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Will the next German election be a referendum on nuclear energy?

by Jerome a Paris Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 04:23:28 AM EST

I expect a major row to be triggered by new hints that the CDU will drop the nuclear phase out pledge of the current coalition government:

Germany to stay nuclear in Merkel U-turn

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is preparing to perform a major U-turn by scrapping plans to abandon nuclear power.

(...)

Mrs Merkel's dramatic change of heart surfaced at an energy summit attended by government and industry heads in Berlin last week, when it became clear that her ruling grand coalition's aim of closing Germany's 17 nuclear power plants by the early 2020s were at odds with targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

A government-commissioned study unveiled at the summit showed that Mrs Merkel's targets were not feasible without nuclear power.

(...)

Her plans to stick with nuclear power are unlikely to be finalised until after a general election in 2009, but the issue could nonetheless dominate the contest.

While I personally understand the logic of that proposed decision in the current context (Germany has done the most on the alternative energy front, and yet it is planning a large number of coal-fired plants to respond to expected demand - because it has not really tackled, like everybody else, real demand-side policies, and seems unable, for instance, to give up its fascination for over-powerful cars), this was a major issue for the SPD and I wonder if this could be enough to trigger a coalition breakdown and early elections.


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Importing cheap nuclear generated electricity from France won't be enough.

About the demand side, I've been told that German standards for thermal insulation of new home constructions are much more stringent than they are over here.

by Bernard on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 05:03:22 AM EST
Germany is currently a net electricity exporter. France's net exports vis-a-vis Germany transit Geromany towards other countries, chiefly Italy and also the Netherlands.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 07:36:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hadn't refreshed my infos for a while... Thanks.
by Bernard on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 09:26:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's not the freshness of the information. The German nuclear lobby used this misinterpretation (viewing only French/German exchange rather than total German exports/imports) for a long time; I once diarised it here on ET, and here is a graph for 2006 export/import, where again you see French and Czehc nuke electricity transiting en route to the Netherlands and (via Switzerland and Austria) Italy:

You see, net exports even grew dramatically to almost 20 TWh -- a growth that happens to match growth in traditionally generated electricity (almost entirely gas, I wrote about this in a comment somewhere on ET).

Also check the table here, Einfuhr=imports, Ausfuhr=exports, Saldo=net (positive if net imports).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 12:43:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what we are seeing here is that in the last few years, Germany has imported gas from Russia, burning it and exporting the electricity to the Netherlands, Austria and Italy?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 12:53:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely. While fall in nuclear and other domestic production was more than matched by renewables growth.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 01:11:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While fall in nuclear and other domestic production

...and growth of consumption. I haver to look up the actual figures, but no time today.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 01:12:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i never trusted merkel...you don't get that high in a righty party without signing a pact with big bidness, in germany's case overpowered cars, autobahn speed limits, coal plants and the devil's favourite dystopia-creator....the big N.

ha! to think i was fooled for a minute!

kinder, gentler thatcher?

her behaviour has more consistency than blair's, but otherwise they're singing from the same hymnal....kowtowing to the 'pillars of the business community' who pull the strings in the political puppetshow...

fuck the earth... and all who live in it, money is obviously much more important than survival, election platform be damned!

yesterday i watched a show on arte about the production of stravinsky's 'rite of spring', with simon rattle conducting the berlin philharmonic.

there was a ballet teacher from england who made a most profound comment...

apparently the 'rite' consisted of letting women literally dance themselves to death, in order to placate the gods and supplicate a return of the spring.

the ballet teacher said we are still sacrificing our young, the future generations, in an equally bizarre ritual.

though instead of dancing, i would point out that our equivalent is hours spent sucking fumes in logjammed traffic, or widget making in some kafkaesque satanic mill, more likely in the marianas or indonesia than in sheffield or pittsburgh, with the shadow of imf-style economic totalitarianism and nuke-powered police state hanging over us...

hopefully the german voters will see through this shoddy excuse for a scam. they and we deserve better than this as a model.

as for an energy minister portfolio for europe, will there be secret meetings, a la cheney?

that potential seat of power is getting pretty damn hot, no wonder no-one's volunteering...by the time elections roll around it could be as attractive a throne as an electric chair....

solar powered, natch!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 05:55:25 AM EST
The scandals at the Krümmel and Brunsbüttel nuclear plants, which I am preparing a diary about, didn't really help the present CDU pro-nuke campaign... I'll have to cover that study, too (which runs contrary to other studies, but hey).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 07:34:45 AM EST
looking forward to your diary regarding brunsbüttel.  heard just today in the news that vattenfall did not report (ie, lied about) an accident when explicitly asked by the government/regulating agency/whatever authority for 5 days.

on topic, jerome is absolutely right that changing the demand side of the equation is absolutely critical.  with regard to nuclear powered electricity in germany, buying ökostrom is the way to go.

by hesk on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 08:25:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nuclear electricity is ökostrom.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 08:28:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For a broad definition of öko.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 03:44:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it may be more ecological than burning coal, but it's still not öko, in a sense that it is sustainable.
by hesk on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 10:01:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
vattenfall did not report (ie, lied about) an accident when explicitly asked by the government/regulating agency/whatever authority for 5 days.

Yes, and that was a repeat offense. I was pleased to see that this was reported even in the Teletext short versions of the news, even on private TV.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 12:05:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
CDU is trying to deal with reality while half of SPD is walking on pink clouds and the other half is in the arms of the coal miners union (even though black coal mining is to be phased out in... 2017?!) and Schröder is owned by Gazprom.

Germany has done the most on the alternative energy front, and yet it is planning a large number of coal-fired plants to respond to expected demand
Which pretty much tells the whole story of non-nuclear alternatives.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 08:20:51 AM EST

Which pretty much tells the whole story of non-nuclear alternatives.

Nah. It tells the story of the painless-in-the-short-term alternatives.

  • make people pay for all the externalities in electricity production (see the EU report I have pointed to many times, from ExternE - no link, I'm on dialup);

  • mandate more wind - stop doing it on a one windturbine per one windturbine basis as they've done so far.

  • get serious about car energy consumption. No new cars with mpg below 50, full stop (hey, that should be good for high tech manufacturers - or are these only in France and Italy?)

  • get serious about priorities re train infrastructure vs roads.

  • get serious about housing insulation. No new building without top notch standards, and a crash programme to refurbish older stock (hey, that should be good for business)

The technology is there, the costs are known (and can only go down further if there is a large scale programme), as are the benefits.

Then we'll see if nuclear is actually needed. Maybe it will be; maybe not.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 09:21:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No new cars with mpg below 50, full stop (hey, that should be good for high tech manufacturers - or are these only in France and Italy?)

Siemens, Infineon, Bosch and plenty of others... No shortage of technology companies in Germany.
by Bernard on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 09:28:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
when one hears the howls of outrage from German business to the current mild proposals...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 11:49:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah. It tells the story of the painless-in-the-short-term alternatives.

Do you seriously think we will see any real, painful, change before the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan?

It took the 1973 oil crisis to get Sweden and France going, and for the rest of the world, even that crisis wasn't enough.

make people pay for all the externalities in electricity production (see the EU report I have pointed to many times, from ExternE - no link, I'm on dialup);

That's a great study, more people should read it.

mandate more wind - stop doing it on a one windturbine per one windturbine basis as they've done so far.

I'd rather see a total ban on new fossil-fired heating, industry and power systems, but the general idea is the same.

get serious about car energy consumption. No new cars with mpg below 50, full stop (hey, that should be good for high tech manufacturers - or are these only in France and Italy?)

How do we get people to buy them? The 78 mpg AudiA2 wasn't really a smash hit...

And some people actually do need heavy vehicles. So I'd much rather see another policy, a doubling of the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel.

get serious about priorities re train infrastructure vs roads.

In Sweden that would be "get serious about building (and maintaining!) infrastrucuture". We don't only need new and better rail, but also new and better roads, but most importantly the current systems need more maintenance. A single investment in maintenace of €10 billion should take care of that. (Like that's fortcoming...)

get serious about housing insulation. No new building without top notch standards, and a crash programme to refurbish older stock (hey, that should be good for business)

Not that important around here where no one heats with fossil fuel and the grid is fossil-free. Furthermore, there have been a couple of scandals lately in Sweden, where energy efficient housing practices that were deployed on a vast scale seems to cause rot, also that on a vast scale. Ooops.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 09:51:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

How do we get people to buy them? The 78 mpg AudiA2 wasn't really a smash hit...

Well, youcan ban cars with worse MPG outright, or, if you're keen to let people free to pollute all they want, put a massive tax on cars with worse consumption: this should be done on a liters per 100km basis: put a 10,000 euro tax per liter/100km above 5 in a standardized test run by an independent body.)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 10:10:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why not tax fuel instead of mileage? After all, a person who drives his 1 l/10 km SUV 1000 km pollutes just as much (or little) as someone who drives 2000 km with his 0,5 l/10 km compact car.

It's only reasonable if these pay the same amount of tax as they pollut the same.

I believe all special taxes on cars should be eliminated and replaced with taxes on the fuel.  

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 10:19:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is about giving an overwhelming incentive to car manufacturers to focus on fuel efficiency and not on other things like a 12th airbag, 50kg more of fancy electronics, a few seconds less on the 0-100kph run,etc.... Make your cars fuel efficient, or you will sell them only to a small minority. Full stop.

As to taxes, I'd be partisan to jack up fuel taxes by 50c/l (i.e. 2$/gal) every year AND giving back the same amount of money equally to each owner of a car. In France, it's easy, as you need a carte grise (id paper for your car) - just divvy up the expected tax income by the number of non-corporate owned cartes grises, et voilà.

People with smaller cars or fuel efficient cars or who drive little will get more money out of the trade; those with big cars or big amounts of driving will lose out even if they don't change behavior and all will be incentivised by the higher fuel prices to drive less.

And that would actually be mildy redistributive, I expect.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 11:54:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The British government taxes petrol. At one time they were putting up the tax by more than the rate of inflation, to discourage the growth of car use.

Then a group of disgruntled farmers and truckers began demonstrating and ever since the Labour government has been terrified of another fuel protest.

by Gary J on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 08:28:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Swedish center-right government just said they will raise taxes on gasoline and diesel. They also said it would be good if a litre of gas costed a little more than €2, but they promised they wouldn't raise taxes that much. For now.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 08:56:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Collect a carbon tax into an "Energy Pool".

The Energy Pool then makes interest-free loans to anyone who wants them (subject to due diligence on the projects or expenditure) and repayable to the Pool by:
(a) renewable energy projects - out of the energy production thereby financed;
(b) energy saving projects - by repaying their "energy debt" by paying the market price in respect of some of the energy they have saved.

Unlike $, £ and € financing, this energy financing has no "cost of money".

In truth, money has no "cost".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 10:51:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah. It tells the story of the painless-in-the-short-term alternatives.

Jerome, I can't help but see some irony here.

Aren't you the same person who appropriately and tirelessly denounces the neocon ideology of endless "reforms" as published in the pages of the Financial Times, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal and other outlets, this endless droning of "necessary pain" that, in the imagination of those plutocratic pukes, the populace must suffer through for the "benefit of the society at large" (and the very actual benefit of their rich patrons)?

:>

by Francois in Paris on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 01:09:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose the neolibs are happy to spend political capital (and the necessary PR) for 'reforms' that they really want, as opposed to for reforms that are actually necessary.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 03:20:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was written mostly for the snark value but I'm always a bit troubled by the social engineering implicit to most of the energy/degrowth discourse.

But, heck, I have my own social agenda with nuclear power...

Just a thought.

by Francois in Paris on Tue Jul 10th, 2007 at 01:59:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Jerome thinks it can all be done with wind, he'd better give some figures to show how.  

Here's a back-of-envelope calculation

germany's current electricity consumption is 1.6  billion kWh/day  To cut CO2 emissions, you need to shift most transport to electrified rail (as Jerome advocates) and to plug-in electric road vehicles.  At a minimum, this will double electricity consumption to 3 billion kWh/day.  

Onshore wind is the only renewable source likely to make much contribution to this.  Wind farms have an average output of about 50,000 kWh/day per sq km.  So you'd need 60000 sq km of wind farms - one seventh of germany's land area - for average wind output to equal average consumption.   For peak capacity, you'd need far more than this, even with pumped storage and demand management.  Does anyone really think that allocating this much land to wind farms is feasible?

by paulm on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 11:38:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. you have to take into account offshore wind, because there's a lot of space on the continental shelf

  2. you have to note that each sq. km "used" by wind is not quite exclusively used by wind, and can continue to be used for other normal activities at the same time. Will people accept wind farms all over the place is untested, but it's not quite the same argument.

In any case, you won't find me saying that wind can solve all. I'm on record as being in the pro-nuclear camp, and expecting nuclear to be mostly necessary and useful. However, my point above was that a real policy of energy demand reduction, and relentless focus on renewable energies, has not yet been tried. So far, it's been a nice side business while the "real" business is still done by building more coal or gas or nuclear plants. Let's see how much we can get from such a policy, and then the gap will definitely need to be bridged by nuclear. As far as I' concerned, I'll be happy to do so; I just think that we should try to shrink the gap as much as possible before actually bridging it wxith nuclear.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 03:26:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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