Europe Is Becoming A Green-Energy Basket Case

  • Date: 22/04/13
  • Editorial, The Washington Post
FOR YEARS, European leaders have flaunted their unwavering commitment to fighting climate change — and chastised the United States for lagging behind. But last week brought yet more confirmation that the continent has become a green-energy basket case. Instead of a model for the world to emulate, Europe has become a model of what not to do.The centerpiece of the European Union’s climate plan — indeed, the only major climate policy that acts across all member countries — is a slowly declining continent-wide cap on emissions. By allowing companies to buy, sell and bank permits to pollute under that cap, the program puts a price on European carbon dioxide emissions. Designed properly, the scheme should encourage companies and consumers to reduce the carbon-intensity of the goods they purchase and invest in cleaner alternatives.

But the Europeans didn’t design the policy properly. For a variety of reasons that E.U. officials should have anticipated, the market for carbon permits has all but collapsed. And in a Tuesday vote, the European Parliament rejected a slapdash rescue plan.

If the continent wants to rediscover its ambition on climate change, individual member states will probably have to do it on their own. But European governments have proved themselves to be incompetent central planners, counter-productive and wary of thinking pragmatically.Germany is irrationally shutting its nuclear power plants — which produce lots of steady, reliable electricity and no carbon dioxide emissions — and promising that renewables will somehow pick up the slack. Perversely, that approach has led power companies to ramp up coal burning, the dirtiest fossil fuel, in a country that has also lavished its public money on the solar industry. Spain, too, has over-invested in expensive renewables. To its credit, France hasn’t decided to shutter its nuclear plants, but it is one of many countries that refuse to open up natural gas reserves, a resource that could help wean the continent off coal.

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