EuroElections 2009 : EPP-ED

This post is the first in a series of posts looking at the policies in the field of energy proposed by the main political parties/blocks running for the 2009-2014 term at the European Parliament. This series will look into the guidelines on Energy Policy that each party is proposing to euro-citizens, based on the information made available on-line, found in home-pages, electronic leaflets or booklets.

Starting this series is the EPP-ED, the Christian-Democrat block that has held the largest number of seats at Strasbourg since the Assembly's first day.

An audio version of this log entry can be downloaded here.

EPP-ED is a coalition of regional Conservative or Christian-Democrats parties plus a few scattered Liberal parties. Most of these parties have rotated power at the state level and can be seen as the largest molders of what the European Union is today. With the largest electoral base, both at state- and at union-level, the party is also home to the ideas behind most of the policies and legislation put in place by the Commission and the Parliament.

The present Commission was shaped by the EPP-ED, largely influencing the choice of names for Commissioner positions. Commission President, José Manuel Durão Barroso, although a Liberal, is a member of EPP-ED through his home state party – PPD/PSD – a Liberal party that has the largest militant base in Portugal.

The party's home-page is pleasant looking and well organized; although more focused in showing the work already made or in development by the parliamentary group. There's also an entire webpage solely dedicated to this year's election, a good place to learn more about the party's stance and proposed programmes in other fields besides energy.

It didn't take much time to find a booklet presenting the party's political guidelines for the 2009-2014 term. This booklet is very good, presenting not only the political programme but also a summation of the party's ideology and its place at the present geo-political landscape. After messages from the group's parliamentary leaders, there is a section that explains the values at the core of the party's ideology, which reads as follows:

The European Union needs to update, reassert and modernise its values: freedom, democracy equality, the rule of law, along with respect for human rights, including those of minority groups. These values are common to all Member States, in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women.

The essential pillars of our political activity must be to safeguard family values – particularly in response to challenging demographic trends and a falling birth rate – and to defend freedom of education. After all, the family is the basic unit that enables people to overcome crises, help each other, and prepare for the future. Our policy must be to strengthen families, ensure inter-generational solidarity and the passing on of values and heritage. The EPP-ED Group supports the laicism of the State, where this is a positive secularism that protects freedom of religion in a spirit of cooperation based on dialogue, mutual respect and reciprocal independence.

Economic rights are not secondary rights. They must be forcefully reasserted. Our Group believes that freedom of education, research, enterprise and competition are individual rights and the basis of a healthy and prosperous economy. There can be no justification for infringing these rights, which must, on the contrary, be further enhanced.

The value of effort, work, ownership and saving is insufficiently upheld. The current reforms aimed at reducing the burden on those wishing to work, save and invest must be continued.

A full page of this booklet is dedicated to Energy Policy. The header for this page is

Developing a coherent energy policy in the context of measures to combat climate change and sustainable development.

The party's vision is summarized in a single paragraph:

The EPP-ED Group supports the establishment of a diversified energy mix, promoting higher energy efficiency in all activity sectors, the completion of the internal energy market and the development of a coherent foreign energy policy.

And after it four strategic lines are laid down:

Towards a zero or low-CO2 emitting energy mix

The EPP-ED calls for:

  • more investment in R&D for clean technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and methanol energy, biofuels, biogas and biomass, which will allow us to rely on indigenous sources of energy in a sustainable way;

  • more emphasis on clean energy technologies such as nuclear energy on the part of those States that favour it, the use of clean technology when using fossil fuels and the use of renewable wind, marine, solar and thermal energies;

  • large-scale renovation of the cities (building stock, district heating systems, public transport);

  • increased cooperation and dialogue between Member States in order to avoid drastic consequences for the price and quantity of imported sources and for the overall levels of the EU’s CO2 emissions.

The first four elements put forward are CCS, hydrogen and methanol “energy” and biofuels, which are even called “indigenous sources of energy”. A worse starting would be hard to imagine, leaving a lot to be desired for on the party's understanding of what is energy. On the positive side, there is a reference to urban planning and its role in Energy Policy. Still, one can't stop thinking that these lines are simply a gathering of names that have a good echo with the press; yes, Nuclear is there, but lightheartedly, but only for those who want it.

Energy efficiency as a key driver of competitiveness and respect for the environment

Energy efficiency in all sectors represents the most cost-effective and rapid way to reduce our energy dependence on imports, rationalise consumption in households and industry and drastically reduce our CO2 emissions. This requires the involvement of all economic and social sectors.

The EPP-ED Group advocates:

  • fiscal incentives for citizens and companies undertaking renovation works in the building sector and for the purchase of energy efficient vehicles and appliances;

  • providing users with accurate information so that they can rationalise their energy consumption, encouraging new technologies such as smart meters in particular;

  • continuing the rapid development of cogeneration in our energy-intensive industries and encouraging other sectors of industry to follow suit.

Things get better at this stage; the efficiency message is now well absorbed by the political class who understand how simple and light tactics can have an important impact in energy consumption (like the Labelling Directives). Naturally, one may or may not agree with specific tactics as fiscal incentives for vehicles substitution, but nonetheless, the election of Efficiency as a priority is quite welcome.

The internal energy market as enabler of open competition, higher efficiency and cost-reflective prices

Completion of the internal energy market is essential to the success of our security of supply and environmental goals. However, many obstacles to the free movement of gas and electricity within the EU still remain: lack of interconnection capacity between Member States; lack of harmonisation of basic technical rules; political protectionism; and the coexistence of 27 different regulatory frameworks.

The EPP-ED Group supports:

  • further technical and regulatory harmonisation, placing all companies on a level playing field so that they can serve customers throughout the Union, increase interconnection capacity, and create competition in isolated and closed-off areas;

  • setting up social programmes for vulnerable sectors of society without interfering with the market;

  • encouraging a truly integrated and open market in order to ensure that energy prices reflect actual production costs; an efficient market is also essential to encourage the significant investment necessary for the introduction of renewable energy sources.

Using rhetoric similar to that of the Commission, EPP-ED sets forth its belief that increasing the competition in the internal market can secure energy supplies from abroad and moreover, foster investment in renewables. On the latter, Jérôme had the opportunity to explain just recently why this isn't the case. As for the former, why more competition between, say Portuguese and Spanish companies can bring more oil from, say Angola to Europe is something that only this party and the Commission seem to know – especially in the face of natural depletion. None of this suggests that liberalizing the internal market is an undesirable objective; while its priority is mainly an ideological choice, its effect on the problems Europe is facing today is quite limited.

Creating supportive energy diplomacy.

The EU represents more than 500 million consumers and therefore needs to establish a real energy diplomacy.

Solidarity mechanisms need to be established between Member States in case of emergency situations. The gas supply crisis over the past two years as well as the two EU-wide blackouts have demonstrated the need to improve physical interconnection and rapid reaction mechanisms, in order to avoid the potentially critical consequences these events can have on the economy and on society.

Reading the header of this section one could even get the idea that the EPP-ED is proposing a European Foreign Minister/Ministry, but that's not exactly the idea. Nonetheless, solidarity and physical interconnection are some of the added strengths the Union can provide and mentioning them is welcome.

All in all, this programme doesn't differ much from what the Commission stood for during the term that now ends. The booklet's section on energy is close to a condensed version of the Commision's Energy Reviews. Being so, the same problems are present: it is understood that something is wrong, although not quite well what; the recipe: throw at it all that the hand can reach, well mixed with a liberalized internal market. It turns out that some of what is being thrown at the problem is actually lumber into the fire.

One positive element is the attempt to build a thorough Energy Policy, composed of four strategic lines, underlying an integrated vision. These strategies are not properly realised by concrete goals, which even at this level of contact with the broader public should be possible. A few tactics are put forward, that as explained above, do not exactly conform to the vision and strategies outlined. A sense of lack of commitment ends up emerging from the programme as a whole.

Calling CCS an “indigenous source of energy” is one of the most hilarious things ever included in an energy policy statement.

For those of us unfamiliar with European political parties, maybe a summary introduction to the parties that are likely to win at least one seat (or election) would have been helpful.

You say that the platform of the party is pretty much the same as the one put forward for the previous election, so I am wondering what was done or realized or implemented from this platform in the past four or five years? Though there is no guarantee that the future will be like the past, maybe if we knew how they did previously we could assess how they may do in the next five years.

Though the US has 50 ostensibly "independent" states, we are really dominated by one central government and so have at least a legal basis for union-wide policies. I am wondering what progress can be made to achieve union among 27 disparate states with no real centralized government.

The energy platform seems rather scattered, like a shotgun, than focused, like a rifle. Also, there seems to be some dissimulation there, like calling nuclear a clean energy.

The EU is not quite what it appears:

First there are no pan-European political parties (note: I think there is one this election!). The elections are based on each country's parties, hence the "blocks" which are associations of related parties that have agreed to work together. I don't know about other countries, but in the UK the EU elections are seen as a poll on how things are going here with the current government, rather than on what is wanted for the EU. Certainly the party broadcast for the Liberal Democrats that I saw the other day did not mention anything about European policies, it purely focused on the failings of the current (Labour) government and what they would do instead.

Second, the EU is not that democratic. Although the Parliament is slowly gaining (and taking) power, the commision (effectively the EU executive) is appointed. The Council of Ministers is formed by the relevant ministers for each country coming to negotiate for what they want. Only the Parliament is directly elected by us Europeans.

Finally, while the EU is "less" centralised, from what I understand of both the EU and other federalised countries(Eg US, Canada, Australia), the EU has more effective power over member states than the centralised governments of other countries (please let me know if I am wrong on this). Difficult to say why, though the lack of a proper constitution does not help.

Very good and worth reading comment, I would just want to add one thing.

Every EU party is a "federation" of national parties. National parties vary quite a bit. For instance, I would argue that the British PM (Labour party) and Portuguese PM (Socialist party) both members of the European Socialists are right of the German PM (Christian Democrats) though she comes from a conservative party (she comes from the social wing).

I would argue that a good proxy of absolute political positioning would be the Gini coefficient (google for it if you dont know what that is) for each country. More unequal (say Portugal or UK) are normally to the right of more equal countries (say Scandinavia, Germanic countries).

That being said I would put the EPP-ED somewhat with the American Democrats on economic and social issues and with the Republicans on private issues (marriage, drugs, ...). But again, this is a gross observation and varies from country to country.

PS - Tiago = Portuguese who lives in the UK and has lived in The Netherlands in the past. Political junkie for all things American (e.g.following Barack Obama since circa 2005). I have had some direct contact with different parties and policies in these three countries in the EU.

the weblink to the audio file doesn't work. Perhaps you can fix this.

I will just give my limited survey (immediate family and friends) here in Poland.

Most of the people if not all whom I know here will not go to vote as they have no idea what they would be voting for. For most in general, EU Parliament is a mystery in the sense that they it see it as being up there in the ether.

I just heard that one candidate for a high post in the EU parliament is a Pole. One who clearly in the past was a Communist no matter how you repaint his resume !!! From this geographic perspective it is all a farce.

Just my "on the ground" observation of this process. Bigger is not necessarily Better :-)

There is a poll of voting intentions at our OK peak oil website

Needless to say we are not representative of the UK as a whole. The UK will vote conservative by a landslide, just as they would in a UK national election if it was held today. (of course, turnout will be very low, maybe 30%)

That said, being a proportional voting system will help the green party, who will get zero seats in the national elections which are first past the post. I think UK has two green EU MPs at present.

Unfortunately it will also help the BNP.

I don't consider it unfortunate at all. The party is surprisingly energy literate when you meet its members face to face. They understand the problem of peak oil better than any other party and have exactly the 'localist' sentiment that will be needed to allow the UK to survive in a post oil world.

They will be getting my vote.

The BNP and the greens are both energy literate. They both know about PO and many of its implications.

However, that is all they have in common.

The BNP has openly racist party with policies which includes 'repatriating' non-white second generation UK citizens to countries they have never seen. Many of the the membership are little more than racist illiterate thugs.

Don't be taken in by their public front. They are to be avoided.

a) being Irish, in england I would be considered by many BNP voters as a target for rough stuff.
Having said that, there's a brutal logic to thier thinking - the UK has something like 3 times the population they have land to grow food for. My living in a small neighboring underpopulated agrarian country makes me nervous ;)

b) The greens aren't all that energy literate - I bumped into a candidate for a local council at a screening of The Age of Stupid, I asked what he'd change - he said he'd push for higher density urban housing (at present here in dublin it's extremely sprawled) - which makes sense from a services-provision point of view, but - where will they grow thier food??
Inquiring minds want to know .. ;)

The British National Party's expressions of concern about over-population might have rather more credibility if they weren't so keen on publicising the fact that their leader, Nick Griffin, has sired five children. For them the imperative is population reduction of those of the wrong skin hues or "cultures", according to whatever whimsical definition of "culture" the BNP might choose , and if that doesn't work, then competitive breeding by "whites" and "our sort" to prevent the subjugation of "us" to "them" - this, NOT peak oil, is their over-riding anxiety.

As for the Greens' policy on high density housing, what's the problem, Jmullee? Surely if this policy were implemented then it would free up urban land for food production?

Thanks, Luis, this provides insight for those who are not aware of the issues behind energy sources and their constraints. You've carefully unwrapped the clever greenwash packaging and laid the contents on the table for all to examine.

This is a bit off-topic, but I'm posting here because Portuguese is Luis' native language.

Unica, the Brazilian association of sugarcane growers, is holding a giant ethanol conference in Sao Paulo in June, with Lula and Bill Clinton lined up as speakers. It's one huge promotional fiesta for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol.

A Swedish physicist, Kjell Aleklett, will be speaking at the event as well. They claim that he is the inventor of the term "Peak Oil". That doesn't sound quite right to me and is probably a manifestation of Brazilian mania.

The page in English doesn't say the same as the text in Portuguese (below). Anyone interested in seeing the whole thing, Google "Ethanol Summit" (I don't want it to look like I'm plugging for anyone here).

"Criador do termo “Peak Oil” será palestrante do Summit 2009

O físico sueco Kjell Aleklett, que defende que a capacidade produtiva de petróleo no mundo não conseguirá acompanhar o aumento da demanda e entrará em declínio a partir de 2013, será um dos palestrantes do painel “Combustíveis Alternativos e o Futuro do Petróleo”, que acontece na tarde de terça-feira, dia 2 de junho, durante o Ethanol Summit 2009."

>> One positive element is the attempt to build a thorough Energy Policy, composed of four strategic lines, underlying an integrated vision. These strategies are not properly realised by concrete goals, which even at this level of contact with the broader public should be possible. A few tactics are put forward, that as explained above, do not exactly conform to the vision and strategies outlined. A sense of lack of commitment ends up emerging from the programme as a whole. <<

Did anyone notice that the EU-logo shows a constellation of twelve stars, posted in empty space, and lacking a symbolical centre, like a warm, beating heart? It ressembles a dial without a clockwork, which is useless, or a town square without a fountain to lend it beauty and character.
The EU's ascendance, from a six-member Union for Coal and Steel to the bureaucratic leviathan of today, was based on the availability of cheap fossil fuel. Lacking that in the near future, its administration will dwindle into a mere nuisance of empty statements and hot air.
While the Irish are chided into signing up to the Lisbon Treaty, there is a strong, new current surfacing in several EU-countries to cut back on the EU financially, and to curb its self-assumed responsibilities. Our [Dutch] Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury Secretary) Wouter Bos, last week, stated this in so many words, and not without approval.
As to an European energy policy, one policy for half a billion people, in so many different straits, I can't admit to any warm feelings for it. The concentration of power, and political chicanery needed for such a grand scheme to be pulled off, by definition, will be detrimental to democracy, no doubt, if left to the henchmen of this clueless, unwieldy organisation.
As our future is local, there should be room for local ingenuity and local solutions to practical problems of food production, energy, transport, housing, and water management. Diversity will be our most treasured surviving tool. In the headwinds of shrinking economies and declining international trade the EU will be wise to make itself scarce, and stop to find itself a "raison d'être" by imposing rules for everybody, which fit nobody.

While I agree with you, I'm not happy that I do.

Re-localisation is essential, but also not enough (at least without massive de-population of certain areas, such as my country, the UK!).

In my mind to maintain at least some semblance of BAU, a proper focused EU energy policy will be far more effective than individual countries trying to sort it out for themselves. With so much of the modern world relying on globalisation, policies applied across a larger land mass and population will achieve far greater economies of scale.

Eg, we all know that intermitancy is the biggest issue with wind power. However a pan EU super grid would largely resolve this by the large coverage. On such a large scale the chance of all wind turbines being stationary due to no wind is minimal, instead a base load as a percentage of installed capacity is near guaranteed.


>> While I agree with you, I'm not happy that I do. <<
Well, at least I am happy that you do.

>> Re-localisation is essential, but also not enough (at least without massive de-population of certain areas, such as my country, the UK!). <<
I read mr. Lovelock's latest publication, his Gaia's final warning. As the British Isles, in his view, will be a save haven, when the effects of global warming strike, he expects millions of people from the continent and beyond to flock to them, needing food and shelter. Around 2020-30 the UK can "boast" of a hundred million inhabitants. It is the continent that will be depopulated, overcome by droughts, and the Netherlands, though a possible save haven themselves, will be only "nether", without the "lands", by a faster than expected sea-level rise.

As for the remainder of your post, I appreciate your point of view, but I beg to differ. I think your opinion is sensible, if projected back to the world of twenty years ago. I agree with JMK, e.a., on the subject of BAU and globalisation, they are over. In the wake of our current economic troubles, there will be upheavals, and deteriorating social conditions. Many people will be without a job, and I don't pretend to know where it all will end.
I hope the grand schemes, like the EU itself, will die in beauty, and take with them the unrealistic mega-projects to the scrapyard, super-duper grid included. We must re-learn to think small, for small is beautiful, and, above all, small is manageable in an energy-starving world.

My comment on "some semblance of BAU" was supposed to show recognition that BAU is not possible, and even without resource depletion/climate change it is unlikely. Just think of the changes over the last 10, 20, 50, 100, 2000 years! BAU has been changing at an ever faster rate, fed by our consumption of energy.

My comment was really picking up on that I like my central heating, turn on and offable light switches, cars, disposable nappies and so on.

However I agree that the EU (and world) has missed its opportunity, and it is quite clear that by the time things really start to be recognised, we will be well on the down slope, and probably heading for WW3.

As for the UK, assuming that the Gulf Stream doesn't collapse then I agree, it probably will be better than most places. We Britts may like to moan about the weather, but ultimately we have a generally easy climate: mild winters, cool summers, fairly consistant rainfall year round. Food production on a year round basis is fairly straight forward. But even so 60 million mouths is too many to feed (as I understand it), and we still need an energy source to transport the food from farms to cities.

Interesting logo for the EPP-ED, a Christian political party. Because the outline of the circle of stars looks like a heart, but in the upper right it also looks like the outline of a pregnant woman's belly, to symbolize growing the population, and in the lower left it looks like a scythe, to symbolize keeping people working in the fields and producing food.

It seems that your politicians are about as clueless as ours here in the USA.