November 2012: An environmental comparison of the main Euro Economies

Light Pollution

Light Pollution for Astrophysical observation in Tenerife (Photo credit: Cestomano)

If we make a direct comparison among the four main Euro economies, it would be very easy to show that Spain is the friendliest country in environmental terms and Germany would be a great source of waste but this would be only a sophisticated way to tell lies. On the other hand, pollution is linked to the activity.

Graph 1 CO2 emissions of the main Euro economies. Data Source OECD

It is easy to find where the first lie is. Different countries have different size and different population. Of course, Germany is the most populated country, then, it should be better to consider the variable population in the analysis, the results are nearer reality as now France seems to be the less polluting country.

Graph 2 CO2 Emissions over population. Data source OECD

It is curious that this result is showing that a country with ecologists at the parliament last decades as Germany has provided these results due to the fight of ecologists against nuclear energy as the level of emissions of France are provided by its bet for nuclear energy. But is Germany really as polluting as those graph are showing? Of course, I cannot agree with this reasoning because it is not considering the economic aspects of any society.

In a prehistoric society there were not significant emissions of CO2, but unfortunately for instance, people lived fewer years than in an industrial one. We must understand that some pollution is necessary in order to get a higher good.

It is interesting to analyze if pollution is providing this better result or not. In order to do this, we can compare the CO2 emissions with production.

Graph 3 CO2 emissions over GDP. Data Source OECD

This graph is similar but, this is less flat than the previous one, showing that the economies are increasing their efficiency in terms of CO2 emissions.

As I have mentioned yet, the differences between Germany and France are related to the implementation of nuclear energy. France has a strong bet with Nuclear energy in order to be less dependent from oil, this can be seen in the following graph, that is showing how France needs a higher electricity production in order to produce one Euro that the other countries.

Graph 4 Electricity Generation over GDP. Data Source OECD

On the other hand, as nuclear energy does not produce CO2 emissions, France has not developed other alternative energies to the same extent that other countries.

Graph 5 Contribution of Renewable Energy in Percentage. Data Source OECD

Spain is leading the chapter of what we have named renewable energies. Personally, I would prefer another name for it, in thermodynamics, energy is not renewable; energy is always transformed. The devices that produce these kinds of energy have a cost, a lifetime, and productive process that can be contaminating. We can consider that the source is renewable, but it is inexact too, as all the energy sources (considered renewable or not) that we have on the Earth proceed from the Sun, and the Sun will burnt out sooner or later, there is not renewable energy. The principles of thermodynamics support this sentence.

As noticeable we could think about the following aspects:

          The stronger economy is the most polluting (for the greenhouse effect).

          The less polluting economy is using an energy source considered the most potentially harmful in an accident.

          Spanish economy is similar to the Italian one in terms of CO2 emissions, but equivalent to the German on in terms of electricity production.

          There is not a high correlation between “renewable” energy and the risk bonus of the debt.

As conclusion I would want to notice that the concept of risk is very fuzzy when we are talking about economy. Risk is not an absolute concept; it is relative and even subjective. Decision makers must analyze economy with variables based on strong principles and not in subjective opinions. And as a second conclusion: An important bet in renewables cannot have the expected effect on the economy as energy production is an internal variable of the economic system while the benefits of the renewables compared with other energy sources are for the environment instead of the system.

I am a defender of the environmental policies, but the results will be different if we consider environment inside the economic system or outside of it, and environment, as its own name shows, is something out of the global economic system.


Mr. Luis Díaz Saco

Executive President


advanced consultancy services



Nowadays, he is Executive President of Saconsulting Advanced Consultancy Services. He has been Head of Corporate Technology Innovation at Soluziona Quality and Environment and R & D & I Project Auditor of AENOR. He has acted as Innovation Advisor of Endesa Red representing that company in Workgroups of the Smartgrids Technology Platform at Brussels



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