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Friday, 31 January 2014

The European energy policy: a story of misused sovereignty and missed opportunities.

Ulko Jonker, the EU correspondent of Het Financieele Dagblad, is one of those journalists who can write, what you could refer to as ‘hidden treasures’.

He seldomly writes ‘scoopy’ news or those power-interviews with the leading politicians in Europe. No, his real strength is writing well-considered and elaborate background stories, often with surprising conclusions.

Last Saturday on January 25, Ulko Jonker wrote a very interesting article upon the deployment of a ‘durable economy’ within the European Union, but unfortunately I only read it today.

This must-read article had the following bombshell in it:

Lakshmi Mittal [the chairman of ArcelorMittal – EL] warned this week that Europe should reduce its ambitions, with respect to the climate. Traditional industries like his should be offered lower energy prices.
And Mittal has a point: the European energy market has been cut into pieces so much and it is so distorted, that the cost differences between the various EU countries are bigger than those with the United States.

National [and unharmonized - EL] targets for durable energy caused that Germany is currently loaded with (Chinese) solar-panels, while these panels would yield twice as much energy in Greece…, which can’t afford them.

On the continent, the nuclear power plants will be shut down in due course, but in the United Kingdom new nuclear power plants will be started up, using loads of subsidy money.

Tax-payers pay for market distortions, on which electricity producers break down. And the best means for reaching those durable economy targets – the emission trading scheme (ETS), which diminishes CO2 exhaust through a system of paid CO2 emission rights – has gridlocked in the meantime.

Actually, the red and bold text is really funny, when you think about the consequences of this madness:
  • Greece has the sun, but Germany has the solar panels;
  • The United Kingdom is starting up new nuclear power plants, while Germany and France are planning to decommission them at the same time;
  • Many countries in the European Union are reluctant to exploit the shale gas supplies, but look with pure envy at the USA and Canada, which pump up this gas and use up the oil-laden tar sands, like there is no tomorrow;
  • Energy plants, driven by coal, are planned at various places in Europe. Coal is extremely polluting, but also extremely cheap;
  • The recent EU 'clean energy targets for 2030' have been diluted so much under pressure of various corporate lobbies, that they seem as tasteless as thin coffee;
  • Electric energy, sold to consumers and companies as ‘green’ is in reality often G.I.N.O. energy: Green In Name Only;
    • Instead of generating this energy with solar panels, windmills, hydro-power or geothermal sources (Iceland(!)), the energy is generated conventionally, using purchased CO2 emission permits;
    • “officially green, but not really clean!”, would be a nice slogan for it!

These effects are typically the result of the 28 frogs in a wheelbarrow, which we so lovingly call the European Union: ‘everybody is having his own party and nobody is thinking about splitting the bill!’

The efficient, effective and optimal (i.e. close to maximum) usage of green, renewable energy is a European challenge – and not a national challenge –, which should be solved in a pan-European way, whether you like it or not!

Europe has traditionally been the frontrunner for clean, renewable energy and will remain so in years to come. Unfortunately, however, renewable energy currently suffers from the fact that the rest of the world does not hesitate to use more polluting kinds of energy, like shale gas, tar sands, oil, coal and nuclear energy.

And what are the European countries doing?!

Every country wants to be the boss on its own turf and thinks that energy generation and usage must be a sovereign decision, which the European Commission should leave alone.

Consequently, these countries constantly quarrel with each other and try to compete one another to death for the lowest energy price, often based on massive state subsidies or polluting sources of energy.

Or – in a counter-productive move – they impose the highest taxes and levies; even on green and renewable energy, generated by privately-owned windmills(!): 
  • They either do so with a bombastic, earth-saving masterplan in mind; 
  • Or just in order to clean up the state budget, 'because they are worth it'. 

In the process, the EU countries reach suboptimal (or even worse) results when it comes to energy and energy-dependent industries.  

What also outraged the people from Groningen, is that their companies lose the competition with German companies, due to the high energy prices in The Netherlands. And that in spite of the fact, that Groningen still has massive gas fields with an annual production of 49 billion cubic meters.

Latest victim of this energy inequality between The Netherlands and Germany was Aldel (i.e. Aluminium Delfzijl), an aluminium producing plant, which perished one week ago.

Het Financieele Dagblad wrote: ‘It is different for metal plant Aldel: the energy costs account for 40% of the production price. When these costs increase, they can’t simply be processed into the sales price of their product. In such case, the higher energy bill leads to a competitive disadvantage.’

And frankly, things should not be so complicated when you look at Europe with your European, 'green energy' glasses on. 

Look at this map, for instance:
Map of Europe with all renewable energy forms mapped
at the countries with the best sources for it
Picture courtesy of Google Maps
Click to enlarge
Of course, these renewable sources of energy are nowhere near enough for replenishing the energy needs of the European Union and beyond. 

But heck, would it be a good star,t if these renewable sources of energy would be used optimally in a supranational, pan-European way!

However, such a grand energy scheme for renewable, low-carb energy can only work out, when the European countries can finally forget the stupid quarrels and their bleating about keeping their sovereignty and maintaining their very own tax policies.

At this moment, the other countries, like the USA, Brazil, Russia, China, India, Canada and Japan are scornfully laughing their behinds off, while looking at that old and indecisive Europe. 

Nevertheless, Europe can very well remain the moral leader of the world as it has been so often, when it comes to renewable, green energy. 

If the countries in the European Union could only work together...

Summarizing, it is time to turn this negative trend with respect to renewable energy around and show the European Union at its very best to the rest of the world!

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