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The U.S.-EU Green Energy Divide

By Daniel J. Graeber | Sun, 28 October 2012 00:00 | 2

A report backed by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council finds the European Union could generate trillions of dollars in fuel savings by looking beyond goals mandated for 2020. Campaigners said greater investments for things like wind and solar power, coupled with a slow move away from things like coal, could make the region nearly carbon-free by 2050. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, officials have expressed reservations about being forced into a low-carbon economy, highlighting the green divide among western powers.

The European campaign groups, in a report highlighting an "Energy (R)evolution," call on European leaders to move in favor of renewables and energy efficiency instead of fossil fuels or nuclear power. The group states that every time oil prices increase by $1, Europeans wind up paying more than $500 per month. That, they say, could drop by half by 2030 if leaders embrace a comprehensive green energy future.

Frederic Thoma, the EU energy policy adviser at Greenpeace, said the region is approaching "a crucial crossroads" in 2020, the benchmark for existing mandates.

"What we need now is a firm commitment at EU level to maintain the continent’s renewables revolution," the campaigner said in a statement.

EU member states have agreed to cut their carbon footprint by 20 percent, improve energy efficiency by 20 percent and get 20 percent of their energy from renewable energy resources by 2020. Greenpeace and EREC said a good place to start after 2020 would be a 45-percent green benchmark by 2030. The entire EU, they said, could be nearly carbon-free by 2050 given enough political will.

In the U.S., meanwhile, a study on the energy future finds state and federal governments could generate as much as $124 billion by exploiting unconventional oil and gas plays as part of an all-out push for energy independence. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, touted the shale potential as not only a jobs issue, but also a way to break away from "imported oil from hostile countries overseas." In his state, voters in November cast their ballots on a constitutional mandate that would require 25 percent of the state's electricity to be generated from renewable energy by 2025. State law passed in 2008 already requires a 10-percent green energy portfolio by 2015 and utilities there are halfway to that goal. Supporters of the measure say a constitutional requirement would prevent special-interest groups from tampering with the state's energy portfolio. Opponents argue the 10-percent mandate is sufficient for now, saying the measure there would cost taxpaerys as much as $15 billion in associated energy costs. State utility companies, meanwhile, have spent about $6.4 million in opposition of the bill.

Opponents of low-carbon measures like Michigan's argue about high consumer bills, while supporters point to the long-term consequences of a carbon-intensive economy. The European argument, at least from the other side of the ocean, seems to be that, while coal, oil and natural gas are bountiful now, in the long run, you get what you pay for. Beyond 2030, says Greenpeace, "renewable energy, combined with efficiency standards for cars and buildings, will revitalize our societies and save billions of euros."

By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com

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  • Mel Tisdale on October 30 2012 said:
    I just wish Greenpeace and the like would realise that renewables are not the panacea to all CO2 ills that they think them to be, as Germany is now coming to realise in the light of its recent problems (see OilPrice.com, 26 Oct). Nor too, is fracked gas, as the video 'Gasland' clearly shows.

    In fact, looking at the map of potential fracking sites, I would suggest that any American who loves his or her country would do well to get active now on the issue. For a start, the fracking industry is under no legal obligation to protect the quality of water supplies, thanks to the nice Mr Cheney, whose Halliburton company is making a killing (literally it seems) from the fracking process. From what I can see, the fracking industry comes in, drills countless wells, despoiling the countryside in the process, pollutes drinking supplies, dispenses illness quicker than a cholera infected hot dog stand at a football match and generally acts anti-socially by driving hundreds and hundreds of massive trucks all over the place before moving on to ravage another tract of the countryside. By the time they are finished there will little left of America to love. (And whole lot of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, will have escaped into the atmosphere.)

    The only sensible route forward for us as a species is to use our technological skills to develop nuclear power generation, preferably using LFTR technology and for Greenpeace to just shut up for a while. They and their kind are largely responsible for the lack of development in nuclear power generation, without which we are facing a much stiffer fight to combat climate change than need be the case. Thanks, thanks a lot! With friends like Greenpeace, the planet already has all the enemies it needs.
  • Anthony525 on October 30 2012 said:
    This is rubbish!
    The shale boom in the USA has lead to a very large switch away from coal.
    Coal in now so cheap in the USA that it is being exported.
    Germany has moved away from clean nuclear power and has switched to coal.
    The world wide coal burn is increasing, there is nothing that Europe can do that will decrease the coal burn.

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