When it was fashionable to do so, Germany claimed they were scuttling their nuclear power plants. Their energy companies, bolstered by billions of Euros in government subsidies, rushed to replace nuclear energy with solar and other alternative energy schemes.
But the projected increases in efficiencies never came to pass - companies that rely on subsidies are not in any rush to make technology better. And Germany has seen the US send its CO2 emissions from the energy sector drop back to early 1990s levels, and from dirty coal back to early 1980s levels, using natural gas - so now policymakers have decided they want to be a part of it.
If you are not familiar with environmental policy history, the original Kyoto accord picked its date for a specific reason, and it is part of the reason why U.S. President Bill Clinton never asked the Senate to ratify it. By focusing on CO2, and on a certain date, two large countries in Europe obtained a competitive advantage. In the case of Germany the advantage was that since they had just reunified with the former USSR satellite East Germany, they obtained a whole bunch of World War II-era factories that were heavy polluters. All they had to do was close the factories they were going to close anyway and they got a huge windfall in their emissions budget. In the case of France, the date was before more nuclear power had come online which, of course, has no CO2 emissions.
The United States, on the other hand, had seen its nuclear industry driven out of existence by activists, who had President Clinton and Senator John Kerry on their side, declaring that all nuclear science led to nuclear bombs. Together, they crippled zero-emissions energy in America and, as a result, more and more coal plants were built instead, producing more and more emissions. Due to that environmental war on science, America remained the world leader in CO2 emissions until the 2000s when China - a developing nation and exempt from climate change treaties, at their own insistence - could not fudge their self-reported CO2 numbers any longer. Europe, meanwhile, has succeeded in cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 18% since 1990, which they tout as a success by saying "climate policy can be implemented in a way that fosters jobs and growth."
Credit: DPA. Link: Spiegel
If cutting emissions (and not just closing Soviet factories and adding nuclear plants) was such an economic win, why would Germany decide they are going into the fracking business? Why would German Chancellor Angela Merkel block stricter exhaust emissions?
Why would the EU suddenly decide they are going to declare green energy voluntary?
Well, they have almost met their goals of 20% by 2020 and the alternative energy touted by activists is not as economically sustainable as they had claimed it would be by this time. Environmentalists want their favored 'alternative' (I don't say 'green' because obviously nuclear is green but they are against that) to be at a fixed ratio of all energy, including in the future, but policy makers know that is not viable, so they instead want to stick to their CO2 targets. That means natural gas is now part of the mix. They can still get cheaper, cleaner energy with less emissions that way. The whole world now looks at the US as a model for how to reduce emissions without having runaway costs and that's even with the EPA doing what it can to promote activist agendas.
Yes, "pioneering policies" regarding climate change will take a back seat. But pioneers often get arrows in the back, and Germany is tired of getting shot at economically.
Germany Embraces Natural Gas