“We face a systemic industrial massacre,” said Antonio Tajani, the European industry commissioner.
Mr Tajani warned that Europe’s quixotic dash for renewables was pushing electricity costs to untenable levels, leaving Europe struggling to compete as America’s shale revolution cuts US natural gas prices by 80pc.
“I am in favour of a green agenda, but we can’t be religious about this. We need a new energy policy. We have to stop pretending, because we can’t sacrifice Europe’s industry for climate goals that are not realistic, and are not being enforced worldwide,” he told The Daily Telegraphduring the Ambrosetti forum of global policy-makers at Lake Como.
“The loss of competitiveness is frightening,” said Paulo Savona, head of Italy’s Fondo Interbancario. “When people choose whether to invest in Europe or the US, what they think about most is the cost of energy.”
A report by the American Chemistry Council said shale gas has given the US a “profound and sustained competitive advantage” in chemicals, plastics, and related industries. Consultants IHS also expect US chemical output to double by 2020, while Europe’s output will have fallen by a third. IHS said $250bn (£160bn) in extra US manufacturing will be added by shale in the next six years.
European president Herman Van Rompuy echoed the growing sense of alarm, calling it a top EU priority to slash energy costs. “Compared to US competitors, European industry pays today twice as much for electricity, and four times as much for gas. Our companies don’t get the rewards for being more efficient,” he said.