tisdag 22 juni 2010

The EU and Rifkin's dangerous energy ideas

I write the article The EU and Rifkin's dangerous energy ideas, together with Nicklas Lundblad, in The European Voice issue 6, 15 February 2007.

The European energy debate is heating up. This is good.

Less good, however, is the unfortunate mix of lofty visions, buzz-words and simply bad science that seems to range freely in the debate under various headings. One particularly horrible example is that of the Jeremy Rifkin cult now growing like wildfire in Brussels.

Dr. Rifkin, an American scholar, has made it his trademark to engage with high-profile individuals and is a kind of European Union hang-around, appearing everywhere environmental issues and technology are discussed. The man is obviously not stupid, and many of his suggestions have the unmistakable quality of provoking thought.

Obviously this is enough for many European political actors. They happily embrace Rifkins ideas and join with him in calling for things like
a green hydrogen economy (the green part being that he wants to phase out nuclear energy because it is centralised) and a third industrial revolution. MEPs like the charismatic Jo Leinen have quickly bought into these tasty catchphrases and now embrace Rifkin like the long-lost visionary the European Union so badly needs.

Rifkin readily offered, recently, a European dream that supposedly would surpass even the American one. This European dream is shifting the EU to a - take a deep breath – post-carbon and uranium-free Europe.

The American dream is rising in society by personal accomplishment in a free society. What we Europeans are offered dream-wise by this American professor is a dirigiste industrial energy production shift. No thanks.

This would probably not be as upsetting if it was not for the fact that Rifkin has an inordinate amount of influence in European Union-affairs. Back in 2005 he engineered a major call for subsidies for the hydrogen sector where several MEPs obediently joined him. During Energy Week in the EU a draft has been circulated containing a joint declaration on, among other things, a green hydrogen economy and a post-carbon Europe. The idea is to force even more people down under the Rifkin agenda, and to lock in other actors than the ones currently in favour.

So far Rifkin has not done irreparable harm to the European energy debate. But the fact that he has been able garner such support for his often fuzzy and ill-defined ideas, not only among Greenpeace activists and Friends of the Earth, is worrying. The draft contains a surely mistaken idea about reducing energy
consumption by 20 percent to the year 2020!

It is a sign of intellectual poverty that the European energy debate is currently dominated by an American professor that wants us to dream not about a free individual in a free society with a free market, but about welfare-state engineered technical shifts in energy production.

Let us find our own way.

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