Oops: Europe’s green mandates have resulted in more imported coal and wood consumption
posted at 6:41 pm on May 28, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
In their own crunchy and progressive imaginations, at least, various European governments have been noble pioneers on the forefront of imposing the types of expensive but ostensibly necessary green-energy mandates and quotas that the entire world will eventually be forced to adopt in order to deter climate change… except that the unintended consequences of trying to forcibly integrate what are nothing more than politically-favored fledgling technologies, instead of competitive and price-efficient ones, are proving to be a little rough.
The European Union has been pushing their member states to derive no less than one-fifth of their energy from so-called renewable sources by 2020, and the major hope behind the whole thing was that supporting wind and solar energies would put them into a position where they could help everybody meet those goals. Unfortunately for them, however, wind and solar have yet to emerge as the miracle technologies that green-energy advocates have been so desperately insisting they will be, despite their many generous subsidies. Not only are the recession-wracked Europeans paying an average of 37 percent more than Americans for electricity, but they are increasingly relying on buying and shipping American resources to meet their green-energy goals to make up for their underperforming renewables’ shortcomings. The WSJ reports:
Under pressure, some of the Continent’s coal-burning power plants are switching to wood.
But Europe doesn’t have enough forests to chop for fuel, and in those it does have, many restrictions apply. So Europe’s power plants are devouring wood from the U.S., where forests are bigger and restrictions fewer.
This dynamic is bringing jobs to some American communities hard hit by mill closures. It is also upsetting conservationists, who say cutting forests for power is hardly an environmental plus. …
U.S. wood thus allows EU countries to skirt Europe’s environmental rules on logging but meet its environmental rules on energy. …
Solar and wind couldn’t meet the latter goal, policy makers recognized. They said wood qualified as a renewable energy source as long as it came from forests that would grow back. Emissions from burning wood contain less of certain chemicals, such as sulfur, than coal smoke. …
What’s more, Europe’s cap-and-trade markets have been seriously struggling and carbon credits are cheaper than ever, meaning that Europe has also been importing U.S. coal at accelerated rates — while dithering over allowing companies to engage in type of natural gas development and production that has helped the United States cut down its own carbon emissions. Hey, no complaints from this side of the Atlantic (free trade helps to make the world go ’round, after all), but their scheming isn’t exactly turning out as the fail-safe environmentalist vision that they had planned, is it? They largely decline to log their own wood, because — as they interpret it — that would be a detriment to the environment, and yet they seem quite content with importing wood and much-maligned coal from the United States, at least for the time being. Effective top-down control on an entire sector of the economy based on untested green pipe dreams suddenly doesn’t seem so easy, does it?