A Canadian Praises a Merkel

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.]

10 thoughts on “A Canadian Praises a Merkel

  1. per-capita energy consumption … tiny Iceland use far more per-capitaYou’re probably just trolling but energy a) isn’t used, just converted from one form to another, and b) even if it was, no one would care. Fossil fuel is the problem and Iceland is using much less per capita (about 10t CO2/year) than the U.S./Canada (20t/year), more or less in line with other European countries. They are also the only country in the world with a realistic plan to go completely fossil free in the forseeable future. Why don’t you scold the French for their bad food while you’re at it.


  2. You’re probably just trolling but a) Canada doesn’t use energy, its people do and b) even if they didn’t nobody would care because its a land far, far away and very cold.


  3. It seems that one needs to be either masochistic or an American idealist to praise in earnest the German politics for further driving up the already historically high fuel prices. The theory about demand elasticity is also quite peculiar, considering that the young man or woman of today trying to hold down three jobs to survive is expected to be mobile and willing to trade Zwickau for Stuttgart.

    Also, rather than the disincentivising effects you’re suggesting, as a result of the fuel prices, drivers continuously flee to neighbouring countries’ cheaper gas-stations, thereby consuming even more gas and emitting more CO2. And while it is probably true that in German agglomerations people use public transport more frequently than in North America, I would believe that this is mainly because over here they simply can’t afford a car in the first place (blame our solid economy and the competitive wages) or, for those that can, that they want to avoid the horrors of traffic jams and finding a parking spot.


  4. You’re probably just trolling, but neither Canada nor Iceland consume any energy at all, because igloos are heated by preserving the inhabitants’ body warmth and sled dogs feed off natural resources.


  5. I was recently back in the US visiting family, and the superiority of rack-drying clothes struck my mind. I do it all the time in the UK. I’m wearing my favorite pair of pants today which is remains in excellent shape after being worn weekly for that period. That never happened before I quit using dryers. Dryers dramatically reduce the life of clothing.

    Drip-dry is less convenient but is much easier on clothes as well as being energy efficient. The savings aren’t limited to the energy used by dryers: It costs energy to manufacture new clothing and to go to the shop, so if one can triple the life of clothing it’s a considerable savings in cash and carbon…..

    Let’s see… I own a dishwasher too. It’s name is ‘Don’….


  6. “neither Canada nor Iceland consume any energy at all”

    Neither does the US, where we all live in Tipis and burn buffalo dung for warmth…. 😉

    Speaking of global warming – had you thought of it from the Canadia POV? Newfoundland will be the new Costa del Sol!


  7. “…Newfoundland will be the new Costa del Sol!”
    And the Baltic Sea the new Mediterranean.
    If God wanted me to be in the sun, I wouldn’t be a German.
    I want ice cold winters and a summer with temperatures between 20° and 30° Celsius not 30° and 40°.


  8. “a Canadian compares German energy efficiency policies to German ones”
    First sentence, and you’re problably just.. 🙂


  9. Germans pay about 1.4 euros (about $2) a liter for gas and they don’t complain about it either
    What? Have you ever met a German car driver not complaining about gas prices?


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