“Dirty” Secret About Clean Wind Energy: It Doesn’t Reduce CO2 Emissions in EU, Yet     Print Email
Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The booming business in wind and new “renewables” has got Europe all fired up, especially Germany, a world leader in wind-energy production. Its promise is regularly touted in a blaze of publicity.

Indeed, the wind turbines and solar panels being manufactured and installed in Europe have created new jobs and may slightly ease European dependence on imported gas and other carbon fuels.

But what it is not doing – a fact kept away from publicity – is cutting the amount of CO2 emissions in Europe.

Why? Because EU policies are displacing the carbon emissions from the most industrialized member states to neighboring European countries through the emissions-trading scheme set up by the European Commissions, according to evidence collected by the German Greens and leaked to Spiegel magazine. As things stand now with this “cap and trade” system, ceilings on total CO2 emissions are set on a country-by-country basis for each sector such as utilities, industrial manufacturing etc. So far, these ceilings are not being ratcheted down, no matter how many turbines or solar panels go up. The result is that, as wind power displaces some use of coal-burning power plants in Germany, the utilities which own “emissions certificates” for their energy-generating turbines have permits that they don’t need anymore. They can proceed to sell their unused certificates to countries such as Poland or Romania, enabling them to rely even more heavily on coal-fired plants without breaching their own national emissions ceilings because they have extra permits entitling them to emit more CO2.

Spiegel noted that politicians in Berlin shun any mention of this practice because they want Germany to continue basking in its reputation as the world leader in renewable energy.

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    We do not believe that Brexit, Trump, or the alarming success of radical right parties in almost all European countries should be interpreted as mere “electoral accidents.” Instead, we suggest that the current destructuring of political systems is connected to the profound transformation of labor markets in times of automation. Our core argument is that the specific effects of current technological innovations are key to understanding their political implications.

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UMD Jean Monnet Research Project

The University of Maryland has received a Jean Monnet grant from the EU to conduct a series of policy exchanges between Europe and the US on filling infrastructure needs and the utility of public/private partnerships as the financing mechanism. If interested in participating in or receiving more information about these exchanges, please contact Rye McKenzie (rmckenzi@umd.edu).

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