Friday, 18 March 2011

Germany: Environmentalism gone mad

(image by Bundesumweltsministerium)

Germany has for many years now been considered a model country when it comes to "saving the environment". But behind the polished facade, not everything is as perfect as people are asked to believe. The German weekly Der Spiegel had a closer look into the reality of environmentalism gone mad:

"Biofuels have led to the clear-cutting of rainforests, plastics are being burned rather than recycled and new generation lightbulbs have led to a resurgence of mercury production."

"As usual, ordinary Germans were to blame. Everything had been prepared for the green revolution: fresh supplies and new signs at the gas stations, and the refinery depots were full to the brim with the new wonderfuel. But then drivers turned their backs on the new era. They didn't want to buy E10, a blend of ethanol and gasoline, even through it cost almost 10 cents less per liter than conventional gas.

"It's annoying but there's no question of stopping the sale of E10," said Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen. E10, Röttgen said with a hint of threat in his voice, was a milestone of German climate control policy.

When it comes to the environment these days, all other interests must take a back seat, including possible engine damage from E10. After all, the United Nations has proclaimed that ensuring environmental sustainability is one of its "millennium goals," and greater importance is assigned to climate negotiations among the big industrial nations than to economic summits these days.
All the serious political parties devote large parts of their policy programs to environmental policy. In the coalition deal between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats, protecting the climate comes ahead of education and internal security in the list of policy priorities. The government is as committed to promoting the development of electric cars as it is to expanding renewable energies and protecting fish stocks in German rivers.
There is no issue that produces such unanimity among the parties."
"Not everything that looks green serves the environment. The ecological principle of proceeding with care doesn't seem to apply to environmental policy. The more, the better, seems to be the principle. No one is calculating whether all the billions being invested in protecting the environment are actually being spent wisely. Ordinary citizens can't judge it and many experts have no interest in shedding any light on this aspect because their livelihoods are at stake.

A large amount of money flows into studies, risk assessments and providing seals of approval. In many cases, a closer look at environmental measures reveals that they're expensive and don't have much effect. German environmental standards are so high already that it would require an enormous expense to achieve further improvements -- especially in comparison with less developed nations such as China, India or the former Eastern bloc states.
In economics, it's called the law of diminishing marginal utility. The first glass of water you drink will help a lot to quench your thirst. The second will help a little less and so on. By the 10th glass you will be feeling unpleasantly full or even sick. That's the worst aspect: some major environmental policies aren't just ineffective -- they are counterproductive."
In the fight to protect the environment, it may be time to pause and ask oneself: what is really helping, and what isn't? And to admit at times: sorry, we were wrong. But it doesn't work like that. Environmentalism knows no doubt. The idea is never wrong, the problem is always in the implementation.
And so it will continue. Additional rubbish containers will be introduced, for different types of rubbish. The EU will ban the stand-by function on electronic appliances to reduce energy consumption -- even though engineers know this reduces product lifespans.
At some point, only electrical cars will fulfil environmental requirements, but the electricity will have to come from somewhere -- maybe French or Czech nuclear power stations?
Ordinary people will put up with all this patiently, what else can they do? It all serves the environment, and no one can object to that.

Read the entire article here.

German wind power ad done in association with the German Ministry for the Environment:

A related article in Der Spiegel:

Germany's Dream of Offshore Wind Farms Gets Expensive

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