German industry fleeing?
The Economist claims in a recent article that "Germany's most energy-intensive industries are now eyeing expansion on the other side of the Atlantic," but does not provide a single example.
The Economist has a policy of not indicating who the author of an article is, but the writer behind "Tilting at windmills" certainly gets the facts right (though a more hackneyed title is hard to imagine). For instance, the author correctly describes the origin and design of feed-in tariffs. And there is little to correct in the numbers.
Granted, I could harp on the usual focus that the Anglo press has on big business, such as when the Economist writes that "some firms have grown fat on the renewables surge," and the example given is "Siemens" – not a firm most Germans would even think of as being in the renewables sector, but then the Economist may not be used to writing about mid-size firms like Enercon, the firm that has built around half of the wind turbines installed in Germany (a search on the Economist website reveals three hits for Enercon). The article does not mention the focus on community ownership in German anywhere and mistakes opposition to projects as NIMByism (in reality, the Germans would just like to own the infrastructure themselves, not have corporations boss everyone around).
The article also claims that Germans have "greater fear of nuclear power," a claim I dealt with here. Overall, it seems clear that the real fear is among proponents of nuclear – that Germany will prove that renewables work.
And then there is the complaint about "Germany's curious refusal to think about Europe strategically." The complaint that Germany is going it alone with its energy transition is quite common – and bizarre. Energy policy has always been a matter the EU intentionally left up to member states, and no one has gone it alone more than France, which has 75 percent nuclear power. Clearly, Germany continues to think about the switch to renewables at the European level, not only with the recent announcement of cooperation with Norway, but also the announcement of closer cooperation with Benelux, France, Austria, and Switzerland – a week before the Economist published its report.
But mainly, I wonder why the author does not give any examples of German companies planning to expand in the United States, especially because the author tends to word things correctly and obviously researched the matter well. The charge that high power prices are scaring away industry from Germany is frequently made, such as in this recent article ("It’s no wonder that so many large industrial corporations are migrating out of the country") from the coal sector in the US, but examples are never given.
If any of my readers have any list of specific firms leaving Germany for, say, the US, I would love to look into the matter – drop your links in the comments below. Otherwise, the claim seems bizarre in light of Germany's strong economy (which the Economist depicts as though it is ailing, probably because some arbitrary growth targets considered normal among economists are not met), which is actually largely based on heavy industry, not banking and the post-colonial cultural dominance of English, as in the UK.
Just a day before the Economist article was published, Bloomberg pointed out that wholesale electricity prices in the UK could be twice as high as in Germany two years from now, and those are the rates that industry generally pays – not the rising retail rates. Indeed, the problems that Germany now faces do not seem to include the prospect of rising power costs for industry; if anything, wholesale power prices are so low that power providers are struggling – but energy-intensive industry benefits from that situation. (Craig Morris)