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EDITORIAL: European Union cooling to global-warming energy costs

The Europeans retreat from the blight of unintended consequences

- - Monday, January 27, 2014

In both America and Europe, the public was assured that banning popular incandescent light bulbs was for everyone's good. The pale curlicue substitutes may be substantially more expensive in their upfront cost, but because they sip electricity, they'll surely save money in the long run (although as Winston Churchill famously reminded us, in the long run, there is no long run).

We ought to take note of what's happening on the other side of the Atlantic. The government that giveth, taketh.

Across Europe, the price of retail electricity has soared by 20 percent over four years, thanks to the European Union's devotion to combatting the "rise" in global temperatures. With every flip of the switch, the "savings" from those fluorescent light bulbs disappear in a flash.

The same people who took away the light bulbs are responsible. "Energy prices are increasing because of the policies they've put in place with extremely generous [renewable] energy subsidies," Edward Chow, senior fellow in the energy and national security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells this newspaper's Ben Wolfgang. "It's had not only all these unintended consequences, but the opposite consequences [from what] they were aiming for."

In the face of a backlash from beleaguered consumers, the Eurocrats are retreating from ambitious plans to use "taxes and levies" to turn down the planet's thermostat. Diverting billions into wasteful and inefficient power sources such as windmills, that stop working when there's no breeze, and solar panels that generate no power when there's a cloud overhead, is obviously going to be more costly than efficient power sources that function around the clock.

Last week, the 28-nation EU proposed significant modification to the one-size-fits-all global-warming policy. The European Commission, the EU's executive body, now proposes ending individual national targets for use of windmills, algae and sun-power, which means greater leeway for using the stuff that actually works: natural gas, hydro and nuclear power.

The EU had previously planned to require all member nations to derive a certain percentage of their power from intermittent sources by 2030, but it retreated when realizing the cost of blighting the landscape with endless stretches of windmill farms and solar panels.

"My aim is to make sure that energy remains affordable for households and companies," says Gunther Oettinger, the energy commissioner, though he hasn't given up on achieving his global-warming targets "at least cost."

On this side of the ocean, we're in the midst of another polar vortex bringing bone-chilling temperatures to a large swath of the nation. The only thing we need less than a government policy that makes the planet colder is a policy that drives up our electric bills. (And this week we could use an extra blanket.)