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European Union Classifies Gas and Nuclear as ‘Green’ Amid Energy Price Surge

An oil well in North Dakota / Getty Images
• July 6, 2022 2:45 pm

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The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to categorize nuclear power and gas as environmentally sustainable amid a record energy price surge.

In a 328-278 vote, the European Commission survived an attempt by the EU Parliament to block its designation of nuclear energy and gas production "as transitional activities contributing to climate change mitigation." The move will likely increase investment, but gas producers must follow emission guidelines to be eligible.

Many point to disruptions in the energy market brought by the war in Ukraine as a factor behind climbing fuel costs. While the European Union has opted to expand development of alternative forms of energy, President Joe Biden has asked Americans to endure high gas prices for "as long as it takes" to defend against Russia's invasion. Biden has released some oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve and canceled other large domestic gas opportunities. Much of the strategic reserve oil has gone to other nations in an effort to wean them off Russian gas.

U.S. gas prices peaked in June at more than $5 per gallon, the highest recorded national average according to AAA.

The change in policy was opposed primarily by center-left and left-wing members of the EU Parliament. Many argued the shift would make the European Union more dependent on Russia. But embracing nuclear power may help decouple European nations from the Russian energy market. Many German officials have expressed regret over the country’s pivot away from nuclear power, lamenting that they have become more dependent on Putin as a result.

Experts have long hailed nuclear power and natural gas as environmentally friendly and economically feasible ways to provide power, as carbon emissions from nuclear power are particularly negligible. Greenpeace, a liberal nonprofit which has historically fought nuclear and gas power, promised to pursue litigation over the policy change. Celebrity climate activist and former truant Greta Thunberg opposed the European Union's decision.