The Green Fools And The Fossile Fuels
The German opinion paper Die Zeit (an American functional equivalent would be the Huffington Post, for example), published on Wednesday an article by Robert Habeck. Habeck, from the Greens, is the minister for the environment in Schleswig-Holstein. In the article Habeck claims that carbon based energy sources are “authoritarian,” while renewable energy sources are “democratic.” This reasoning of Habeck is exemplary for the German left and, more critically, guides their policy. Since such policies affect the lives of millions, it is important to understand the mindset and quality of this political class in Germany.
The article itself is difficult to argue with, as its verbosity and the abundance of non sequiturs would require a prohibitively long response. Thus, I have to limit myself to the most critical aspects of his article. They are exemplary for evidencing to what extent ideological conviction has replaced analytical thinking on the side of the German left.
Habeck argues that “oil” causes inequality, centralism, oligopolies, political standstill, and corruption in Third World countries. Renewables would lead to a “decentralized economy,” he says. This insight of Habeck is easily proven wrong. Habeck’s claim does not even include the most basic elements of correlation and causation. Many countries that have a lot “oil” are authoritarian, in the way Habeck describes it. Yet there are many more authoritarian states that have no “oil” whatsoever. The causal connection Habeck makes is therefore purely driven by ideology and not reality.
While Habeck’s causal connection of carbon fuels with authoritarianism is ideological fancy – there is not even a correlation – his postulate that renewables lead to democracy is no more than a slogan. (I have to logically infer this, as Habeck touches upon this issue only circumlocutory)
Habeck postulates the connection between renewables and democracy in a headline, but fails to have even a single coherent argument that would substantiate his claim.
More importantly, the connection of renewables and democracy is not only non-existent, but the opposite could be argued easily. Remember that Habeck argued that fossil fuels “cause inequality, centralism, oligopolies, political standstill, and corruption,” thus authoritarianism in his view. Yet analytically deconstructing Habeck’s argument, it becomes evident that the opposite of what he says is the actually the case.
The first claim of Habeck is that fossil fuels lead to centralism, and renewables are the remedy therefore. But, the opposite is true. We see that in Germany, the renewables are pushed by politicians and special interest groups. In Berlin, the energy future is decided by a selected few. In contrast, in the United States, energy issues are left to the market. The consumer decides what energy resource prevails. Thus centralism is actually the case with renewables, while the fossil fuels are regulated by market forces with little to no centralistic government interference.
In the case of the States, the people choose with their buying power if they want renewables or not. In the case of Germany and its renewables, the people have no choice and cannot evade expensive renewables that are forced upon them by special interest. Since 1970, as an example, the price for electricity in Germany has risen fivefold. In comparison to this, it has not even doubled for “special” customers, i.e., big business in Germany. At the same time, renewables were pushed through. According to Habeck, this happened democratically, i.e., the demos wanted it. That is, of course, not the case.
In comparison to this, the American price for electricity today is about the same as Germans paid for it almost half a century ago. On top of that, discounts on electricity is not only available to big business in the States, but is available for other customers, too. Seniors, for example, receive electricity at a discounted rate. Still, America is heavily reliant on carbon fuels. Indeed, carbon fuels experience a renaissance in the States. Clean coal and fracking provides Americans with affordable energy. Consequently, the demos in the States is better off than the demos in Germany. Still, there is no authoritarianism in sight in the U.S., despite “oil.”
Ideologically driven energy policies have a real life consequence. In Germany, energy prices are very high. The usage of electricity and gas becomes therefore quickly prohibitively expensive for the poorest. A large family in Germany, for example, has to think twice before using their car for an excursion or using electricity in their home. Wealthier people, however, with more income and smaller household size, can still afford all the luxuries they want. Consequently, low income families in Germany have less quality of life than wealthier people. This is inequality par excellence. In the States, in contrast, poorer people can afford the same life-style as richer people, when it involves using energy.
Habeck’s lengthy and disjointed discussion on foreign policy and energy independence in the article is therefore a red herring. Safe and affordable energy for the German people (or indeed the European people, since Habeck’s concern is all of Europe!) is not his agenda. Habeck’s concern is to propagate an energy source, which is of importance for a small clientele.
This is a sad thing. The only explanation for such behavior is that the Greens have a certain Weltanschauung, which arguably has metaphysical elements to it. Consequently, what brings them their emotional “salvation,” i.e. renewables, is propagated as the solution to all problems. That, which is regarded as “evil” by the Greens, such a carbon based energy resources, is ascribed all the ills of the world. Such a worldview paired with a lack of economic understanding (in particular the role of costs and prices) explains most policies of the Greens. The price – literally and figuratively – for such zealotry, is then paid by the German people.