American climate-change activists point to Europe, and especially Germany, as the paragon of green energy virtue. But they ought to look closer at Angela Merkel’s political struggles as she tries to form a new government in Berlin amid the economic fallout from the Chancellor’s failing energy revolution.
Berlin last month conceded it will miss its 2020 carbon emissions-reduction goal, having cut emissions by just under 30% compared with 1990 instead of the 40% that Mrs. Merkel promised. The goal of 55% by 2030 is almost surely out of reach.
The decline in the U.S. industrial base over the past couple of decades is the main factor eroding the share of American national income that goes to middle-class workers, according to consultants at McKinsey & Co.
For decades, labor’s share of gross domestic product has shrunk—while the share that goes to capital like profits, interest and rent, has risen. The McKinsey Global Institute, the firm’s research arm, finds that manufacturing accounts for more than two-thirds of the overall decline in labor’s share of gross domestic product since 1990. That, in turn, has harmed the prospects of the middle class and widened income inequality.
‘In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under 9 feet of manure.” With this 1894 prediction, the London Times warned that the era’s primary source of transportation energy—the horse—would soon create an environmental crisis.
. . . The lesson is that governments are in no position to predict technological breakthroughs, and their attempts to do so can delay innovations by entrenching inferior technologies. Diesel cars are another example. European states have been subsidizing them for decades, but diesel engines create considerably more noxious gases and particulates. Now Britain and Germany are reversing their policies and trying to phase out diesel.
Some regions have seen catastrophic drops in ridership since 2010: 30% or more in Detroit, Sacramento and Memphis; 20% to 30% in Austin, Cleveland, Louisville, St. Louis and Virginia Beach-Norfolk ; and 15% to 20% in Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio and Washington.
Adding rail service hasn’t helped. To pay for new light-rail lines that opened in 2012 and 2016, Los Angeles cut bus service. The city lost nearly four bus riders for every additional rail rider. Atlanta, Dallas, Sacramento and San Jose have seen similar results. The rail system in Portland, Ore., is often considered successful, but only 8% of commuters take transit of any kind to work. In 1980, before rail was constructed, buses alone were carrying 10% of commuters.
Employers that use apprentices like the programs because they train future workers for specific, in-demand jobs. Apprentices earn a paycheck while they train, often eliminating the need to take on debt to fund their education. Upon completion of a training program, 90% of apprentices are offered jobs and earn a starting salary of about $60,000 a year, according to the Labor Department. Yet undergraduate students at colleges outnumber apprentices in the U.S. 26 to 1.
Apprenticeships have struggled to take hold in the U.S. in part because the education system is geared more toward college preparation, than, for example, in Germany, where teens are more frequently steered toward a vocation. And American students and families are often reluctant to pursue careers in fields such as plumbing or manufacturing, even if those jobs pay good wages.