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Ecological-Industrial Complex

Environmental policies produces more inequality than neoliberal ones, says Malte Lehming in the Wall Street Journal. He works for Der Tagesspiegel, which has published the provocative German original (HT: Ava). He acknowledges German leadership in the green industry:

In 15 years, according to a government-sponsored study, green technology will overtake the automobile industry as Germany's core industry. A multi-billion-dollar market has developed, and Germany is the leader in many emerging branches, with a worldwide market share in green technology of around 16%. Some 1.5 million Germans already work in the green industry.

This progress, however, comes at the expense of the working classes:

The Greens like to portray themselves as fighting against the excesses of capitalism. Now it's clear that the ecological-industrial complex increases inequality more than neo-liberal policies ever could.

Meanwhile a very different situation in the United States, home of the so-called "military industrial complex." The midterm elections are bad for America's green industry and the future of the US economy in general, writes Carnegie Fellow John Judis in The New Republic. His article on the Lost Generation is among the most negative assessments of the Republican gains at Congress:

America's challenge over the next decade will be to develop new industries that can produce goods and services that can be sold on the world market. The United States has a head start in biotechnology and computer technology, but as the Obama administration recognized, much of the new demand will focus on the development of renewable energy and green technology. As the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans understand, these kinds of industries require government coordination and subsidies. But the new generation of Republicans rejects this kind of industrial policy. They even oppose Obama's obviously successful auto bailout.

Instead, when America finally recovers, it is likely to re-create the older economic structure that got the country in trouble in the first place: dependence on foreign oil to run cars; a bloated and unstable financial sector that primarily feeds upon itself and upon a credit-hungry public; boarded-up factories; and huge and growing trade deficits with Asia. These continuing trade deficits, combined with budget deficits, will finally reduce confidence in the dollar to the point where it ceases to be a viable international currency.

Strong stuff! Both articles!. Germans are screwed in the short run, Americans in the medium run? And in the long run we are all dead. Speaking of which: Is Obama a Keynesian?

Iceland's Long Shadow

The recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull is not the first time Iceland has thrust itself upon the European and global stage.

Indeed, this small Nordic country with only 315,000 inhabitants has played a remarkably prominent role at important junctures of history. Four of these periods come to mind:

1) The Icelandic eruption of 1783 led to "the year without summer" for much of Europe and the resulting famine contributed to the civil unrest in France. Some historians go so far as to say the French Revolution was a direct result of the volcanic eruption on Iceland.
2) The invasion and occupation of Iceland in World War II marked the transfer of naval power from the United Kingdom to the United States. While Great Britain invaded the island in 1940 to preempt a German invasion, the British quickly recognized they were unable to maintain their occupation force on the island. By 1941, American forces were occupying the island, and the new hegemon in the neighborhood was quickly recognized.
3) The Cod Wars between Iceland and Great Britain was one of only two major conflicts between NATO countries and nearly led to a full-fledged war between the two island nations. The conflict centered on fishing rights in Iceland's coastal waters and eventually led to international law regarding fishing rights and the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. Lingering concern about Icelandic fishing rights continues to be the biggest reason why Iceland remains outside the EU.
4) Beginning in 2003, Icelandic banks and investors were on the cutting edge of a global financial sector that used complex models, leveraging, and financial products to make enormous profits. But by 2006, it was already becoming apparent that the incredible explosion of the Icelandic banking sector was not sustainable and the island was on the leading edge of the global economic meltdown.

And now, citizens on both sides of the Atlantic have again remembered the island in the middle of the North Atlantic. 
It is just unfortunate that the lovely mid-Atlantic country always seems to remind us of its presence in such unpleasant ways.

European Biofuel Producers Attack US Subsidies

From the Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog:

Europe's biofuel industry has long complained about U.S. subsidies. Friday, it took its case to the European Union but the chances of winning a victory look slim. EU biodiesel producers have been simmering about the $1 per gallon tax credit American biodiesel producers get. EU producers say that distorts the market and, in the words of the biodiesel trade group, created a severe injury to the EU biodiesel industry.

The Guardian is a bit more optimistic regarding the European Biodiesel Board's case.

Creative Bush Bashing

The New York Times Blog The Lede (HT: David) describes a press release from Germany's Environment Minister Gabriel (Social Democrats) as "creative":

In a statement released today, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel described Mr. Bush's speech on Wednesday as disappointing. But the statements harshest words were put in the title of Mr. Gabriel's critique, according to Reuters: "Gabriel Criticizes Bush's Neanderthal Speech. Losership, Not Leadership"

Comparing any unpopular leader to an ancestor of Man is hardly original, though far more expected from the likes of Kim Jong Il of North Korea rather than a government with warm ties to the U.S. Mr. Gabriel's kicker, however, seemed in a league of its own. Losership, Not Leadership? That's a new one, according to Google.

UPDATE: Mr. Gabriel was criticized in March for polluting the atmosphere. He used a government plane to fly back from the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca for a cabinet meeting in Berlin, writes Spiegel International (HT: Bashy).

Climate Sanctions Proposed Against the United States and the European Car Industry

Germany's Social Democrats are calling for sanctions on energy-intensive US export products if the Bush administration continues to obstruct international agreements on climate protection, writes The Boston Globe (HT: David).

Meanwhile, German car manufactures and many politicians are angry at EU plans to impose hefty financial penalties against companies, whose fleet of cars does not reduce carbon emissions enough. The idea is to slash auto emissions by 25%. The EU proposal came the same day the U.S. passed tighter fuel-efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks, which could affect a brewing national debate about emissions. The Wall Street Journal writes that in the case of Volkswagen, the penalties could total as much as Euro 1.4 billion (US-$ 2.02 billion), roughly half the company's 2006 net income.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Germany's Dirty Cars

Germany's Dirty Cars

International Herald Tribune:

Cars produced by German manufacturers like Daimler and Volkswagen are getting dirtier even as those from French and Italian manufacturers like Peugeot and Fiat are getting cleaner. Of the major car producing countries in Europe, emissions of carbon dioxide from new cars sold by German automakers increased 0.6 percent in 2006, even as French and Italian car makers cut their emissions by an average 1.6 percent, according to the study published by Transport & Environment, a campaign group for sustainable transport based in Brussels. German carmakers "seem to be intent on building ever heavier, larger and more gas-guzzling cars that simply don't belong in the 21st century," said Jos Dings, a director of T&E.

German Government Split on President Bush's Climate Policy

Chancellor Merkel (CDU) welcomed President Bush's invitation to the world's 16 worst polluters for climate talks, despite his continuing opposition to mandatory targets on global warming. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier (SPD), however, thinks that it would be more productive to negotiate with individual US states rather than with the US federal government. He recently met with Governor Schwarzenegger, see Casey Butterfield's op-ed "For Transatlantic Future, Look Beyond Heads of State" in Atlantic Community.

And Germany's Environment Minister Gabriel (SPD) got real angry with Chancellor Merkel's and President Bush's proposal to expand nuclear energy to fight climate change. He is quoted by DW World:

First you urge people to expand nuclear energy and then you send in NATO to bomb the nuclear power plants because they did the wrong thing -- that isn't particularly intelligent politics.

Well, that is quite a populistic statement by the former SPD commissioner for pop-culture. After all, the IAEA found indications that Iran's nuclear program is not for civilian use only. Besides, it is very unlikely that NATO would agree to bomb Iran.

Europe is Caught in America's Culture Wars

Left-wing and right-wing Americans reduce Europe to Amsterdam, Brussels and the Hague and misunderstand Europe, writes Patrick J. Deneen, associate professor of government at Georgetown University:

In America, it is our liberals who praise the liberties of Europe while overlooking the conservative impulse of its self-restraint. Meanwhile, our conservatives condemn the statism of Europe without understanding that efforts to conserve - to be conservative - require the active support and laws of government in order to combat the tendencies of markets to produce waste and undermine thrift. Americans of both the left and right have lost the ability to perceive a form of liberty that is achieved through restraint.

America's culture warriors ignore the small towns and villages, which Prof. Deneen visited in southern Germany, central Switzerland and western Austria:

The Europeans I have seen are light years ahead of us in energy conservation and will weather the storm of rising energy costs better than we in America. Indeed, the combination of local economies, nearby productive farmland outside every town, viable public transportation and widespread use of alternative energies points to a culture that has never abandoned sustainable communities in the way that America willfully and woefully has done over the past 50 years.

You can also get some sense of why there is resentment toward America even here in a nation that generally has positive regard toward the U.S. Europeans pay higher prices for everything in an effort to use less and to create less waste in order to leave a sustainable world for their children, and whatever "give" there is in the worldwide production of resources is a kind of unintended sacrificial gift that many Europeans are making so that America can continue its energy gluttony.

Read his entire article in the Dallas Morning News (via EU Digest), also recommended by Rod Dreher in his blog Beliefnet: "If you read nothing else on this blog today, read the post to which I'm linking here." Maybe better transatlantic understanding is on its way after all. By the way, Prof Deneen also blogs at What I Saw in America.