The current energy crisis raises questions about the sustainability of

“The current energy crisis raises questions about the sustainability of a high performing European industry”

Sudden awakening for French and European industry. For three years she was beaten just to remind her of some basics and the fragility of her situation. First there was the “Doliprane shock” in France. Thanks to the health crisis, we suddenly realized that the manufacture of most of the active ingredients in medicines had secretly migrated to India and China. The European pharmacy is no longer what it used to be. Then came the “chip shock”. Suddenly, Europe’s automotive industry, another perceived strength of the continent, found itself paralyzed by a shortage of electronic components, which in turn were mainly produced in Asia.

Read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers “Deindustrialization has profound economic, social and political consequences”

And now we are experiencing the “electron shock”. The explosion of gas and then electricity prices seriously threatens the continued activity of small and large companies. A way to make us understand that without energy there is no industry or even society. It’s not new. In the Middle Ages, the first industries flourished, often in monasteries, to the rhythm of watermills. Today, even the Internet is no exception to the rule. Without affordable energy there is no economic development. The unbridled growth of post-war Europe – the famous “Thirty Glorious Years” – ended in 1974 with the sudden rise in oil prices.

The current energy crisis therefore raises the question of the future viability of a powerful European industry. Much of the Old Continent’s chemical industry has already migrated to milder skies in Asia or America, and some are threatening to step up the movement. A pity, at a time when there are increasing calls for a reindustrialization of the continent, particularly in response to the shocks from Chips and Doliprane.

Doubly abandoned SMEs

We can always console ourselves with the fact that although energy is necessary, it is not the key to an industry’s competitiveness. Japan’s is infinitely superior to Saudi Arabia’s, despite its energy advantage. In this regard, the case of France is instructive. For decades, its nuclear fleet, built after the first oil shock, gave it such an advantage that, like Switzerland or Norway, thanks to its dams the country was considered an “emirate of electricity”, with prices among the cheapest on the continent.

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This did not prevent them from seeing their industry disintegrate significantly. In his book La Désindustrialisation de la France 1995-2015 (Odile Jacob editions, 384 pages, 27.90 euros), Nicolas Dufourcq, the boss of Bpifrance, tells of this descent into hell, where economic decisions, strategic mistakes and social decisions are made that have helped make France, along with Luxembourg, the most deindustrialized country in Europe.

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