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Sun Mar 10, 2013, 06:37 AM

Why German Conservatives Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Renewables

Last edited Sun Mar 10, 2013, 02:06 PM - Edit history (1)

Forgetting their Roots – and their Constituents
Why German Conservatives Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Renewables

by Paul Hockenos

The Merkel administration’s ambiguous relationship with the country’s transition to renewable energy, or Energiewende, speaks volumes about German conservatives’ troubled relationship with the clean energy transition. At some opportunities, Merkel and her lieutenants praise to the sky the clean energy switch that Merkel embraced in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. But at other times, they urge caution, gripe that everything is moving much too quickly, and damn the transition for high consumer prices.

The fact is that German conservatives are split over the Energiewende, with the nay-sayers still largely predominant. This is a huge miscalculation, not only with negative implications for Germany but for German conservatism, which is forsaking a topic that fits in well with a conservative world view and will continue to cost its parties votes if their energy hawks win the day.

The Christian Democrats have had a small, environmentally friendly, pro-renewable energy wing since the 1980s. In line with conservative ideology, they emphasize environmental justice for future generations, ecological conservation, the responsibility to respect God’s creations, and opportunities for entrepreneurs. These are fundamental conservative values.

Few observers remember that it was not the Greens who initiated incentives for clean energy in Germany, but rather Helmut Kohl’s government in the early 1990s. Kohl was pushed to do so not by Green Party tree huggers but by conservative landowners with small hydro-power operations who wanted to sell their electricity to the utilities. Probably even fewer remember that the earliest formations of the Greens in the late 1970s/early 1980s included the likes of the former CDU minister Herbert Gruhl. But Gruhl and a mixed bag of other conservatives fled the party when the splintered detritus of the ultra-left factions, including one disillusioned anarchist by the name of Joschka Fischer, appeared on the scene, yanking it to the left – where it remains today.

Since then, German conservatives have by and large abdicated clean-energy topics to the left...


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