By Huk Gonzalez
The European Political Strategy Centre, an EU government think tank, wants Europe to take over the battery market by out China’ing China using failed American schemes. Good luck to all involved!
Bemoaning the fact that Europe only accounts for 3% of the global battery cell manufacturing market, the EPSC roundly ignores the burdens the EU and its collaborators have imposed on innovation. Instead, the EPSC’s solution is – wait for it – creating a trade group (or cartel) to help dole out aid to the anointed champions under the “Important Projects of Common European Interest.” After all, everyone knows apple-polishing lobbyists also make the best startup entrepreneurs keen to disrupt an existing order, right?
Because this is the EU, the chosen must pay lip service to emission standards, somehow achieve ethical sourcing of rare metals in the Congo, and fill out mountains of meaningless paperwork. The EPSC mandarins declare: “If we set strong standards…producers have to comply.” Of course European standards are already higher than the rest of the world, yet Asian manufacturers somehow still control 85% of the market.
Struggling to find an excuse for the disparity, the EPSC claims “China has been playing the long game in developing its leadership position.” Wrong again. Today the Middling Kingdom has a decidedly shortsighted approach: all around the world, China continues its smash and grab spree, including stealing battery and other technology, procuring materials in the most expedient way possible, outright forgery of ownership documents, liberal distribution of bribes, and shielding Chinese nationals from prosecution.
Europe could compete with China, but in addition to of course being unwilling to match the Chinese Communist Party surrogates bribe for bribe, it won’t even stick up for its own innovators through perfectly legal recourse to WTO measures, or more aggressive actions needed to protect intellectual property and basic copyright. The EU’s inability to create a true common market which would allow European ventures to scale to compete with American and Asian multinationals is probably the biggest indicator that this pan-European pipe dream will founder on the continent even with its home field advantages.
Regardless of China, the EPSC mandarins plan is already doomed to fail. The Federalist illustrates how subsidies, incentives, and other ill-considered government programs like the “Tesla credit” for battery-electric vehicles in America (similar to the schemes outlined by the EPSC’s European Battery Alliance) are not only unnecessary but also exacerbate the decidedly anti-environmental ecosystem needed to support battery-based vehicles.
Forbes contributor Jeremey Alicandri reminisces about previous European state promotion of diesel, justified with green and economic platitudes. Europeans continue to forget their histories and the well-credentialed, over-educated EPSC brain trust seems to overlook the fact that obtaining the materials required to make batteries and producing the energy to charge them dwarfs the diesel dilemma. Just smell China.
The fact is, burying them in even more impossible standards is not going to jump start global champions, or even foster modest growth. In the end Europe demands a lot of paper, but fails to give much paper out.
Huk Gonzalez is itinerant.