The priority given to environment in the public action is not disputable, even if individual behaviors as enterprises operating modes are also essential. But the difficulty rests in the frequent contradictions between political exigences and the technical realities. It then occurs that to answer politician considerations, the States take decisions in the name of the protection of the environment which lead to results contrary to the expected results due to an ignorance, unvoluntary or not, of the consequences of their action. That situation is not limited to France and we have observed similar cases in Germany and even in the United States where, yet, ecological concerns are less present than in Europe.
The first example has been given by the decisions resulting in France of the Grenelle Environment meetings, where the State and the economic partners were gathering together during 2007 2nd half. The focus of the thought on the CO2 reductions has leaded to fix as an objective their division by four at the 2050 horizon when France already had one of the lowest emission rates per inhabitant among the developed countries. To achieve it, the State under the pretext that the cars using diesel were less consuming and so were issuing less CO2, decided to reduced taxes, which incited household to adopt that motorization. In 2023, the share of diesel has represented the two third of the fuel consumption.
But that has leaded to forget the consequences. If engines using diesel consume less gasoline, they issue a lot of fine particles in the atmosphere which heavily affects population breathing capacities. The quality of air in cities, especially in France has deteriorated and doesn’t respect European regulations. Germany has followed the same policy. One of the major country carmakers was even caught in the act of faking engines characteristics to make to believe that it respected regulation regarding pollution, which provoked a major scandal. That policy has also heavily penalized refining industry. As it was not possible to keep the units which were producing essence because demand was oriented toward diesel and that it was not profitable to import oil, to refine it and then to reexport it, one third of the French refining capacities were closed which contributed to the de-industrialization.
The second example, even more spectacular, has been the discredit launched by political movements everywhere in Europe regarding nuclear which was yet the main non intermittent source of de-carbonized power production. France has stopped its investments when the power plants, known for its safety condition of operating, were starting to becoming old and it was necessary to consider the necessary investments to the pursuit of their operating and to the future replacement of the units. Germany did worse in taking as a pretext the accident provoked by a tsunami in Japan to progressively close all of its nuclear power plants.
The true reasons were more dubious. The purpose was to protect jobs in the coal mines and, which has been discovered after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, to get closer relations with that country through making it its main natural gas supplier. Germany so continues to emit twice more CO2 than France for a population superior by 25%. The country, under the pressure of its neighbor, has even closed the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, which yet had received its operating authorizations, at the worst time because several plants were affected by corrosion phenomenon and because, due to the sanctions against Russia, electricity prices were rapidly rising.
The United States have not been spared. When the new oil and gas extraction technologies were discovered and put into operation, sharp campaigns denouncing its consequences on environment were launched against the “shale oil and gas” production. Yet they allowed to much more easily adjusting supply and demand and they needed much less heavy investments than for instance the deepwater drillings to produce petrol. The shale gas development has also allowed to reducing the use of coal in the power plants which has leaded for the first time to a significant and lasting reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions.
When a country like France doesn’t have at its disposal fossil fuels resources, the reduction of its energy consumption allows to satisfying in the same time two objectives, one in favor of environment and the other one, purely economic, through the reduction of its foreign trade deficit. But the incentives offered by the State must not completely destabilize an important sector. Now, the decisions regarding thermal isolation with the forbidding of offering to rent homes which do not respect some criteria provide a good example of what must not be done in the name of environment. It is obvious that the enterprises in the building sector will not have the capacity in a so short timing to realize such a volume of works. Regarding the lessors, when they are physical persons, they have not always the financial resources to achieve these works. It will be so hundreds of thousand leaseholders who risk in the coming years to find themselves without home. The risk of a major social crisis in France cannot be turned down.
Last example, the European decisions regarding the forbidding of the sale of vehicles with a thermal engine in 2035. First, it is not proved that the production of electric vehicles and of their batteries along with their recharging during their life generate less greenhouse gas emissions that the current thermal vehicles. After that, Europe has emission levels much lower than the U.S. and China, where such forbidding has not been decided but where the two world leaders of electric vehicles, Tesla and BYD, are developing. The social and industrial consequences of this decision will be huge. European carmakers have no chance, due to their lag, to cope with that new competition and hundreds of thousand jobs are threatened. It is at least a paradox at a time when In France we are mainly talking about re-industrialization.
We so see in Europe and especially in France, a deep divorce between the legitimate preoccupations in favor of environment and the decisions carrying a mainly political character which are taken, consciously or not, without knowing their full consequences. It is so that the diesel has been favored to the detriment of air quality, that nuclear has been condemned and that the shale gas defaults have been put forward to the profit of coal. Tomorrow, we take the risk to suppress hundreds of thousand jobs in the car industry and to send to the street hundreds of thousand families to the street because it will not have been possible to offer them new jobs or a solution to find a new home.
Europe and France in a top position, are rather virtuous regarding greenhouse gas emissions but the announced decisions can seriously affect populations and industrial sectors to the greatest profit of countries which, them, are not virtuous. The fight against climate warming needs everyone support. Through imposing measures as incomprehensible as unfair, the concerned governments take the risk to loosing this fight.