Yes, the big red top headlines talk of the 'a couple of pence per liter' off pump prices but the major benefits will never come our way in Europe. Why? Simple. Europe is overwhelmed by taxation, subsidy, over-capacity and green incentivization plans that have conspired make hydrocarbons a dirty and expensive source of energy.
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Europe's biggest economy, Germany, is at the heart of the issue in its noble pursuit to reduce greenhouse gases. Great ambition but stunningly expensive. By 2050 the Germans want to have 60 percent of their energy coming from renewables. This will be an impressive feat but may well seriously dent European competitiveness further.
Daniel Lacalle, Senior Portfolio Manager at Ecofin is worried. "Since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, average European power prices are up 38 percent whereas wholesale prices have actually fallen. The problem is that we don't see any of the benefits in Europe of the lower oil prices as we subsidize too many energy industries, we have oversupply and subsidies. In addition, there are so many green taxes that gasoline prices have been going up instead of down."
According to Lacalle German SMEs are now paying twice the price for energy as their U.S. counterparts.
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The oil producers are also at pains to point out that it's not their fault that pump prices are so high. OPEC has for years tried to blame governments in Europe and elsewhere for taking too large a slice of the overall price of gasoline. OPEC has a lovely chart on its website where it gleefully shows that U.K. taxes on a liter of oil equate to around 58 percent of the total cost (2013 data). In Italy the figure is around 55 percent, in Germany over 50 percent. Compare this to the U.S. where taxes account for only 14 percent.
So, yes we can all celebrate the oil price slump as a boost for many parts of the world economy, but for European industry and consumers the gains will be limited at best it appears.
- By CNBC's Steve Sedgwick