Energy Lessons from Germany

Comparing U.S. energy policies with Germany is bewildering.  While Germany is making every move possible towards carbon neutrality, the U.S. continues to invest all of its resources into the fossil fuel industry.  In the U.S., legal technicalities and tax laws discourage individuals from investing in clean energy, and 98% of U.S. renewable energy capacity is owned by private companies.  By contrast, 65% of Germany’s renewable capacity is owned by cooperatives and the public.  This means that in Germany, renewable energy programs are funded publicly and the process is democratized.  German energy programs are not at risk of having their funding cut by calculating politicians responding to oil lobbies.


Germany increased the amount of energy they produce through renewable sources from 20% to 25% in the first six months of 2012.  The energy produced through renewables at this time came from about 38% wind power and 16% solar sources.  Germany is on pace to reach their targets of producing 35% of energy through renewable sources by 2020, and 80% by 2050.  After the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Germany began phasing out nuclear energy, and plans to be nuclear-free by 2022.

Germany’s Renewable Energy Act offers incentives for the public to generate electricity through wind or solar panels.  The government subsidises producers who invest in wind and solar energies through feed-in tariffs.  By comparison, the U.S. spends billions of dollars subsidising the oil, coal and gas industry — 6 times more than they spend on renewables.  It is no wonder that North America has fallen behind in addressing energy issues and climate change.


It is no longer viable to claim that renewable energy is inefficient or too expensive.  Renewable energy, like anything else, is perfectly feasible if it is invested in.  Big Oil has become so Big in North America that corporate lobbies are outweighing common sense and foresight.  North American governments claim that our economy needs fossil fuels and the jobs the industry creates, but if we simply look to Germany or to other countries leading the way in energy innovation, we must realize this is not the case.  Holding on to jobs in the oil and gas sector is a foolish focus on short-term economic gains.  Ensuring that we have a livable global future, however, means thinking long-term and ending our dependency on fuels that are warming our planet and triggering more violent natural disasters, droughts and floods.


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