of local farmers, mostly single women, who also benefit from these economic activities through education, respect as well as income, together bring about the resurgence of agriculture in one of the most fertile parts of West Africa, in the state of Nigeria. GrowExpress is committed to cleaning up these large-scale landscapes again in a gentle way. The long-term goal is to train people to help and help themselves,“ explains Wegener. GrowExpress works with smallholder farmers on a contract basis on their assigned large-scale block farms, which allows them to work on a designated area within the land provided, in addition to participating in modern equipment, knowledge sharing and logistics chain. At the same time, the purchase of the harvest is guaranteed and, in the best case, it is processed on site to achieve an even higher refinement of the staple food and thus achieve higher sales prices.
Oil and gas an uncertain future
In the first half of 2020, the number of coal-fired power plants worldwide has shrunk. In addition, the oil boom is also coming to an end, and demand for the black gold is shrinking. IEA officials even expect oil demand growth to end in the next ten years. The oil industry has been hit hard in the pandemic years, with 60 percent of world consumption falling on the transportation sector. The weeks-long lockdown caused demand to plummet, and the war in Europe cancels out all commitments and calculations. Calculations by the IEA assumed that the oil boom could come to an end by 2030 at the latest, but the current crises have rendered these calculations invalid.
An uncertain future is also forecast for gas. Ideally, natural gas-fired power plants should be the reliable transitional technology on the way, accompanying the renewables transition. The crises have also reduced to the prospect of the third fossil power, natural gas, in the request.
Thomas Wegener states that basically the shaping of the future is in our hands. Studies predict that the energy transition will shape the geopolitical map as much as fossil fuels have over the past two centuries. We should not be intimidated by inconveniences and fears, because investments bring short-, medium- and long-term economic success, as demonstrated by the GrowExpress farm project.
Responsible in the sense of the press law:
Dr. Thomas Schulte
Lawyer & Author
Chief Operating Officer – GrowExpress Ltd.
Cocoa House, Dugbe
GrowExpress Ltd office is located in Nigeria, Cocoa House, Dugbe, 200263 Ibadan. Completed in 1965 at a height of 105 meters, Cocoa House was once the tallest building in Nigeria and the first skyscraper in West Africa. It is located in Dugbe, one of the main commercial areas in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. The GrowExpress Ltd. company farms an estate of 800 hectares about 200 km north of the megacity of Lagos, Nigeria. For more information, visit: https://growexpress.org
Farmer Future e.V.
Chairman of the board Thomas Wegener