As austerity bites into European living standards, sparking revolt at the polls, "growth" has become the politician's mantra. But to be competitive, European countries require a secure, plentiful and competitively priced energy supply. Unless Europe radically rethinks its obsession with carbon dioxide emissions and the anti-fossil fuel energy policies that flow from it, growth is likely to remain elusive, says author Rael Jean Isaac in the Wall Street Journal.
Lawmakers across the continent would do well to take to heart the conclusion of the European Commission Energy Department's Energy Roadmap for 2050, which stated frankly that "there is a trade-off between climate change policies and competitiveness."
- European Union law mandates that the 27 member countries on average cut their carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
- The goal after that is to cut emissions by between 80 percent and 95 percent by 2050.
- In May 2010, a study by the European Commission's energy department estimated the 20 percent cut would cost 48 billion euros ($66.3 billion) a year.
Individual nations' energy policies are pushing for further cuts in emissions, wreaking havoc on the economies that once dominated the continent.
- In the United Kingdom, a generous system of subsidies for renewable energy was found to have cost 10,000 jobs between 2009 and 2010 alone, and is estimated to raise the energy cost of vital industries (steel making, ceramics, paper, etc.) by 141 percent by 2020.
- Spain's experience with subsidizing renewables has been painful, with a 2009 study at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos finding that the subsidies had led to a loss of 110,500 jobs.
- Italy's subsidy system, which sets the price floor for wind energy at three times the market level, was found to sacrifice 6.9 industry jobs for every green job it created, according to a study at Italy's Instituto Bruno Leoni.
- Germany's Renewable Energy Feed-in Act of 2000 requires electric utilities to buy renewables from all producers at fixed, exorbitant rates and feed it into the power grid for 20 years, raising rates and undermining industrial competitiveness.
- Even France, which has remained relatively immune to energy problems because of its enormous nuclear energy capacity, is beginning to move away from that clean energy source that has served it so well.