EU differs with US on energy policy

Jun 26, 2002 02:00 AM

The European Commission backed a new energy policy that differed with the US in emphasising energy-saving and renewable technologies, but which also provoked an internal dispute over nuclear energy. Announcing the conclusions to 15 months of consultations and 300 conferences on the "security of energy supply", Loyola de Palacio, Europe's energy commissioner, acknowledged the difference with George W. Bush's energy plan and appeared to contradict other commissioners by arguing that a greater role for nuclear power was essential to meet Kyoto treaty commitments.
"All our efforts to act on energy efficiency and control of demand are very important. In the US plan there is very little in that area, or also on renewables," she said.
But she added that nuclear capacity was essential to meet Kyoto commitments to reduce carbon emissions: "If we try really hard with a lot of will we can increase renewable energies from 6 % to 12 % of the mix. But renewable energy itself is not enough."

The document was delayed for a week following internal dissent over the link it drew between nuclear power and Kyoto. This link had upset Margot Wallstroem, the environment commissioner, Franz Fischler, the agriculture commissioner, Michaele Schreyer, the budget commissioner, and Anna Diamontopoulou, the social affairs commissioner. Ms de Palacio's staff said the dispute had been resolved by a clause reasserting that it was each nation's right to decide what to do with nuclear power.
But a spokeswoman for Ms Wallstroem said that increased nuclear capacity was not necessary to meet Kyoto targets. She said: "We should concentrate on renewables because that's where the Commission has a clear policy. We can more than meet our objectives without increasing nuclear capacity in this phase of Kyoto and nuclear has many other problems."

Ms de Palacio plans to follow up on the conclusions this year with legislation on an EU nuclear safety regime and dealing with radioactive waste -- both measures, she hopes, will increase confidence in nuclear technologies. She said: "It is absurd that the EU has regulations on the safety of bathing water but not on nuclear."
Ms de Palacio also plans to proceed with legislation to increase EU holdings of oil stocks and put them under Commission control -- although some diplomats said the consultation had not produced much backing for the idea.

Source: The Financial Times
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