Electricity: Germany is not rich in resources. Coal is no longer in abundance. There is no oil to be drilled out of the ground. There are too few mountain ranges offering hydropower. And the German population has rejected nuclear power as a long-term solution to its energy needs. In order to protect itself from the ups and downs of the international energy markets, Germany has long since focused on developing renewable energy sources.
Several laws since 1999 support the development of so-called Ökostrom or bio-energy, guaranteeing minimum prices for those utilities who produce it. Its planned outcomes – reduced dependence on fossil fuels, development of renewable resources, ensuring long-term energy supply – have begun to occur. The share of total electricity production attributed to renewables has been increased from 5.4% to 20.3% in the timeframe 1999-2011.
Gasoline: The Ökosteuer or ecology tax is also applied to gasoline and diesel fuel, making up roughly 10% of the price at the pump. The purpose of the tax is twofold: reduce consumption of what is a limited resource, and increase the efficiency of automobiles. Leading German economic institutes have documented the positive effect thusfar: less driving and the development of more fuel-efficient cars.
The laws passed were controversial. Many were skeptical that they would have the predicted effect. But since then large segments of the population are convinced that Germany is on the right path. Two changes of government have not challenged their effectiveness. Germans are proud of the fact that their electricity grids never fail, that they are shutting down all of their nuclear energy plants, and that their companies are producing cutting-edge renewable energy technologies.