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French presidential election - a primer

by Jerome a Paris Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:24:44 AM EST

As we enter 2012, a major political milestone is getting nearer in France, namely the presidential election, and I thought I'd try to start covering this in more detail over the next few months (as we collectively did last time round - see here). Hopefully, we can have many diaries on various issues by different people, and keep a list of these together in one place (to be created when the next opus is published!)

The campaign kind of started in Autumn, as the greens and the socialists had internal primaries to select their candidates (more on this below), but it is really heating up now, as François Hollande, the socialist candidate, published today a manifesto attacking Sarkozy forcefully and presenting the values he will build his campaign on (truth on current situation, justice for all, hope for the young), so it's worth summing up what's at stake and how it works.



The French president enjoys substantial powers, with direct constitutional rights with respect to foreign policy and control of the military, and extensive nomination rights across most State bodies. He (there has been no 'she' to date) is elected for 5 years and can choose the government, and call early parliamentary elections, but the government needs to be supported by parliament in order to govern. Parliamentary elections currently take place just after the presidential one, and the president elect usually gets a supportive parliament, but this is by no means certain - there have been several instances of "cohabitation" when the president is from one camp and the government from the other, the most recent in 1997-2002 when Chirac, a right winger, was president but government was run by the socialists under Lionel Jospin. So the parliamentary election in June which follows the presidential one in May will be almost as important, politically speaking.

Voting for the president takes place in two rounds, with the top two in the first round squaring off in the second round (unless one gets 50% right away, which almost never happens). In order to be a candidate, you need to collect 500 signatures from "grands électeurs" - mainly local elected officials such as mayors (of which there are more than 36,000 in France), which avoids fantasy candidates but allows highly motivated individuals with a bit of political support or organization to give it a try, so there typically are 10-15 candidates at the election. Voting is run by the civil service under uniform rules across France, and anybody can be present to supervise voting and counting - they typically ask for volunteers during the day to help out counting at your local voting booth, and the major political parties usually dispatch a few people at each booth in any case. All citizens are semi-automatically put on their town's voting list at 18, and you need to register again if you move cities, a fairly simple process. There is no GOTV in France (in fact it is illegal).

The main candidates are as follows:

  • Nicolas Sarkozy
    The incumbent president, representing the right, has not announced he will stand again, but is fully expected to do so within a few weeks. He is highly unpopular today, as a lot of people are disappointed with his broken promises and his "bling-bling" style. The early months, when he cavorted with billionaires on their yachts, cut their taxes openly and courted top model Carla Bruni in public, have set the image of a president of the rich for the rich (which he is). His energy is now seen as agitation, and his permanent campaign style now grates, as more people see through the empty gestures. However, he is a strong campaigner, and will benefit again, like last time round, from a friendly media environment, as large swathes of it are owned by personal friends - the main TV channel, TF1, which is still watched by 30%+ of people, is owned by construction magnate Martin Bouygues, while a lot of the regional and national press is owned by Lagardère Group, controlled by Arnaud Lagardère, and both are heavily, if usually stealthily, biased in his favor. TF1 regularly promotes Sarkozy's law and order themes, by ramping up fear about crime and showing him taking decisions (he was minister of the interior for almost 5 years before becoming president, so has been in charge of police matters for 10 years, and he has changed criminal law more times in the past few years than ever before). He is supported by the main party of the right, the UMP, built for him and by him, but which is increasingly wary of him (a lot of the MPs worry about their own election a few weeks after the presidential one). He will be running on the theme of "experience" and the "savior of Europe" and will try to paint the opposition socialists as irresponsible tax-and-spenders, even though, of course, Europe is by no means saved today and he was responsible for the biggest deficits in a long while during his presidency, and he will likely get France to be downgraded by the rating agencies in the near term. Well, you get the drift, he's right-winger. He is polling between 20 and 30% in the polls for the first round.
  • François Hollande
    François Hollande is the socialist candidate. He was selected in the course of the socialist primaries, which I covered here, the first of their kind, which saw 4 million people participate to select their preferred candidate amongst a decently varied field of 5. He was the socialist party chairman for almost 10 years, and had been campaigning for a number of months already when, of course, he got a lucky break last year as the socialist favorite, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, destroyed his chances with his New-York Sofitel adventure. Hollande is seen as a moderate socialist and a serious political fighter - indeed, his current elected roles include being the boss of the département (a basic French administrative unit - there are about a hundred in France) of Corrèze, in central France, which used to be Chirac's stronghold, and where he won fair and square despite the rural nature of the area and its rightwing favorite son. The French socialists are a party of government, so they are relatively pragmatic, but they are probably still to the left of many other socialist parties in Europe, not to mention the Democrats. Hollande has made explicit statements that he did not support the proposed treaty changes pushed by Sarkozy and Merkel at the most recent European summit, because they wrongly focus on austerity and not on jobs, so that could bring a new dynamic in Europe as well as at home. He is polling around 30% of the votes and would win a confrontation with Sarkozy 60-40 according to recent polls, but such a commanding lead is unlikely to happen on election day.
  • Marine Le Pen
    Marine Le Pen is the candidate of the far right National Front (FN). She is the daughter of previous FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who infamously reached the second round of the 2002 presidential election. She has tried to soften the racist and extremist tone of her father, and go for a more populist voice, including on the economy, where her father used to be very pro-free markets and deregulation, and where she is pushing for protectionism, support for the lower classes, clearly targeting the blue collar vote. The anti-immigration and pro-law and order tone remains, but in a less provocative fashion (and it's been largely captured by a good chunk of the "traditional" right, as Sarkozy has been pushing increasingly anti-immigrant policies over the years). She says "vote for the original" and tends to target Sarkozy more than the left these days, calling him an inconsistent flake. She tends to attract quite a big portion of the despair vote, i.e. people who no longer believe that the system can help them and do not see enough of a difference between left and right. She has been polling above 15% and sometimes above 20%, occasionally being head to head with Sarkozy, and she is pushing hard to be the "real" candidate of the right in this election. FN voters are notoriously hard to poll, so her score is really unknown but it is highly likely that she will be in the top 3.
  • Eva Joly
    Eva Joly is the Norwegian-born candidate of the Green party. She was formerly an investigative judge, famous for putting a number of VIPs in jail in various corruption cases, and she was selected by the Greens, to almost everybody's surprise, to be their candidate in a closed primary (i.e. open only to party members, whereas the socialist one was open to all comers) against a famous bobo TV personality, Nicolas Hulot. The Greens are formally allied with the Socialists, and have reached an agreement for the parliamentary elections which basically guarantees that they will get a group in the next parliament (the Socialists will not present candidates against them in an agreed number of voting districts), so this election is the main way for them to count their support (and it will influence things like the number of ministers they get in a joint government of the left and so forth). Eva Joly is seen as something of a political amateur, with several gaffes to her "credit" but people also tend to see that as refreshing, so it's not obviously counting against her. However, she is not favorable to the early alliance with the Socialists and that has created some internal tensions in the party. Money is at stake - French parties get most of their money from government coffers, under formulas linked to how many votes they get - and how many elected officials they get - so a good chunk of the party was more preoccupied with the deal with the socialists, which gives them access to funds, than by the purity of the campaign. A big topic in the bilateral deal was the future place of nuclear energy in France, which the Greens want to bring down to zero - François Hollande has agreed to cut nuclear's share of power production from the current 80%+ to 50% in 2025, a significant move already but one deemed too timid by many Greens. Eva Joly's share of the vote is quite uncertain (Greens have ranged from 3% to 15% in recent elections) but probably in the 5-10% range.
  • François Bayrou
    The last "big" candidate is François Bayrou, a centrist. He came a strong third in the 2007 election, with close to 19% of the vote, and hopes to replicate this this year, presenting himself as a reasonable alternative between the right and the left. However, he has alienated a lot of friends and does not have a lot of organized support this time round, so he probably won't get as many votes this time, but quite how many he will get is a big unknown. He currently polls in the high single digits.
  • the others
    A number of other candidates will be present at the poll, but the final list is not known. Jean-Luc Mélenchon will represent the Communist Party and a part of the left-of the socialists left assembled in the Left Front (Front de Gauche), and can be expected to get around 5% of the vote. The hard left (actual trotskysts and assorted groups openly fighting for revolution) will likely be represented by one or two candidates which should get around 5% together. The communists have a few remaining local strongholds and traditionally deal with the socialists and still manage to keep a group of 15 or so MPs in parliament, so they are part of the regular political debate in France; the trotskysts are less visible, but often quite active in unions and demonstrations and public actions. Another candidate of the left may be Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a sovereignist of the left (i.e. a protectionist, atheist left with a strong moral role for government) has announced his candidacy but may withdraw (he got 5% in 2002 and is blamed by some for Jospin's poor showing and elimination).
    On the right, there will be a number of smaller candidates, including several from the hard, "traditional values" right (pro-family, pro-hunting) and possibly a couple of other centrists. Two have announced their candidacy: Hervé Morin, a former minister of Sarkozy, and Dominique de Villepin, Chirac's former minister of foreign affairs (of the anti-war speech at the UN in March 2003 fame) and prime minister of Chirac. Villepin hates Sarkozy and this is widely seen as a ploy to make him lose a few votes - but he is cynical enough that he may yet trade to drop out in exchange for some unspecified reward (he may want to be prime minister again). Each of these clocks in the 0-3% range.

In terms of the issues, the political debate is dominated by the economic crisis, as unemployment is inching up again towards 10%, the highest in 12 years, and the endless eurozone crisis weakens the economy further. Crime and immigration pop up now and then, typically at the behest of the government, which never loses an opportunity to grandstand, in particular whenever a particularly horrible violent crime happens. Sarkozy has tried to present himself as a great statesman with a lot of international summiteering, saving Europe one day, liberating Libya the next, promoting fancy G20 schemes the other, but this is increasingly seen as endless (and ineffective) noise. His voting base is old (he only got a majority of the over 50s back in 2007, but they are a large, and increasing, share of the voters) and easy to scare, so there is a lot of fear mongering and corresponding self-promotion as the sole protector of the French against all sorts of dangers. Conversely, Hollande, who got a nice boost from the highly successful way the socialist primaries took place (massive turnout, lots of enthusiastic crowds, a clean and compelling victory for him against Martine Aubry, the current party boss and slightly more to the left of the party), needs to decide how and when to campaign, and what to say and not say in the face of a severe crisis which may not leave him with a lot of room for maneuver should he win (or so the Serious People say, anyway). Promises to come back on the increased age for retirement, or to rehire the teachers shed under Sarkozy have come under heavy criticism as being yet more careless spending, and have been set aside for now. The good news is that he is a fighter, as noted above, and today's text, linked to at the top of this article, includes a violent critique of Sarkozy's broken promises, unpresidential behavior and unfair policies.

To be continued...

Display:
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 04:46:16 PM EST
Prior coverage on ET: French Socialist primary : Round Two by eurogreen.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 06:27:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
on the Frenchg campaign: Perpetual motion Sarkozy

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 10:17:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a great deal of uncertainty in this election, as with all Presidential elections in France, which is refreshing as it shows that people still have the option to consider multiple candidates.

Between Sarkozy's low numbers, Le Pen's style, Bayrou's carry-over from 2007 and the presence of Villepin it does seem very possible that Sarkozy could actually fall out of the runoff.   Such a result would be a sound rejection of a sitting President of the kind never seen before.

Ultimately this appears to be Hollande's election to lose.

Also, is there much discussion of the "Sixth Republic" these days?  

by paving on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 01:31:20 AM EST
Short answer, no. Arnaud Montebourg, the promoter of the 6th Republic concept, was beaten in the socialist primary and remains in a fairly restricted role while hoping for a ministerial (even prime ministerial) position. So no 6th Republic talk.

Hollande as president, however, would probably take a contrary direction to the monarchic concentration of power at the Elysée which has been accentuated by Sarkozy. It wouldn't be the 6th Republic, but it would be an improvement on an extension of the reign of King Sarko.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 04:55:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
merci jerome. i've been trying to follow all the twists and turns of french politics from a renewable energy perspective.

Paul Gipe
by pgipe (pgipe(at)igc.org) on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 10:37:12 AM EST
I'll probably do a specific article on energy policy at some point.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:08:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, basically the green party is in favor of at a minimum doubling the CO2 emissions of france. Great. head->desk
by Thomas on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 01:22:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why should I not troll-rate this comment?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 05:55:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i can't figure it out either. Perhaps we should, perhaps not. Messianism is not my favored mode of communication.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 06:56:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Find me an example of nuclear power plants being shut down and actually replaced by equivalently low carbon power, as opposed to coal and gas. One example will do. Then troll rate all you like.
If their stance had been to build green capacity first, and then shut plants down as they become unnessesary, my attitude would be less hostile, but a policy that simply has a timeline for turning them off is certainly going to be extremely, nightmarishly, bad for the enviorment, and calling themselves green while espousing it is an abuse of language.
by Thomas on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:50:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's going to be really difficult, since I can't actually find an example where nuclear has declined in absolute terms. Except maybe Japan, but I don't have numbers for that, and in any event it remains to be seen how the aftermath of Fukushima shakes out.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 12:56:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your examples of a planned net reduction of nuclear output replaced by coal and gas?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 03:55:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Germany's Renewable Output Beats Nuclear, Hard Coal in Power Mix

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Germany produced more energy from renewable sources than from nuclear, hard-coal or gas-fired plants this year after boosting investments in projects from wind to biomass.

Renewables accounted for a fifth of the generation mix in 2011, up from 16.4 percent last year, the BDEW utility association said today in a website statement. Only lignite- fired output, with 24.6 percent, had a greater share this year.

Atomic power sank to 17.4 percent from 22.4 percent after Chancellor Angela Merkel shuttered the country's eight oldest reactors in March in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan. She plans a complete exit from the nuclear industry by 2022.

I tend to agree with you that Germany should have focused on eliminating coal before nuclear, but at least most of the change is happening through the increase in the share of renewables rather than fossil-fuel plants. and that's before the large scale investment in offshore wind shows up in the numbers.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 04:38:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The numbers of AG Energiebilanzen e.V. are also interesting. In their preliminary report on primary energy use in 2011, they say hard coal use fell 0.7%, which masks a 2% drop of coal consuption of power plants and a 4% rise of use in the steel industry. 'Brown coal' (in German terminology, low-grade bituminous or high-grade sub-bituminous coal) however rose 4%, and this is mostly power plant related. Gas use fell 10%, but most of that is explained with lower use for heating due to mild weather. As for renewables, an overall 4.1% growth masks a 9% drop for hydro and 8% drop for biofuels on one hand and 22% rise for wind, 67% rise for PV and 21% rise for biogas on the other hand. Net export fell to 5 TWh, but still positive. As for oil, use fell by 3%, to the lowest level since 1990 according to the report, but considering the mild weather, maybe the percentage drop is less spectacular. Overall CO2 emissions fell 3%. Cleaned of the weather effect, they say energy use would have dropped 1% and CO2 emissions would have risen 1%.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is the original BDEW press report in German. 2011 numbers (with percentage point changes), with feed-in-law-supported renewables – overall 19.9% (+3.5) – broken up individually:

  • 'brown coal' 24.6% (+1.4)
  • hard coal 18.7% (+0.1)
  • nuclear 17.7% (-4.7)
  • gas 13.6% (-0.2)
  • wind 7.6% (+1.6)
  • biomass 5.2% (+0.8)
  • pumped storage, home waste & other outside the feed-in-law 4.2% (-0.1)
  • PV 3.2% (+1.3)
  • hydro 3.1% (-0.2)
  • waste-burning 0.8% (no change)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:36:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is far too charitable reading of german energy policy. From a strict point of view any phaseout of nuclear in a not 100% low carbon grid is bad, because phasing out coal instead is always an option. However, even taking a less hardline viewpoint, every bit of renewable energy added to the german grid lately was in the pipeline before the nuclear shutdown was decided on, so you cannot credit it against the loss of capacity. Merkel put the shutdown schedule into law with no replacement clean capacity added not already in the works, so it is in fact a perfect example of nuclear phaseout helping to fry the planet - every megawatthour lost from reactors is replaced by less electricity exports (consequences depends on what the former importer replaces that power with) or dirty power.  

Italy: Direct substition of dirty power upon the abandonment of their nuclear programme.

Barsebeck: Replaced by fossile fuels in the short run, swedes cleaned up the shortfall via.. uprating the remaining reactors.

by Thomas on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 07:47:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair enough - but then we'll need to revisit the topic in 2-3 years, when all the new offshore wind farms which have been financed thanks to the KfW programme, announced after (and as part of) the phaseout, get built.

Data from this year are also skewed by the unusually warm weather, so consumption was down anyway, and there was no need for actual replacement of all the nuke capacity. Question, of course, is whether the "unusual" is so unusual...

But again, you will get no disagreement from me that coal should be phased out before nukes - but since it's harder to phase out nukes (full base load), if that can be done we'll know it's easy to do the same to coal...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:41:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:
Direct substition of dirty power

how, after fukushima et al, you can still cling to a belief that nukes are clean in any way shape or form is as mysteriously wrong-headed as are your claims that PV, wind etc are delusional.

impasse? look at the economic forces pushing for more nukes, look at those like Jerome pushing for really clean solutions. which camp do you belong in?

it's not 1950, we are not fooled by the pseudo-promise of nuclear, we have a quarter of the world's nukes here in Europe already, you want more, lots more, when the ones they are building already are always astronomically over budget, there is no agreed safe way to dispose of the waste, and the sheer energy/risk needs for the next hundreds of thousands of years keeping them chilled will probably outweigh the needs people have for other things.

more new nukes to power the chilling of the old nukes.

redefines the term 'vicious cycle', what could possibly go wrong(er)?

every penny spent on nukes takes us farther away from the world we could create, where citizens can marry their needs with those of their environment.

we are already indebting our descendents economically in our insanely entitled profligacy and denial about our consumption patterns, but economic debt pales before the debt of suffering we will bequeath to them sprinkling more nukes around their landscape.

i agree with your loathing of coal, but the rest, no matter how sincerely you may feel what you do, rings as off-the-map self-destructive a strategy as building more coal plants.

i can't understand how anyone can still believe nuke propaganda, after all the lies and cover-ups, unless they are contrarian-for-its-own-sake, or have some financial investment in pushing this nightmarish technology which may present well on paper, but it should be patently obvious by now to all but the wilfully blind that we all-too-fallible humans are nowhere near the level of carefulness or responsibility to make happen right here.

the EROI is unquantifiable seeing how long these beasts take to die, and how much it costs to embalm them, so no nuke advocate should ever dare to describe this technology as economically justifiable, the data just isn't there!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:43:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
when they are State-owned, State-financed and independently supervised - something that France, despite a few shortcomings, has managed to do.

The problem is that this model is dead - it's actually even illegal in the EU as it would amount to State aid... and let's not talk about the general weakening of regulators over the past 30 years, not in energy in particular but in general.

So today, nuclear electricity (from new plants) will cost 8c/kWh instead of the 3-4c/kWh France achieved for the past 20 years - so more than wind, with even more controversy...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:48:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it's time, as Europhiles, to start opposing the ways in which the EU is pushing wrong-headed policies in many aspects?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:49:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've tried to do this whenever I have an opportunity to speak publicly. Last year I was invited to speak at various EU events (including one to all national regulators) and made this presentation: The financing of new energy infrastructure in the EU (as discussed here on ET).

I've been asked to contribute to the Hollande campaign on these issues and am passing on some of these ideas as well.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:59:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't even need state financing and ownership (though it certainly doesn't hurt) as long as you have a culture of excellence and a focus of safety first. Which is quite hard to do in a deregulated power market or where nuclear is seen as a sunset technology, however.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 08:10:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for several reasons:

  1. nuclear is a capital intensive technology, and is thus cheaper if financed at low rates over the very long term. Nobody can beat the State to do that

  2. nuclear does have residual risks  which will always be borne by the public - safety, cleanup in case of accident (as they are uninsurable) and long term waste management. One can argue that these costs are more or less measurable, but as they are always - always - for the State, it is only fair the public should get the upside of nuclear power in the form of State ownership of the assets and/or lower prices for electricity.


Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 09:08:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. true of course, and I don't disagree. But in a regulated environment, solid private power companies get cheap enough rates as well so as to finance nukes in a reasonable way. This is not a hypothesis - it is the historical experience in eg Finland and Sweden.

  2. that argument also requires that airlines, chemical plants, hydro plants, natgas infrastructure and so on is owned by the state. Of course, the public does get the upside in the form of lower electricity prices as well, if the market is regulated. Which is more or less needed to make nuclear possible for private owners. Even if some exotic ways of financing are possible even in a deregulated market (plants owned directly by a consortium of big power consumers, Mankala model, and so on).


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 09:33:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm with you on this issue melo. Nukes (in the long term anyway) are far too risky. Just because there hasn't been a major accident so far in Europe, doesn't mean there never will be. I doubt seriously Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima were planned events. Nobody's got a crystal ball. Who knows for sure what will happen in the future? The nuke technology certainly hasn't proved to be fail safe. And then there is the huge dilemma of where to safely store the nuclear waste produced by this type of energy, which I don't believe has been fully or satisfactorily addressed either.

The saving grace is that there are alternatives, namely wind, solar, geothermal, etc. Should it be that TPTB decide that the incentives are ripe to switch to these alternative energies and move forward full throttle, both coal and nukes could be phased out.

While there's always been known knowns and unknown knowns, it's the unknown knowns that concern me most. And the possible ramifications of nuclear power use fall squarely in the latter category imo.

by sgr2 on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 10:55:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A civilization which produces a significant portion of its sustenance from a factory farm system which has more adverse effect on climate change than transportation or power, which produces hugely polluting unchecked waste, which produces the conditions for advanced mutations of diseases, which has to use so much antibiotics that resistant strains are becoming the norm, and which allows no effective monitoring or regulation...

is not mature enough to split the atom with respect for the entire cycle.

You are what you eat. The technocratic view of the nuclear cycle, that it's manageable, may well be true, but it is not manageable by this civilization.

Technocrats always view nuclear power in isolation, which just can't be done.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:24:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could a mod please delete this comment. it does not belong here in this French election diary.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:44:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
as nuclear energy is likely going to continue to be a real part of the election debate, this whole thread is not really so off-topic.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:46:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well, ok.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:49:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Factory farms: A perfect example of what's gone wrong and why we find ourselves in the situation we're in. But when the players/TPTB are Monsanto and the like, what else can be expected? Round-Up to the rescue. GMO seeds for everybody.

What is manageable (in a good way I mean) by this civilization? Sometimes one wonders.

by sgr2 on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 12:25:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So far TPTB have managed to refrain from turning the planet into a radioactive cinder, something I wouldn't have bet a large amount of money on in the 1960s.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 12:39:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When thought of from that point of view you're right, AT. And that's good news for all of us.
by sgr2 on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 01:46:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would have bet a large amount of money on that in the 1960s, had I had the option. If the planet is covered in a shallow layer of radioactive glass, then the bet is void by virtue of me, my bookie or both being dead anyway, so such a bet would be all upside.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 07:42:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh. Speaking of lies, if greenpeace tells you the sun will rise, ask for their sources.

In order: nuclear waste does not need longterm cooling. LWR waste needs short term cooling while the shortest-lived isotopes decay. Long term storage, of the kind the finns and swedes are actually building has an ongoing energy consumption of zero, being a gold(well, glass, copper and clay)-plated hole into bedrock. The energy cost of building them compared to the energy extracted from the fuel before deposition is also zero. Nuclear waste quantities are very small, and the energetic costs of blasting bedrock arent that high.
The energy cost of construction and decomissioning any given reactor are also neglible. Nuclear reactors are very expensive, but that is because they require enormous quantities of skilled manhours to build, not because they are resource hogs.

The error you are making is that it is very easy to construct a very long list of steps in the production of nuclear energy that consumes energy, and then claim that the EROI must be bad, but that is not how you do EROI. You need to run the numbers, and for nuclear fission, the numbers are very, very good, and can easily be dramatically improved by moving to more advanced fuel cycles.

As for pseudo-promises - Renewable advocates have promised a future powered by sun and wind since 1970, using the exact same retoric, the same images and the same arguments. This has given us 40 years of dominance by coal, and global warming. If the enviormental movement had backed nukes in 1970 global warming would basically not exist
The same advocacy groups are currently signing us up for thirty+ years of natural gas, fracking and earthquakes. -
You can loadbalance a wind grid with sufficient HVDC interconnections on a continental scale, or with gas turbines. Pay attention to which of those utilities are actually building....

.. BTW, can anyone explain to me why HVDC lines are not being laid more than they are? Because just looking at electricty prices in various markets, investors are passing up serious arbritage possibilities.

As for fukushima. That was a disaster beyond what I had reckoned plausible. A very expensive disaster. And the radiation killed noone. Mostly, that disaster is an argument that it is worth it to invest a heck of a lot in smaller designs with passive safeties, because heck, yes, LWR's are white elephants.

by Thomas on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:27:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As usual, I follow you largely in the defense of nuclear, but not in the silly attacks on renewable that follow.


Renewable advocates have promised a future powered by sun and wind since 1970, using the exact same retoric, the same images and the same arguments. This has given us 40 years of dominance by coal, and global warming.

Renewables (along with energy efficiency and savings) were on the right path until they were killed in the 80s by the combination of the oil price collapse and the neolib revolution (remember Reagan tearing down the solar panels on the White House?). I don't think there have been a lot of coal plants built in the Western worlds in the past 25 years - but gas-fired plants have indeed been built, and they are the logical consequence of energy deregulation and investment driven by short term returns rather than long term considerations - a policy issue unrelated to renewables or their advocates.


You can loadbalance a wind grid with sufficient HVDC interconnections on a continental scale, or with gas turbines. Pay attention to which of those utilities are actually building....

Can you make the difference between a lot of gas-fired MWs, and a lot of gas-fired MWh? Balancing requires a lot of gas-fired plants but not a lot of gas to be burnt? Gas peakers are profitable with a utilization rate of 2-10%. I don't see anything wrong with having lots of little-used gas-fired power plants.

As to utilities building gas-fired plants, see my comment above about deregulation, and my various posts about how it is so much easier to be profitable with a price-making technology (high magical costs) than with a price taking technology (high fixed costs)...


BTW, can anyone explain to me why HVDC lines are not being laid more than they are? Because just looking at electricty prices in various markets, investors are passing up serious arbritage possibilities.

It's mainly a NIMBY issue, unfortunately.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:41:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
should read "marginal cost" of course...

The wonders of OSX Lion auto-correct... maybe not so inappropriate here!

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:55:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This does need its own diary, give me a few hours. But basically: In order for wind to be a high fraction of the total kwh produced, you need either vast ability to shift electricity consumption in time, (not hours. Days, weeks) or a really large geograpical area interconnected. Without one of those - and either one will do - you end up with 2/3s of actual kwh being gas.
by Thomas on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 01:04:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas, besides that your description of renewables since the 70's is so far off base as to provoke wonder at your reality...

could we take this discussion to a diary of yours on nuclear power, and not hijack a diary on the French presidential election?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 11:47:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what you mean about "lies." I stated my opinion. That no one knows what will happen in the future and that nuclear power plants are scary because when things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong. Such as creating a disaster 'beyond what you had reckoned plausible.' It is this precise unpredictable quality of getting power this way that causes me concern. It has nothing to do with seeking advice from Greenpeace on whether or not the sun also rises.

As far as cost effectiveness of EROI for nukes, I have no reason to doubt what you say. However, with respect to 'why' alternative renewable energy has only been a promise since the 1970s, my point here was that up until relatively recently (and still not to a great extent) TPTB have chosen to go the nuke route instead. Perhaps not only because it's cleaner, but probably mostly because of ROI.

by sgr2 on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 12:03:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas was responding to melo's comment, using his best messianism to frame the discussion from his own version of reality.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 12:09:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, okay. Sorry for the mixup.
by sgr2 on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 12:27:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As for fukushima. That was a disaster beyond what I had reckoned plausible. A very expensive disaster. And the radiation killed noone.

... yet.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 07:53:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or according to studies published so far. (We saw how a truckload of research evidencing hundreds of thousands of deaths and a lot more dieseases can be cut down to a few dozen by spin and omission with Chernobyl.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 08:04:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the long run... etc.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 08:13:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not talking about the long run. I'm talking about it taking years or decades for the excess cancer incidence from elevated background radiation to be detectable. But those people are killed just as dead as the ones who get caught in a gas explosion.

Besides, the focus on radiation leaves out the fact that a lot of the longer-lived radioactive crap is also chemically toxic and very expensive to get out of your soil.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 07:32:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do we have any estimate of probable deaths that isn't unusably contaminated by bias and politics?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 07:37:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... but probably not.

In principle, it should be possible to determine the Chernobyl risk factor by conducting enough (and large enough) epidemiological studies on the relevant populations.

In practise, it would be very expensive, and require high-quality individual-level medical data from Ukraine and the Soviet Union. Between the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the sorry state of Ukraine today, I doubt that those records exist today. If they ever did.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 07:52:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 07:54:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
4000 from Chernobyl? And over half of those were directly involved in the clean-up?

How do we apply that to the Fukushima incident?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 08:07:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dunno - ask the WHO.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 08:09:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, by "Yes" you mean "No"?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 08:10:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you have any proper science to argue otherwise, let's see it.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 09:04:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd forgotten this, from that report: "Poverty, "lifestyle" diseases now rampant in the former Soviet Union and mental health problems pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure."
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 08:09:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the WHO/IAEA/UNDP numbers are far from being free of bias and politics. The often touted 4,000 number is actually a sub-sum of one category of victims who died due to one category of disease, there are larger numbers in that study alone; while there is no attempt at a true total estimate, and that not due to a total lack of research. Back in 2006, I wrote a whole diary about a critique of the 4,000 number and a review of research not previously available in English under the title Chernobyl's Downplayed Victims. Back then, in a separate Greenpeace-supported study by Russian Academy of Sciences scientists, a total of 212,000 deaths in Europe was estimated. Since then, a group led by another Russian Academy of Sciences scientist did an update and the New York Academy of Sciences published it in English, with a foreword written by a member of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences for further emphasis on new sources, under the title Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (which I mentioned in a Fukushima thread). Their ultimate estimate is 1 million, though most of the extra comes from (low confidence) low mortality rate estimates for other continents.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 12:25:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the current best answer available to us is that we have no idea how many Chernobyl will kill and less idea how many Fukushima will kill?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 12:30:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Somewhere between four thousand and four hundred thousand, depending on your political preference.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 01:57:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Make that 'somewhere between 9,000 plus and one million', and 100,000 would be a more realistic lower bound. (9,000 is the number deep in the WHO etc. study of which only a sub-total made it into the press release.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 02:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The high numbers are quite remarkably bad science, tough. Ive read what I can find in languages I understand, and.. eh, they ring every bell that gets set off when I read climate change denialist tracts, and they ring them hard. I have to classify some of them as deliberate attempts at deception, because nobody is that stupid and that clever at once.

 Good epistomology on it is however honestly very difficult, because chernobyl was located in the industrial heartland of the SU, which means it is horrifically polluted, chemically. The citizenry in those parts can be expected to suffer elevated rates of just about anything, with or without radiation, and we have no hard data on how radiation interacts with chemical toxicity in general. - We know that it is a very bad idea for radiation workers to smoke, but beyond that- nada.

The fatality numbers for fukushima are much more reasonably predictable, tough. And And while not zero, the main cause of death is not radiation, it is relocation stress.  - a lot of people got moved, and some of them were not in the best of health.

by Thomas on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 04:31:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well in science no number is certain. My point was that there is much more research out there that commonly assumed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 02:00:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We also have no idea if neutrinos travel faster than light, exactly how much higher or lower the temperature of the earth will be a century from now, or if evolution is any more than a theory.

But - you know - so what?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 02:13:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can the antinuke hysteria, please.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 10:28:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:41:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:

Barsebeck: Replaced by fossile fuels in the short run, swedes cleaned up the shortfall via.. uprating the remaining reactors.

If you can find a fossile fuel bump I would like to see it, in particular considering that fossile fuel for electricity is rare in Sweden. Vattenfall has some rarely used oil for back-up on cold winter days with nukes offline and low water levels at the water plants.

If you instead take the long view, the 1980 referendum on nuclear power that halted the expansion of nuclear is partially responsible for phasing out oil for heating. See, when nuclear was planned to be ever-expanding Vattenfall used its market position to provide local utilities with a lower price if they choose direct eletric heating over district heating. As local utilities had a lot of say in city planning, the wasteful practice of direct electric heating ruled the day. After the referendum further expansion was halted anyway so local utilities gradually moved towards district heating and the state launched incentives for converting homes heated with oil or direct electric heating to biofuels (forest by-products) or with electric heatpumps.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 01:45:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Barsebeck was mostly replaced with imported power across the sund, and the Danish grid is very dirty.
by Thomas on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 01:53:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean that there was import of danish coal electricity in the years 1999 and 2005 when the reactors was shut down? If so, I would really like to see your source, as the Swedish energy department disagrees - 1999 and 2005 saw a net export of Swedish electricity.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 01:21:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is replacing carbon with nuclear waste a rational decision?
by paving on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 04:49:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes. Nuclear waste is a containable problem which becomes less of a threat with time on its own. Halflives, and all that jazz - it doesnt really take all that long before the waste contains less radioactivity than the original ore did, so if you take the long view, nuclear power makes earth less radioactive. Carbon, on the other hand, messes with the climate. Which is going to be just a tiny bit  more of a problem than blocks of glass in copper barrels encased in betonite clay, sealed with concrete and 120 meters of bedrock.
by Thomas on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 05:31:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratulations to Thomas for recommending that we plan our energy policy on geological time scales.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:29:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Global warming shouldn't be encouraged by appealing to irrational fears of possible contamination.

We need to operate on deaths per KwH. Nuke wins hands down.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 10:32:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Irrational fears of possible contamination seem to have a reasonably secure basis in the reality of the past decades.

No one here is advocating for more coal and other fossil burning. So your straw dog disappears. Then the comparison with renewables must take place, on a time scale of millennia.

Not one person on this planet is capable of making an adequate judgement of the effects of nuclear power, since a) we are only just beginning to understand genetics, and b) we don't have a handle on real costs or real time frames.

What we do have is hard, commercial evidence, that overcoming cost barriers and massive supply chain scale up has already been proven on a global scale for renewables, which can't be said about nuclear.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:53:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spoken by a true engineer.  You'll feel differently when one of those kw/h kills your family directly.  
by paving on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 06:20:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the people who die from lungcancer, other airway ailments and a gazillion toxic effects (coal), falling(renewable workers) and in natural gas explosions, are somehow not dead?
One should never forget that Deaths per kwh calculations have rather large errorbars, but they are the best way we have to evaluate the hazards of various generation systems.
by Thomas on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 05:11:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's somewhat meaningless to claim anything about deaths from Fukushima at this point. For one, you'll need at least a few more decades, as well as an open process. Second, the entire culture around medical statistics will have to evolve to more transparency and less obfuscation.

No one in their right mind ignores the lethal nature of coal as king killer, and the other fossils as part of a poison in this civilization.

PS. Fish count too, especially in Japan.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 08:36:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of people have missed that the supposedly open Western democratic free market state of Japan has actually been more secretive and less concerned with the fate of its citizens than the Stalinist socialist etc Soviet Union.

Not that the SU was a textbook example of openness. But it's still rather hard to find solid basic data for contamination and exposure from Fukushima.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 09:08:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of people have missed that the supposedly open Western democratic free market state of Japan has actually been more secretive and less concerned with the fate of its citizens than the Stalinist socialist etc Soviet Union.

More secretive, yes. Less concerned with the fate of its citizens... that's hard to argue when you consider the sort of hazmat gear the Soviets sent their cleanup crews in with (or not).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 09:21:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - possibly.

One never knows if rumours like these are true.

But when TEPCO has such a reliable record of spin and terminological inexactitude, almost anything could be going on.

It's also interesting that the last radiation survey focused on external sources only and apparently made no attempt to check for internal contamination.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 10:18:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I might start leaning towards believing that when somebody somewhere implements some sort of a spent fuel dump. Right now we've got 70 years of accumulated material with no place to put it.
by asdf on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 06:58:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See How Sweden deals with nuclear waste by Starvid on August 16th, 2006.

But yes, by and large we keep running our nuclear plants with no plans about what to do with the waste. See, for instance Nuclear dump (of final storage and German elections) by DoDo on September 27th, 2009.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 07:11:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wherein I point out:

The original story here, "How Sweden deals with nuclear waste" is the pro-nuclear story. It needs to be read carefully to sort out what "could" be done with the high-level waste from what "is" being done, i.e., it's being stored in "temporary" above-ground sites just like it is everywhere else.
by asdf on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 08:32:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
High-level waste is not stored in "temporary" above ground sites in Sweden. The only above ground-storage in Sweden is the hot fuel which is stored for a year in the reactor pool until it can be moved to CLAB. Which is an underground site deep down in the bedrock, 20 metres down IIRC.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 12:35:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is so far moving according to schedule.

Since Starvid wrote that piece, SKB has chosen Forsmark  as location (so much for my industry sources) though the final decision rests with the government. Latest news is contracts with the consultants needed to construct the place where the waste will be encapsulated (new part of CLAB) has been put up for tender. Encapsuling is scheduled to start in 2025 and be in full speed in 2027. The process is lumbering on in its own slow pace with no visible signs of halting.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 03:23:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]

So, basically the green party is in favor of at a minimum doubling the CO2 emissions of france. Great.

How is this a reply to anything I wrote?

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 04:29:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You said you would write about energy policy and Thomas volunteered his own version.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 04:33:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This argument is a canard. You are requiring that a specific case of a nuclear plant being retired be tied to a specific case of sustainable energy being constructed, which is obviously not how the energy production marketplace works.

For example, the Humboldt nuclear station in California, 64 MW, was shut down in 1976. The Techapi Pass wind farm, 710 MW, was started up in the early 1980s. So the sequence is correct to say that the nuclear resource was replaced by a sustainable resource.

However, obviously it is not a one-for-one replacement, the process for planning and deploying electrical power is inter-related with a whole range of factors like planned or unplanned shutdowns of certain sources, changing regulatory environment, demand growth rate, cost of supplies, interest rates, etc. It's never going to be a case of "we are shutting down this one system and replacing it with this other system," because none of the activities live in an isolated system.

Therefore, your question is nothing but provocation.

by asdf on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 01:46:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you say, Jérôme. Most of the polls I've seen have him more in the 7-10% range, and I can't recall any poll which has Eva Joly ahead of him. He's been ahead of Bayrou on more than a few as well, as recently as late November/early December.

A lot depends, I would say, on how "centrist" Hollande becomes in order to woo Bayrou voters in the Parisian bobo set in the event things tighten up a bit between now and May and in so doing seperate himself from Sarkozy in the first round. Some of the folks on my side of the spectrum would vote Mélenchon as a result, instead of Hollande, especially considering Hollande's presence in the second round is probably more or less assured in any event (though the same cannot be said of Sarkozy). We're all over the debacle of 2002, Besancenot is keeping the sort of comfortable low profile one can afford one's self when one's wife makes 10K€/month, Arlette is retired and all the other extreme left figures are walking dead people, Poutou and Arthaud polling at 1% or less, and I doubt they'll share as much as two percent of the general in the first round. So, Mélenchon is the only credible left alternative to Hollande (the Greens and especially Joly too ideologically heteroclite to be properly refered to as left), and so a Mélenchon vote is a natural and safe one for voters on the left. Indeed, one of the uncommented points in this election so far is that the left, after having tried and failed to properly unite in 2007, instead seeing seperate Besancenot, Laguiller and Buffet candidacies, has finally done so.

I'd bet money he comes in close to 10%, pehaps more.

Chevènement is a wild card, and here I agree with your implication that he is unlikely to actually run, adding to this observation that he polls quite poorly (under 2% on everything I see) and is not quite old (he'll be 73 on election day).

One final comment. While in the past the PCF, now a critical part of the Front de Gauche, have gotten their seats via maintenance of historical "fiefdoms," this is beginning to change, a notable exception (and harbinger of hoped-for future developments) being the rise of André Chassaigne, Mélenchon's opponent in the united left primary, whose base is in political terrain not particularly warm to the PCF (rural Puy-de-Dôme). Another example would be Michel Le Scouarnec, elected in these recently past senatorials in similarly not-particularly-friendly to PCF Morbihan.

And, of course, we have not yet really seen the full impact of the Europe-wide "bankers first" austerity. I am sure things will become more interesting as 2012 and the rest of the decade progresses, regardless of how well Hollande governs.

 

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 02:54:13 PM EST
Pretty complicated set of postulates there.

I'd agree with you that the Trots will be lucky to pull in 3% between them. I'd also agree that Eva Joly is quite unlikely to do better than Mélenchon (though not for the reason you state - EELV will have a hard time because Joly is not an obvious candidate, and because the Verts have decided to throw the presidential in return for legislative seats).

But "We're all over the debacle of 2002", who dat? I think a lot of voters have firmly fixed in their minds that the first round is not to be pissed around with.

It's not my preferred set-up - the more Seriously Centrist™ Hollande is, the more I want to bash my head against the wall. But not so much because of crudely electoral designs. Much more because the time ahead calls for a political discourse that compellingly narrates... reality. Just watch the people flock to it if that happens. But Mélenchon isn't narrating either: just throwing lighted squibs.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 03:34:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And quite a few I know as well. Linca, for instance, has also recently weighed in with his impressions on these pages in the recent past, with the same impression as I have. But, admittedly, I could be wrong in general and have seen no polling on the subject.

Agree with you on Joly, and would go further to make a similar comment on Mélenchon, who is not in my view an optimal candidate for us either, though in the primary my guy lost. Anybody who has seen Chassaigne speak and work a crowd will know that he has some serious potential, not just as a candidate who poses as the conscience of the PS, but who is a rassembleur in his own right.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 08:31:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the sprinkling of the extreme left votes over 3-4 candidates has always seemed to me to be a totally stupid thing - having one candidate concentrate these votes would give them visibility and a voice, which would be useful against the ever-rightwards draft of policies these days.

Having 10% for the greens and 10% for Melenchon, plus a good enough showing of Hollande, should be the target.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 05:00:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is in the nature of the extreme left, to procreate through cell division...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 08:18:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jérôme, thanks for the digest.

Here's a tracking poll from an apparently independent website. Both Holland and Sarkozy on a gentle decline, Le Pen very erratic. The ingredients are there for an exciting race.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 05:39:30 AM EST
Bayrou is surprisingly high.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:39:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Given that the UMP and the Socialists are more apart than what you usually have in European democracies this is not surprising. But in the end he'll always have a neutral effect, taking votes from each site.

The big question in these elections is Le Pen, if she can topple Sarkozy in the first round it would be something.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 07:30:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there are two major things at stake in the first round
  1. who gets on the second round from the right, because it's by no means a given that Sarkozy will be there
  2. what's the balance of power on the left between Hollande, Joly, Mélenchon and, to some extent, Bayrou. A Hollande who must deal with a 15% Bayrou will not be the same than a Hollande having to deal with a 5% Bayrou.


Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:43:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
may be seen as a tolerable substitute to Sarkozy for right-wing people who will never vote for a socialist but cannot stand Sarkozy (there's quite a few, and many of them won't vote for le Pen or the other hard right candidates or de Villepin).

He is definitely of center-right persuasion (the "center" has been part of the right for most of the past 40 years) but he broke away from Chirac and then Sarkozy more credibly than previous centrists, voting against them in parliament a number of times on high profile votes. The result has been that he's lost most of his MP group - as they know that locally they will be elected by allying with the traditional right. Sarkozy has tried to nurture competing "centrist" candidates, who have funding and a parliamentary group - that's the Hervé Morin situation (but he's not well known and polls 0-1%)

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 09:03:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bayrou's support in 2007 always struck me as very shallow, and primarily resulting from Royale's uninspiring campaigning.   Any chance Villepin actually gets some play and can swallow the anti-Sarkozy non-FN right vote?  He seems the best alternative to Bayrou for such a voter.
by paving on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 05:07:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's one of the open question marks of this election. Villepin is also tainted by his open rivalry/hate with Sarkozy, which may not make him an alternative, but part of the same petty system they hate.

Bayrou is a 'nicer' vote.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 02:59:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there some kind of movement afoot in France to ban hunting/gun-ownership, or why is there a specific party crusading to defend hunting?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 08:06:32 AM EST
There is a pro-hunting party/movement, which is usually more present during local and European elections, and fighting mainly against EU regulations limiting hunting season dates. It's a yearly fight in Southern France, as hunters and bird-protection militants square off on the days before the hunting season officially opens.

The CPNT movement ("hunting, fishing, nature & tradition") movement have gotten a few percent of the votes (up to almost 7% in 1999, when they gained 6 MEPs, and 4% at the 2002 presidential election), so not insignificant.

They are classified as right-populist.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 09:12:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hunting is the issue, not gun ownership (not much of a contentious issue so far). There's a strong culture of hunting in rural areas, a right that developed after the French revolution: until then, hunting was reserved to the nobility and any commoner caught poaching, even during the worst famines, was hanged. So hunting is also seen as a conquest of republican egalitarianism.

Unlike other European countries like Britain or Germany, France remained a largely agricultural country until WW II: in 1939, the majority of the population still lived in rural areas rather than in the cities. All this changed radically during the three decades of growth into the first oil shock: the rural areas are becoming increasingly empty and even small and medium towns are struggling to keep population (and jobs) to the benefit of the big conurbations like Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, etc...

Farmers themselves have become an endangered species, living more and more out the CAP subsidies.

In parallel, since the 1970's, more and more legislation (some of it pushed by the European Parliament) was introduced to protect wild animals, including a lot of traditional game and traditional hunting methods, like "chasse à la palombe" (Common Wood Pigeon) in the South West. The growing restrictions on hunting, coupled with an increase of suburbia encroaching onto what was previously farming land has created a strong resentment against all these bobos, urban, hippies, pinko/commies/environmentalists "who want to take away our legitimate right to hunt".

This is why there has been a party called CNPT ("Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition") who presented candidates during most of the election cycles since 1989, including presidential elections.
This is a conservative movement of the reactionary kind, surfing on the fears and travails of the rural world. It is aligned to Sarkozy's UMP since 2009.

It would be wrong to paint all rural people with a reactionary brush anyway: several small farmers movements (ex: José Bové) are supporting progressive policies, including on environmental issues (afew who's living in a mostly rural place, could expand on this).

by Bernard on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 09:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the pros and cons of hunting in France is an issue which surely is best debated by the French, is that not so? So why is the EU trying to overstep its mandate in this way? Am I the only person left who remembers the principle of subsidarity?

It was the same thing when Sweden instituted licence hunting of wolves a few years back: a massive wall of whine from EU representatives from countries which have zero wolves! The wolf debate is infected enough here at home without Brussels weighing in on what's not their business. Now that I think of it, it was the eurocrats who banned our squirrel hunting as well. For no good reason I might add, as the squirrel is very abundant in Sweden. But I suppose they were thought to be too cute and cuddly to be hunted.

Seems the Wood pigeon is "Least Concern" species as well. It's widely hunted in Sweden too. And the taste is quite exquisite. Hunting of the Stock dove is however banned, as the population has shrunk during the last half a century due to changes in land use patterns. The hunting of the Eurasian collared dove is banned as well.

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

by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 09:49:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
overstep its mandate

How so?

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

by DoDo on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 12:01:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The principle of subsidiarity is part of the foundations of the EU, and says that all decisions should be made on the lowest possible level. It's very hard to argue that local hunting regulations are a federal level issue...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 12:13:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Well, the pros and cons of hunting in France is an issue which surely is best debated by the French, is that not so? So why is the EU trying to overstep its mandate in this way? Am I the only person left who remembers the principle of subsidarity?

Sure, subsidiarity is a great thing, but it's not only about the EC:

  • Migrating birds have a bad habit of ignoring human-made borders, so some cases, it might not make sense to protect one bird species in one country if it is free for all in the next.
  • And the restrictions (at least those that generate controversy in France) are seldom outright banning but rather smaller date ranges for the open season.
  • The palombe (wood pigeon) may be thriving in Sweden but the population was dwindling in France, and the traditional hunt was actually very efficient in thinning out the numbers.
  • Not all hunting regulations are actually EC imposed, many are decided at national level, but our governments have taken the bad habit of using the "EU made me do it" camouflage; and this extends way beyond hunting...
  • And last, this is not really about hunting, after all: the CPNT name is "Chasse, Pêche, Nature et Traditions" ("Hunting, Fishing, Nature & Traditions"). As I explained above, it is firstly a reactionary expression of resentment against the urban population (whose values and life styles are different): life was better "before", when men were real men, women were real women, France was white (save for the Colonies), church was Catholic and furry little creatures in the woods were, err, furry little creatures in the woods.
by Bernard on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 12:43:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the point about migratory birds is very good, actually. It's a parallell to having the EU regulate sulfur emissions as they fall down as acid rain in other countries, a clear example of where the principle of subsidiarity points to the federal level. Your other points are duly noted as well.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 03:59:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another parallel is nuclear power...
by Katrin on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 02:56:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Private ownership of firearms (and the security of government stockpiles) is actually another, since people who steal firearms (or intend to commit crimes with them) will typically have little compunction about carrying them across EU borders.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 03:57:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically zero weapons used in crimes are stolen from legal owners. They are all more or less illegal weapons from the Balkan wars. At least that's the way things are in Sweden, and I bet it's like that in the rest of the EU as well.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 05:00:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not something involving theft, but involving lax gun laws, is the fact that Austria served as the main funnel for weapons from both the Balkan Wars and Warshaw Pact armories into the EU.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 05:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this. Links to some of the best articles criticising Sarkozy would be useful.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 07:19:27 PM EST


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