From the Toronto Globe and Mail website, a Canadian compares German energy efficiency policies to German ones:
Jason Schwartz from Hamburg, Germany, Canada writes: Canada does have a lot to learn from Germany about reducing its emissions. As a Canadian who has been living in Hamburg for the last 5 months I have noticed several things about the German mentality that I will make sure to push for when I get back home.
Germans recycle, they plant trees, they generally walk places, there are parks (that are busy every nice day) and In farmers fields they have windmills as far as the eye can see. In Germany their windmills are turned on and actually generate energy. They all drive fuel efficient (new) cars. Their public transit system is actually comfortable and truly a better alternative to driving.
They don’t waste things like water or electricity (because they cost a fortune here). They hang their clothes to dry instead of always putting them in the dryer.
They invest in the sciences and industry and encourage scientific advancement. With more money in the sciences there are more innovative technologies that can help the whole world reduce their emissions.
Canadians as a whole, take so many things about our lifestyle for granted because things like Gas, Electricity and Water are so cheap we just use more then we actually need. Just for the record Germans pay about 1.4 euros (about $2) a liter for gas and they don’t complain about it either.
Well-put. The U.S. should be doing more to economize, but it gets disproportionate blame for energy inefficiency. Canada has higher per-capita energy consumption than the United States. And even Canada is not the highest energy consumer; the Gulf states and even tiny Iceland use far more per-capita. Let’s also keep in mind that the largest factors driving energy consumption are not the personal qualities of a country’s inhabitants, but (1) its level of economic development; (2) its size; and (3) extreme climate. Canada has all three factors. So do most parts of the U.S.
That being said, I agree with Schwartz. Germany has the advantages of a mild climate and small size (it’s about as big as Montana), but it’s also taken steps to maximize energy efficiency that the U.S. and Canada could learn from. As Schwartz points out, there’s no beating high prices as a means of curbing demand. Especially when they’re combined with policies that increase elasticity of demand for energy. Demand for gasoline in the U.S. is pretty inelastic because in most U.S. cities, there’s no workable alternative to driving. For Germans who find gas too expensive, there’s always an option — bike, tram, walking. Some, if not all of these measures could be implemented in the U.S. and Canada if there were the political will, and I, for one, would like to see it happen. [h/t Ed P.]