More Cautionary Tales for U.S. Policymakers

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While the media tends to paint a picture of the United States lagging behind the world in deploying green energy and controlling pollution, the reality is something far different. On the surface, the standards and mandates imposed by a number of nations to increase the use of renewable power create the appearance that they are leading the way for energy solutions. However, many of those countries are now being forced to move away from these policies.


For example, many tout Germany as the world leader in green energy, but the country’s power prices have skyrocketed in recent years and are now roughly triple those paid in the United States. The Germans are also struggling to preserve the reliability and integrity of the country’s power grid, which continues to experience problems because of the massive amounts of intermittent electricity on its system. As PACE has pointed out, these reliability problems have even caused neighboring nations such as Poland and Czech Republic to invest substantial dollars to protect their own power grids from disruption.

The UK, on the other hand, is now resorting to American wood pellets for power because of its own green energy requirements. Despite access to substantial energy resources in the region and an abundance of wind power, Britain must use one of the world’s oldest sources of energy – wood – to satisfy its mandates for renewables.

Nearby in Sweden, that nation, after launching an extensive wind energy program ten years ago, has had to begin shutting down its wind turbines because they proved inefficient and too costly. Sweden’s government will now begin rolling back subsidies it has provided to wind operators.

On the other side of the world, Australia has seen market electricity prices surge from $100 per megawatt hour to $10,000 per megawatt hour in some cases due to its unreliable renewable program. The Australian government recently had to reopen a natural gas-fired power plant to control the bleeding and stave off further increases in runaway prices.

In each of these countries, the general economy and manufacturing in particular have been severely affected.

“The government has found that its electric system that is heavily reliant on wind power (40% comes from intermittent renewable sources) cannot cope without reliable power from traditional generation sources,” says an IER analysis. “The fallout is that Australia is finding that its energy-intensive businesses are relocating to Asian countries that provide stable regulation and costs, lower taxes, cheaper wages, and less red tape.”

Meanwhile, after spending $750 billion on subsidies and doubling power bills, the European Union has decided to quietly step back from its green energy programs.

To be clear, the U.S. has not made the kind of government financial commitment to renewable energy that Europe. However, the reality is that the U.S. has actually reduced its carbon dioxide emissions more than Europe by using it’s energy resources more wisely and be adopting an “all of the above” approach instead of picking winners and losers.

President Donald Trump has announced no plans to recreate Europe’s green energy policies in the United States, and that is good news. As Europe and others learn their own painful lessons on energy, we should commit to learning from their stumbles and doing what is best for consumers.