When one of us (Mackenzie Fries) visited Germany last month, she saw firsthand the cost of the nation’s environmental policies, and it was staggering. Germans continue to complain about the ever-increasing energy costs that result from those policies, a major source of discontent.
The nation has been phasing out conventional fuels and phasing in less reliable, less abundant renewable energy sources, resulting in higher prices, shortages, and a greater reliance on adversarial nations like Russia and China. The country’s trials should prove to be a vital lesson for those of us in the United States.
Sebastian Lehnerer, a Berlin native, related, “The impact [of the energy crisis] is easy to say, I just have a lot less money. I now pay a quarter more in electricity since the Ukraine war started. The annual Warmmiete [warm rent] that I pay, which covers rent, heating, and hot water, is now 20% higher, not including the additional costs I have to pay at the end of the year. There are some people using only natural gas as a heating source who are paying 55% more.”
Energy prices have increased by 28% compared to February 2022. In the last year, natural gas prices have risen 39% and electricity prices have risen 27%.
Food prices increased by 23%, and the price of pork rose by 59%. The most shocking change was the almost doubling of sugar prices.
In terms of inflation, Lehnerer stated that prices are much higher than reported: “Flour is 100% more expensive. Many bakeries are going out of business because of the high electricity prices and expensive flour.”
Lehnerer also discussed restrictions for using carbon-based fuels in Germany, saying “The [former German Chancellor Angela] Merkel regime placed an additional carbon tax on car gasoline a few years ago. Every year, the gas tax increases.” In addition, he mentioned that individuals pay higher yearly car taxes depending on the amount of carbon their car produces.
The problem is not only that Germany was hit by the disruption in Russia’s natural gas supplies because of the Russia-Ukraine war. The greater issue lies in Germany’s efforts to phase out its own domestic resources of nuclear and coal-fired power. The majority of Germany’s nuclear plants have been closed in the last decade.
These energy problems ultimately caused Merkel to resign as chancellor after significant public backlash. The coalition government Merkel headed shut down nearly all of Germany’s nuclear plants following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant catastrophe.
Merkel’s closure of power plants made the country even more reliant on foreign natural gas supplies from Russia. The war in Ukraine simply brought the consequences of Germany’s green energy policies to the surface.
The resulting reductions in emissions in Germany comprise only a tiny fraction of global emissions. Germany’s emissions of 675 million tons of carbon dioxide account for less than 2% of the total 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide each year. Germans are ultimately being taxed for little global gain.
Germany’s nuclear exit signaled its growing weakness as it shifted away from cultivating greater energy independence. The nation has transitioned from relying on Russia for its natural gas to relying on China for solar panels and wind turbines. Ninety-five percent of the solar cells in Germany are manufactured in China. In addition, more than 50% of the raw materials used to construct wind turbines are sourced from China.
This past July, the German Bundestag passed the Onshore Wind Energy Act to ramp up the construction of wind turbines across the country. Germany’s green technology policies are only driving the country into the hands of China—and its reliance on wind is raising the price of electricity and slowing the economy.
A Daily Signal report on energy states that “renewable energy (i.e., wind, solar, biofuels, and hydropower) only accounted for 14% of the EU’s electricity mix, nuclear accounted for 10%, and conventional fuels (i.e., natural gas, oil, and coal) accounted for 76%.” American officials have long warned European countries to diversify their energy supplies and that renewable energy was not a reliable replacement for conventional fuels.
Germany should not rely on either China or Russia for something as critical as its energy supply. Countries need to be able to care for themselves and maintain their energy independence. The current German government is shooting itself in the foot by continuing to impose laws to destroy all coal power plants and nuclear power plants in the wake of its ongoing energy crisis—precisely when it needs them most.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal