Germany’s Answer To Our Ethanol Folly

I thought it would be a tall order to have a greater energy folly than our ethanol scam, which cost taxpayers billions in direct and indirect subsidies over the last decade or two, but it turns out the Germans have figured out how to do it—through solar power.  Der Spiegel online has a devastating article out this week on Germany’s manic obsession with solar power, whose price tag has now topped $100 billion over the last decade (see the figure below). For this massive amount of money, solar power only provides about 3 percent of Germany’s total electricity.  That is the equivalent of about two of Germany’s nuclear power plants, which cost a lot less than $100 billion to build.

Some of Der Spiegel’s story could have come straight from Monty Python:

The only thing that’s missing at the moment is sunshine. For weeks now, the 1.1 million solar power systems in Germany have generated almost no electricity. The days are short, the weather is bad and the sky is overcast.

Germany has announced that it is going to have to scale back its lavish solar subsidies, and guess what?  Share prices for solar power companies are collapsing.  As one knowledgeable observer of the scene put it:

The scale of the [solar subsidies] is of unprecedented stupidity, a folly that will certainly go down in German history textbooks.  The backpedaling away from solar subsidies in Germany is now happening so fast that it’s making people’s heads spin. Call it the reverse energy supply transition – one from fantasy back to reality.

Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of residual stupidity in the German government.  A few weeks back Der Spiegel interviewed German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, who offers these gems of wisdom:

SPIEGEL: In your opinion, why is there such resistance in the US to climate protection policies?

Röttgen: . . . [T]he American way of life is very strongly rooted in individual freedom and consumption, which makes it difficult to push through a lifestyle based on resource conservation and efficiency.

SPIEGEL: If you were the president of a global government, and you alone could determine the course of international climate policy, what would you do?

Röttgen: The ultimate objective would then be a per capita budget for greenhouse gas emissions, which would apply to every person on the planet. It’s ultimately also a matter of justice.

To paraphrase one of Glenn Reynolds’ favorite signoff themes, Germany is in the very best of hands.

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