Germany is a perfect example of how producing energy with no pollution (in many case no burning) leads to an economic expansion and creates new good paying jobs. Bush and the Republicans have been wrong all along. Nixon, Reagan and Bush oh my!
Green revolution in the making –
environmental protection efforts
The cumulative effect of all these programs is to place Germany in a commanding position as nations beset with environmental problems search for ways to reduce pollution quickly and inexpensively. Thailand, for example, decided to install scrubbers on its coal-fired power plants after a single episode of air pollution in Mae Mo District sent more than 4,000 of its citizens to doctors and hospitals. Smog-bound Mexico City has been forced to implement emissions controls on cars and factories. Taiwan is even going so far as to require catalytic converters for motorcycles. Such mandates will almost inevitably benefit Germany because, as Harvard Business School economist Michael Porter explains, “Germany has had perhaps the world’s tightest regulations in stationary air-pollution control, and German companies appear to hold a wide lead in patenting–and exporting–air pollution and other environmental technologies.”
In the United States, however, where environmental standards were relaxed by a succession of Reagan/Bush appointees, often in the name of competitiveness, “as much as 70 percent of the air pollution control equipment sold…is produced by foreign companies,” according to Porter, whose 855-page study of industrial economies, The Competitive Advantage of Nations, examines the impact of environmental regulations on competitiveness.
Germany’s actions continue to contrast sharply with those of the United States, even under President Clinton, whom most environmentalists supported as the green answer to George Bush. Germany’s emissions limits on power plants and incinerators are 4 to 300 times more stringent than those of the United States. German companies that generate electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable forms of power are reimbursed at twice to three times U.S. levels. German recycling is mandatory, while American programs are usually voluntary where they exist at all.
Still, support for Germany’s environmental initiatives is by no means unanimous. Wolfgang Hilger, for example, the chairman of Hoechst, Germany’s largest chemical company, complained bitterly in 1991 that the government had lost all sense of proportion. He claimed that regulations had jeopardized 250 jobs at his company, and threatened it with a $100-million loss. But Hilger represents a minority view. Most German citizens and businesses remain convinced both that environmental protection is essential and that the technological innovation stimulated by stringent environmental requirements will, over the long term, strengthen their national productivity and competitiveness.
Tragically, U.S. political leaders continue to embrace the outmoded and false view that the environment can be protected only at the expense of the economy, when the truth is precisely the opposite. Meanwhile, products of American genius continue to depart for Japan, Germany, and other nations, only to be sold back to U.S. industry sometime in the future. So far, the homes-from-pollution process hasn’t traveled full circle back to its place of invention in the United States. But don’t be surprised if sometime soon you see a piece of wallboard being nailed into a new office or a remodeled home only to find it boldly emblazoned: “Made in Germany.”