Once hailed as a global leader in green energy policy, Germany is now looking more like a bump on a log than an innovator. By rejecting GMOs, nuclear energy, and fracking, Berlin has put itself decidedly behind the curve, and it doesn’t have much to show for its efforts. Bloomberg reports:
Germany, which has the most powerful Green Party in Europe, is missing out on industries worth more than $200 billion globally, or about 6 percent of its gross domestic product, including nuclear power and fracking. Executives argue the risk-aversion hampers the competitiveness of a nation that discovered nuclear fission used to detonate atomic bombs, and has been led by a trained physicist, Angela Merkel, since 2005.
Germany’s green policies have motivated it to snub shale gas, favoring renewables like wind and solar energy instead. But those green energy sources are expensive, and the country’s energiewende, its green turn, has led to skyrocketing electricity prices for households and businesses alike. German industry is struggling, and firms like chemical manufacturer BASF have beefed up investments in shale gas-flush America. But it isn’t just businesses that are leaving Germany for greener pastures. Berlin’s refusal to consider genetically modified crops or nuclear energy have raised concerns that a country with a long history of innovation may be struggling to retain the best and the brightest. Bloomberg continues:
Scientists are leaving for opportunities abroad. Some of Germany’s best academics are emigrating and the country isn’t attracting enough foreign talent to make up for it, according to a February report by the German government’s commission of experts for research and innovation.“We don’t want atomic energy, genetic engineering or fracking, which is quite a lot when you add it up,” Michael Vassiliadis, head of the IG BCE chemical union and a BASF supervisory board member, said in an interview. “It throws up the question of whether we can remain such a strong exporter.”
The pace of technological change is accelerating, and if you want to stay on the front foot, you need to actually listen to what scientists and experts are saying. In Germany’s case, that means green-lighting GMOs, which scientists have repeatedly found to be a safe and effective way of upping crop yields. It also means reconsidering the decision to shutter nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. That move, which upped German emissions as a result of the need to burn of record quantities of coal in compensation, is looking more and more like a knee-jerk, emotional reaction (unlike Japan, Germany’s reactors aren’t sited along major earthquake fault lines).Listening to the experts would also mean taking a serious look at fracking. On that front, at least, the German government seems to finally be waking up to reality. The country’s legislature finally seems ready to put in place new fracking regulations that will end the de facto moratorium on the drilling technique before summer recess. That’s a step in the right direction, but there’s still work to do.There are plenty of lessons to be gleaned from Germany’s green policies, but they’re not the kind environmentalists will want to learn.