Low US energy prices make Euro leaders see green

Published: Friday, May 24 2013 11:15 a.m. MDT

Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, left, looks at Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, center, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso while they walk away after a group photo was taken during an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Leaders from the 27 European Union countries gather in Brussels for one of their regular European Council sessions. On the agenda is the increasingly controversial subject of large corporations’ creative tax avoidance schemes.

Associated Press

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As the U.S. economy lumbers through a slow recovery, Americans can take comfort that they are not Europeans.

EU leaders from 27 countries met in Brussels this week to discuss energy policy, and the chart that had everyone buzzing had three simple jagged lines. It showed EU electricity prices since 2005 had skyrocketed, while Japan's climbed moderately, and prices in the U.S. plunged sharply.

"Stuck in the doldrums, the European economy has lost nearly all momentum, with growth hard to come by and rising energy costs a real concern," Agence France Presse reported this week.

"We need to secure good value energy supplies ... (which) involves making most use of indigenous resources, such as shale," AFP quoted British Prime Minister David Cameron as saying. "We need to ensure that the old rules do not hold us back ... regulation must not get in the way."

Fear in Europe that Americans will outcompete and draw investment away is palpable, reported Deutsche Welle, a German-English news aggregator, citing an article in Handelsblatt.

"If we don't get on top of the country's energy transition to renewables and are not able to rein in energy costs in the process, German industry's competitiveness stands to suffer," the chief of the Federation of German Industry, Ulrich Grillo said.

"He said that while Germans are embroiled in a debate about the right energy mix, the US was getting more and more attractive as a business location for German firms, thanks not least to President Barack Obama's support for the fracking technology resulting in much cheaper energy prices," Deutsche Welle reported.

With fossil fuels suddenly in vogue again, and seemingly in endless supply, global warming may take a backseat in Europe to economic concerns.

"There is indeed a sort of paradigm shift," said Friedbert Pflüger, European Centre for Energy and Resource Security, in an interview with EurActiv. "While a few years ago, climate policy was the issue which characterised (sic) EU energy policy to 90%, today other priorities have made their way to the forefront. This is because people have understood that there is no peak oil, that we have enough oil and gas for a long-term period. There have been new shale gas findings, new oil reservoirs with tight oil. Secondly, we have the economic and financial crisis, and people had suddenly other priorities than climate change — like having jobs, economic competitiveness, and affordable energy prices."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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