The British government is looking into cutting subsidies, feed-in tariffs and other incentives for solar projects, to prevent the boom-and-bust seen in Spain and predicted for the Czech Republic. Wind turbines, small hydroelectric plants and biomass projects are also on the block, as the government attempts to revive the UK economy, raise its competitiveness, radically reduce rising debt burdens, and chart a more economically and politically realistic course.
United Kingdom manufacturers say “green energy” policies and increased penalties for using fossil fuels are raising their costs to intolerable levels, especially for energy-intensive industries. Manufacturing is “reaching a tipping point,” they say, “where companies that are internationally mobile will say ‘enough is enough,’” and simply move to Asia. Millions of jobs are on the line.
The Netherlands is likewise reducing its renewable energy targets and slashing wind and solar subsidies. More shocking, even in the wake of Fukushima, the Dutch are talking of approving their first new nuclear power plant in 40 years, because they can no longer afford to pay exorbitant fees for minimal amounts of renewable electricity (that is well below theoretically “rated” or “capacity” output).
Poland is racing to develop shale gas, using hydraulic fracturing methods developed by American companies to unlock trillions of cubic feet of methane for its homes and factories. Exploratory drilling is also underway, or about to begin, in Britain, Germany and other countries, as engineers evaluate the extent and economics of developing their own vast shale gas deposits.
In Slovakia, the government stopped issuing solar licenses barely six months after launching its program. After unaffordable subsidies were sharply reduced, new solar installations in the Czech Republic fell 76% (from 2800 MW in 2009 to 400 MW in 2010); in Spain they plummeted 98% (from 2800 MW to 69 MW between 2008 and 2009). Private investments in these government-supported programs also cratered.
France and other countries are taking similar steps, while also expanding coal-based electricity, to replace nuclear. “Austerity-whacked Europe is rolling back subsidies for renewable energy, as economic sanity makes a tentative comeback,” London Globe and Mail columnist Eric Reguly observed. “Green energy is becoming unaffordable and may cost as many jobs as it creates.” Or worse.
A new report from Scotland found that renewable energy kills 3.7 traditional jobs for every “green” job it creates. Wind power mandates also cost British energy consumers an extra $1.8 billion in higher electricity costs in 2009-2010. Rebellion is in the air, and belief in dangerous manmade global warming has plummeted.
European Energy Commissioner Gunter Oettinger put it bluntly. “If we go alone to 30% [renewable energy],” he said, “you will have a faster process of de-industrialization in Europe. We need industry, and industry means CO2 emissions.” Tougher climate and renewable targets will force industries to move to Asia, he added, and steel will likely be one of the first casualties. Europe can no longer afford to “prop up” renewable energy industries.
However, despite these changes in the Europe he extols so often, President Obama says this is America’s “Sputnik moment.” He wants the United States to “invest” in “the Apollo projects of our time” – spending countless billions of additional taxpayer dollars to “stimulate” renewable energy, high-speed rail, climate change “prevention” and other projects. His April 13 budget speech reiterated this commitment.
This is precisely the kind of business-as-usual our nation can no longer afford: politicians and bureaucrats deciding which energy technologies, industries and companies win – and which ones lose – on the basis of politics, rather than science, economics or technology.
It is time to follow Europe’s lead. We may not be able to do anything about the weather or climate. But we can, and must, implement policies that ensure we have the technology and money to adapt to whatever climate and weather changes might come.
Developing America’s vast domestic oil, natural gas, coal and shale gas deposits will generate millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in critically needed royalty and tax revenue. We must ensure that our energy policies generate revenues and create jobs – instead of requiring constant taxpayer subsidies and destroying two to four traditional jobs for every “green” job that government “creates.”
We need to do that, and can do it without hurting the environmental values we all cherish.
Any policies that shackle our ability to follow this new Europe-advised course will severely harm our nation’s future – and shackle blue-collar jobs, poor families and minority opportunities worst of all.
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