When it comes to energy these days, Germany is all about Energiewende — the aggressive plan to wean the country off fossil fuels, to a future of wind and solar. The United States? Frack on, baby!
As I saw last month at Fakuma, there's a stark difference between Germany and the United States.
Yes, it's common knowledge that Americans like to drive big, gas-guzzling cars through congested highways an hour to work, from their air-conditioned mini-mansions in the suburbs.
And Germans? They live in smaller modest houses, walk to the bakery every morning and ride bikes or take the train to work. Germans are a “green” people (except when too much beer causes bloating and gas — that contributes to global warming, you know).
The U.S. boom in hydraulic fracturing to release oil and gas from tight pockets of shale has turned the United States into a global force in energy — seemingly overnight. The United States is poised to pass Saudi Arabia, in the next year or two, to become the world's largest oil producer.
U.S. oil output has helped bring down crude oil prices around the world. Natural gas prices are low. And it's led to U.S. jobs, in drilling, petrochemicals and plastics. The American Chemistry Council says shale gas could create more than 500,000 jobs at nearly 10 announced plastics and chemicals expansions. A top Dow Chemical Co. executive put a $10 billion-plus price tag on all the energy-related chemical expansions in the United States.
“Frack” is not a dirty word.