The Circle Bastiat (the official blog of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute) draws attention an interesting phenomenon taking place in Greece. As traditional fuels become more and more difficult for the average person to obtain (due to a mixture of general impoverishment and government price controls), the citizens of Greece are, of course, adapting. Contrary to what the government might prefer, they are not simply rolling over and freezing to death. Rather, they are substituting the burning of heating fuel (which itself was being used as a substitute for diesel fuel) with the burning of wood. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the air quality in the city of Athens.
Contrary to what many environmentalists would have you believe, oil and coal are not the dirtiest sources of energy. That honor falls to the burning of biomass, such as wood. Burning wood is so unbelievably less efficient than coal or oil, that the amount of fuel required to obtain an equivalent amount of energy is staggering. It results in greater air pollution, greater carbon emissions, and greater damage to natural resources. Dirt poor citizens of rural China do not have the option of windmills or solar panels. The burning of coal and oil in the developing world generally results in improvements to the environment, because it typically is replacing the burning of biomass.
So the good little socialists who dominate Greece, in their efforts to save the environment, are actually making things far worse. They’re also dramatically reducing the quality of life for the average Greek citizen (not that they care about such trivial matters). If access to efficient sources of energy is a sign of economic development, the Greek government is quite literally de-developing its nation. They are intentionally moving backwards. A sad, if not entirely predictable state of affairs.
Note: The premise behind the “coal vs biomass” argument is adopted from the book Power Hungry by Robert Bryce, a very informative read that dispels the numerous myths surrounding “green energy.”