The inability to see nuances afflicts Left as well as Right. When I was studying politics at Edinburgh in the 1990s, Germany was idolized by many of the Left as the ideal opposite of Marquand´s “Unprincipled Society” description of the UK, for example. Like with all stereotypes, there was some truth in that: Germany´s state, to this day, remains stronger in many ways than the UK´s. And that has real impacts. Housing conditions (insulation, anyone?) are very different in the two countries, for example, reflecting much higher standards in Germany.
- renewables continue to rise and play an ever more important role (I am looking forward to the UK reaching 11,8% of primary energy or 25% of electricity consumption from renewables)
- Coal use as a whole also is not rising and there is more energy generated per ton of coal – so emissions of the power sector as a whole may, if we are lucky, even be declining (sadly, we do not have official numbers yet).
- As no nuclear capacity was decommissioned in 2013, the nuclear phase out clearly has nothing to do with the increased use of lignite (and by the way, no nuclear capacity was decommissioned in 2012 either, nor is any planned to be taken off the grid in 2014).
- Germany has exported more electricity in 2013, so to claim that there was an energy “gap” that needed filling by fossil fuels is simply a fantasy.
- the failure of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the resulting ridiculously low price of carbon.
- in classic economics - as lignite is being burnt in old, “written off” plants that can, as a result, make huge profits easily. And in – equally “classic”-
- market failure - as externalities are not reflected in energy prices (which means that the huge health costs of lignite, for example, are born by society and the tax payer, not the energy producers).