Acton Institute Powerblog

How Green economics left the West out in the cold

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As they shiver through the season, this frosty winter reminds Americans and Europeans how much they have in common. However, more and more Europeans find themselves out in the cold thanks to environmentalist policies that have caused too many to be unable to afford adequate home heating this winter.

Environmentalist policies have undermined the stability of the energy supply itself. A Swiss newspaper, the Basler Zeitung (literally the “Basel newspaper”) reports that one German utility company alone “spent almost a billion euros last year on emergency interventions to stabilize the grid. … The costs were thus about half higher than in 2016 (660 million euros) and around forty percent higher than in 2015 (710 million).”

“The reason for the increase,” the paper states, “is the increasing number of solar and wind turbines in Germany.” Both sources are “irregular and often unpredictable,” and the “problems with grid stability could increase significantly with the shutdown of the remaining nuclear power plants.”

Leaving aside the instability, the real cost is paid by German families. “The burden for a family of four is therefore about 25,000 euros, which is more than half of the average gross annual gross earnings,” the paper notes.

Rupert Darwall explores the genesis of these policies in his new book Green Tyranny. Wolfgang Müller, general secretary of the European Institute for Climate and Energy and a free-market think tank leader in Germany, reviews the book for Acton’s Religion & Liberty Transatlantic website. 

Darwall writes, “It took only three years for Germany’s Energiewende [Green energy policy] to increase the number of households trapped in fuel poverty by one-fourth.” This trend held true in the UK, as well:

After conducting a market investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed that the main driver of domestic electricity price increases was not profiteering by energy companies but the cost of government-imposed obligations and network costs, the latter largely reflecting the costs of integrating wind and solar capacity. Gas and electricity take up nearly ten percent of the household spending of the poorest ten percent of the population and is their largest item of expenditure after housing.

While squeezing consumers, their employers also felt the pinch. Deutsche Bank concluded in January 2014 that German energy policy had chipped away at its industrial base. “German industrial users paid 26 percent more for electricity compared to the EU average, while the disparity with the United States was even more pronounced,” Darwall writes.

Müller writes that Darwall connects the dots abut how Green policies went from a fringe movement to the dominant social philosophy in much of Europe.

Darwall presents a wealth of details to explain how a powerful Green/Left network managed to occupy key political positions in Europe and the U.S. and to establish (or gain control of) institutions that give them unquestioned authority over the subject. … He also explains how the onslaught on freedom happens openly (if unnoticed by the media and general public) by highlighting a crisis of global proportions – such as man-made climate change – which requires solutions that “normal democracies” aren’t able to provide. They must be settled by a council of experts, which acts outside the democratic process.

Their belief that only peer-approved experts can understand proper policy would result in a global technocracy, or a supranational managerial state. Ultimately Müller, one of Europe’s leading skeptics of Green orthodoxy, says that Darwall substantiates his provocative subtitle (“exposing the totalitarian roots of the climate-industrial complex”).

Read Müller’s review, and you’ll understand why he concludes, “Green Tyranny is a must-read for every person who cherishes freedom and who wants to know how environmentalism could become so powerful that, in some countries, it seems like a new state religion.”

Read his full review here.

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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