According to RWE CEO Dr Dietmar Kuhnt, the “eco-tax” introduced in 1999 has failed. “It has not achieved its aims and has become a risk for Germany as a place for business”, Kuhnt said at the World Energy Congress in Buenos Aires.

The national economy had benefited from the opening of the German electricity market with a cost reduction of approx. DM 15bn ($6.8bn). However, the eco-tax or electricity tax, value-added tax and the Acts on Cogeneration and the Promotion of Renewable Energies caused virtually the same level of expenditures. Overall, the factor energy is now burdened with just under DM 120bn, equivalent to about a sixth of German tax revenues with a clearly upward trend. The CEO of RWE called upon the politicians to do without the next stage of the eco-tax increase on January 2, 2002.

Moreover, Kuhnt delivered a rebuff to opponents of globalization. International division of labour and worldwide entrepreneurial freedom were the basis for increased prosperity, social security and equal opportunities. Pressing global problems – even today around 2 billion people do not have dependable access to electricity, and just as many are cut off from clean drinking water – cannot be solved by isolated national efforts or one-dimensional global prescriptions for the world economy, RWE’s CEO went on to say. Ecological, economic and social concerns would have to be carefully balanced.

Industrialized nations bear a particularly heavy responsibility: they consume over 60 per cent of the world’s energy, yet are home to only a fifth of the world’s population. According to the World Energy Council’s estimates, global energy consumption will increase from the present 14 billion tons hard coal equivalent to around 20 billion tons hard coal equivalent in 2020. More than two-thirds of the energy consumed comes from fossil and nuclear energy sources. Until 2020, around $15 000 billion to 20 000 billion must be invested to meet this insatiable demand for energy; this amount is equal to approximately half of the annual global domestic product.

“It will be a great challenge to achieve this growth in a reliable, socially responsible, and ecologically sound way. In the foreseeable future, fossil fuels and nuclear energy will meet most of the world’s energy needs. Hydro power, wind power, solar power, and other renewable energy sources will increasingly play a more important role, but not a central one,” said Kuhnt.

Greenpeace have also used the stage of the World Energy Congress to issue a message about their twin concerns of climate change and the lack of energy provision to one third of the world’s population. Greenpeace blame global warming on the burning of fossil fuels and urge energy producers to consider the effects of burning the remaining exploitable reserves.