Ludwig Bölkow (born on the 30th of June 1912 in Schwerin; died on the 25th of July 2003 in Grünwald near Munich) was one of the most important aeronautical industrialists of Germany. From 1976 until 1982 he headed the German Aerospace Industries Association (Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtindustrie). In his 2 nd “career“ Bölkow was a founder and a visionary of an alternative energy future.
From 1939 to 1945, Bölkow was an engineer at Messerschmitt AG, a company which played a crucial and – not only in regard to forced labour of concentration camp detainees – a very problematic role in the German military aircraft industry in World War II. Bölkow acted as group leader for high-speed aerodynamics, especially for the Messerschmitt Me 262 and its successors. The Messerschmitt Me 262 ‚Schwalbe‚ was the world’s first operational jet-powered aircraft fighter, that went into series production. After the war, Bölkow founded his own engineering office for construction and automation in Stuttgart. From 1954 on, the Bölkow-Entwicklungen KG, later Bölkow GmbH, developed helicopters, light aircraft and defence missiles. In 1968, the Bölkow GmbH merged with the company of Bölkow’s former colleague Willy Messerschmitt. One year later they formed the air and space company Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB), which later became DASA and is today EADS. MBB was one of the biggest German aeronautics and spaceflight companies, producing satellites, helicopters, airplanes, missiles for military and civilian purposes. In 1977 Ludwig Bölkow leaved MBB.
In 1983, he donated the Ludwig Bölkow Foundation and founded the company Ludwig Bölkow Systemtechnik GmbH with the goal to promote environmentally friendly and socially compatible technologies. In the energy sector the foundation should investigate „with priority the feasibility of an inexhaustible and environmentally compatible energy system based on solar energy as primary energy source and on hydrogen and electricity as secondary energies.“
In his so-called Blue Book from 1982 („Entscheidungen für eine langfristige Energiepolitik“ / „Decisions for a long-term energy policy“) Bölkow emphasizes that the structures of the energy system can be changed only within long periods of time. He asks, how the world can be supplied with sufficient energy while at the same time avoiding the emission problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels and dealing with the problem of limited fossil resources? Bölkow comes to the conclusion that the extensive utilisation of solar energy constitutes the most promising option for the energy supply of the world: because solar energy can be utilised everywhere, it bears the least risks and is best compatible with nature and society. He pleads with insistence that society should adopt the necessary restructuring of our energy system as a great and long-term task and that for this purpose the political course has to be set already today.
Since many years, LBST played a crucial role in the research of hydrogen/fuel cell technology and in the analysis of the peak oil problem. Today LBST is a globally operating strategy and technology consultant in the field of sustainable energy and transport systems. Its experts from various disciplines support industry, politics and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in issues of sustainable energy production and utilization. Their consulting services focus on the application of innovative technologies, the launch of alternative drive systems and fuels, and fundamental strategic issues in the energy and transport sectors. Topics are (a) the life-cycle analysis of energy pathways, (b) the European activities on hydrogen energy technology, (c) resource analysis (peak oil) and renewable energy potentials and (d) energy scenarios like the „Alternative World Energy Outlook (AWEO)“, the last a profound critic of the „World Energy Outlook“ produced by the International Energy Agency. The Ludwig Bölkow Foundation supports for example the Energy Watch Group, founded by the German parliamentarian Hans-Josef Fell from the Green Party.
„What motivated Bölkow after his involvement at MBB came to an end in the late 1970s and in the beginning of the 1980s? Which were the influences and motives, inducing him to become active himself and finally to donate a foundation? The oil price crises of the 1970s did shake up the industrialised nations and demonstrated to us our dependence on finite fossil energy sources. Since this time Bölkow’s thoughts were determined by the fact that fossil energy carriers such as coal, oil and gas are finite. Certainly at that time the work of the Club of Rome also exercised an important influence with respect to the perception of the limitations in our world. The emerging discussion of the threatening climate change represented another important impetus.
Bölkow was very much occupied by the problems linked to the use of nuclear energy. He was especially concerned about the issues of safety and waste disposal. But also the limited uranium resources were seen by him as a problem. In the 1970s for the first time a broader public became aware of the fact that our energy system is – as we would phrase it today – not sustainable. For Bölkow this constituted a challenge for the profession of “the engineers“. He therefore envisaged as the most important future task for engineers, technicians and scientists, to contribute to the solution of the identified problems: after all it were them who have caused these problems to a substantial part by the technologies they have developed.“(1)
At the 1995 Climate Summit in Berlin, Ludwig Bölkow (personally) and the Ludwig Bölkow Systemtechnik GmbH were founding members of e5, the European Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future. The Worldwatch Institute in Washington and the North-South-NGO Germanwatch were the driving force behind the foundation of this new climate friendly business association. Ludwig Bölkow was not a „mastermind“ behind the founding and the activities of e5. Instead, he was a human symbol, that climate protection has to be expressed not only in ecological terms, but also in technological concepts for our industrial society and basic industrial infrastructure. Since the invention of steam engines in the 18th century, our whole society is based on the combustion technology. Heating, transport (in the air, on the ground and on water), materials processing, and electricity (and therefore communication and the control of industrial processes): all of them are based on burning something (mostly of fossil fuels). The formation of the industrial structure was an economic and technological complex process, that lasted more than 200 years. Therefore, a solar driven society means much more than only using windmills and solar panels. The fact, that 30 years ago, a traditional captain of industry accepted this challenge, is pathbreaking.
(1) Jörg Schindler: 20 Years Ludwig Bölkow Foundation and Systemtechnik (Speech held at the occasion of the Celebration of Dr. Ludwig Bölkow’s 90th Birthday Anniversary in the Aircraft Yard Schleißheim on July 19th, 2002)
- European Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future: Nachruf Ludwig Bölkow (Darmstadt, 27. Juli 2003)
- Jörg Schindler: 20 Years Ludwig Bölkow Foundation and Systemtechnik (Speech held at the occasion of the Celebration of Dr. Ludwig Bölkow’s 90th Birthday Anniversary in the Aircraft Yard Schleißheim on July 19th, 2002)
- DIE ZEIT (Ausgabe 13/1995 – 24. März 1995): „Grüne Lobbyisten“ von Timm Kraegenow