Friday, August 03, 2007

Miserable Failure

While collectively smug greenies in Europe make five-year-plans that sound like Soviet rutabaga production figures, and repeatedly cast the United States as a mustache-twirling eco-satan, they forget that they laughed at the environmental movement which started in America while their obsession remained in highly polluting state industries.

Fast forward to today where the US advances the cleanliness of the environment technologically, quietly, and without turning it into anything like the state established and imposed and religion that it’s become in Europe.

Nonetheless, for all the bluster we’ve gotten so used to, they still manage their practice of enfeebling anything they attempt.

For the second year running, more wind power was installed in the US in 2006 than in any other country: about 2,500MW. The American Wind Energy Association forecasts that a further 20,000MW will be installed before 2010, an investment of about $30bn, putting it well ahead of Germany and Spain which currently head the installed capacity league table. Much of this has been driven by a subsidy of 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of any wind farm's operation and, although there has been some doubt as to whether this production tax credit will be extended beyond 2008, most of the presidential hopefuls (in both parties) have been making warm noises about the importance of renewables.

Twenty-three states now have ambitious "renewable portfolio targets", but it is California that has really seized hold of the challenge. Arnold Schwarz¬enegger, the governor, is taking the credit (with the state well on track to generate at least 17 per cent of electricity from renewables by the end of the year), but much of California's success goes back to the multi-billion-dollar research programmes introduced during President George W. Bush's first term as compensation for pulling out of the Kyoto process. California has become the centre for hund¬reds of start-up "clean tech" companies..

By comparison, the European renewables sector often appears stodgy, although it is fair to say that the new target adopted at the European Union summit in March (to achieve 20 per cent of all energy generation – not just electricity – by 2020) has sent shock waves through both the policy community and Europe's energy companies. The idea of generating 12 per cent of transport fuels, 18 per cent of heat and 34 per cent of electricity from renew¬ables will require every member country radically to rethink its policy mix.
Add to it the ignorance: several months ago I met a German engineer who was either engineering or peddling something relative to some kind of greenie blackmail. He was very proud that his native Germany had households which on average use less power as those in Minnesota. I asked him if he know just how much colder Minnesota is than any part of his precious Heimat. He averted his gaze and mumbled that he did.

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