U.S. and German Energy Policy at a Crossroads? The Transatlantic Partners and the Future of Energy Cooperation
The U.S. and Germany are moving in fundamentally different directions with their energy policies. Germany has embarked on its “Energiewende,” an energy strategy based on renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as the phase-out of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. It is an important building block in the country’s climate protection endeavors. The U.S. under the Trump administration has abandoned its national and international climate commitments. It is pursuing an “Energy Dominance” strategy that seeks to expand the production of U.S. coal, natural gas, and oil. This strategy marks a significant departure from the Obama administration, which pursued a climate action plan focused on fostering clean energy in the U.S. and abroad.
This policy shift in the U.S. is not universally perceived as straightforward policy reversal. Conversations with energy experts in Washington, DC, in the spring of 2019 yield two different interpretations. Some believe that “not much has changed” in terms of climate and sustainable energy since President Trump took office. To others, “everything has changed” and the situation for sustainable energy is “very bad,” even “an embarrassment.” How can there be such different perceptions of current energy policy? And what does this mean for the potential of transatlantic clean energy cooperation?
This essay sheds some light on these questions. It shows that there is truth to both sides: The Trump administration’s energy policy, in contrast to its predecessor’s, no longer focuses on fostering sustainable energy. This creates some tensions with the climate and energy policy goals of the German government. However, in its international efforts, the U.S. continues to support renewable energy and energy efficiency. Shared energy policy interests between the U.S. and Germany thus persist and the essay concludes with some ideas on how this could translate into transatlantic energy cooperation.