The Guardian/Reuters is reporting today that work on Gigafactory 4, aka Giga Berlin, in the state of Brandenburg in Germany has been halted after a ruling by the higher administrative court of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg. The ruling prohibits Tesla from cutting down any more trees on the 92 hectare (277 acre) site where it intends to build its first European factory until a final determination is made on the matter.
The court action was initiated by the Green League of Brandenburg (Grüne Liga Brandenburg), which is opposed to cutting down trees for a factory, despite assurances by Tesla that it will plant many more trees than it removes to make up for the loss of them at the Brandenburg site.
The court noted the process of clearing the land was moving ahead quickly and was only three days away from completion. In a statement following its ruling, it said if work was not halted, the clearing would be finished before it could consider the petition from the environmental group. In case you are not up to speed on this legal matter, once a tree is cut, even a court cannot order it to be uncut. “It should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding.” If the work were to continue, the court would be left with nothing to decide. Reuters notes that final planning approval for the Brandenburg factory has not yet been given, which means Tesla is preparing the work site at its own risk.
“Some people are never sastisfied,” a friend of mine says. He likes to add an extra “s” or two to his words. Several studies have indicated the German auto industry will lose up to 40,000 jobs in the years to come as the EV revolution moves forward. It simply takes fewer workers to assemble an electric car than a car with a gasoline or diesel engine, and many suppliers to automakers will no longer be needed. The state of Brandenburg has fewer industrial factories than other areas of the country, which is why its state officials have been so supportive of Tesla’s plan to locate its first European factory there. You might think the people who live there would welcome new employment opportunities.
It’s easy to dismiss the environmentalists as a bunch of Luddites raging against the future. However, let’s run a quick thought experiment. BMW had considered this same location for a new factory a few years ago, before opting to build it elsewhere. If these protests were against BMW cutting down the same trees instead of Tesla, would we be celebrating their defense of the environment instead of criticizing it?
The chances are high that Tesla will find a way out of this legal thicket, but the message is clear: Gigafactory 4 is not going to get built with the same alacrity as Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai. Chinese authorities were bound and determined to get that facility built as soon as possible and bulldozed any possible opposition to speed things along. The difference in how business is done in China and how it is done in Germany is significant. So, Model 3s and Model Ys will probably not roll off the assembly line in Brandenburg as soon as Tesla fans might wish, but roll off they will. Short of gravity and tides, there are few forces in the universe that can compete successfully with the will of Elon Musk when he makes up his mind to do something.
Photo by Chanan Bos, CleanTechnica