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A Serious™ note from a head of the IEA may be expected to be neutral, fair, balanced, objective - what you will - but not biased by the exclusion of relevant facts and the repetition of similar points to those greatly in use by defenders of an established position in electricity markets.

However, that's what Ramsay does with the wind "subsidy" chestnut. I don't know how much the German government directly subsidizes wind, but essentially the €5bn cover total feed-in tariffs, ie paid by the consumer. Any normally-constituted reader of his paragraph on the subject will conclude that that is the added cost of wind power. That in fact depends on the difference between the guaranteed minimum that is the FIT and the going market rate, and this Ramsay does not say. At the IEA, he cannot be ignorant of the Merit Order Effect and its moderating effect on final consumer prices, (equivalent for Germany, according to one study, to €5bn p.a., oddly enough), yet he doesn't mention it.

Repeating the "wind is subsidized" argument in a supposedly serious discussion of costs, without attempting a balanced appraisal, seems to me like trotting out a talking point.

Symmetrically, he assumes that Germany can go on with some nuclear at no extra cost. Fukushima, in his depiction, is simply something that understandably creates concern in voters' minds. He does not examine the possibility that the cost of nuclear post-Fukushima is likely to rise along with the heightened awareness of risk - not just in voters' minds, but in the hard-headed calculations of the insurance world, for example, and in the increased safety and security requirements that will necessarily follow. He speaks of "economically viable" nuclear plant under "license extensions", but does he examine the possibility that a review of those extensions after Fukushima (a crisis that is not yet over, and the full story of which not yet told, in a station that was accorded an extension) might not have an effect on that "economic viability"?

In other words, he doesn't examine the cost for Germany of continuing with nuclear, and yet his proclaimed goal is to inform German voters of the truth of real costs.

Ramsay also gives a passing mention to the "wind needs backup" point, when he says: "Gas is already expanding to backstop Germany's large wind programme". How one can mention Fukushima at the same time without indicating, in fairness, that nuclear (or any type of generation) may fail and need backup, not necessarily as a result of catastrophe (though the consequences of serious accidents to nuclear facilities are obviously much graver than accidents to renewables), but also in lesser emergencies, or because drought may cause closure for river-cooled reactors, as may happen in France this summer, or simply because reactors are taken offline for maintenance - the cost of backup doesn't count if it's for nuclear?

I don't just find this biased against renewables and in favour of nuclear, I find the points made are neither new nor accurate. And, at the moment, it would seem we're hearing rather a chorus of them. In my view, Ramsay is disingenuous when he pretends to give objective information to the electorate, and is in fact offering talking points in a one-sided discourse.

And so I call it "propaganda". Whether I should indicate my feelings in the comment header is another question. I shall try to be more disciplined in future. :)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 11:28:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't find the rhetoric and the distortion strange.

What I find inexplicable is the irrational festering hatred some people seem to have for the idea of renewables.

As in the Lewis Page piece I linked to recently, this goes beyond rational argument or craven self-interest and veers into semi-psychotic rage at the very notion that renewables could be viable.

I don't understand why renewables or climate science bother anyone to the extent they seem to.

I could speculate they somehow attack a belief in omnipotent personal sovereignty and dominion in a way that nukes and coal don't.

Really, it's impossible to say - although it seem does as if the "rational" arguments aren't even slightly rational at all.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 11:50:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
I don't understand why renewables or climate science bother anyone to the extent they seem to.

LOL

that's like wondering why dracula doesn't like garlic!

ThatBritGuy:

I could speculate they somehow attack a belief in omnipotent personal economic sovereignty and dominion in a way that nukes and coal don't.

fify.

they are its freaking deathknell! people forging their own handcuff-keys? there goes the neighbourhood...

'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 Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 12:19:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that's a major question. Not that there is never rational self-interest involved - incumbent energy industries, for example, have of course built communications strategies to help them hold on to their slice of the pie. But what intrigues me is to what extent those strategies have been built on the negatives of renewables' positives. OK, it's a known strategy to take the adversary's strong points and turn them upside down. But you can only really choose it if you have evidence that there's a constituency that will run with it.

I think it may be an extension of the "culture wars". The '60s and '70s represent one of those lurches of history where fairly deep changes take place in a short time. Not that there was a revolution in the sense of party and political institutions (the boom generation was a failure at that), but in attitudes to life, to pleasure, to family, to sex, to the natural world, to the planet - that, taken together, are extremely political. After such changes, a fairly long period of uncomfortable maturation takes place, marked by hate-fuelled backlash. I'm thinking, for instance, of Leon Poliakov's analysis of late nineteenth-century European anti-Semitism (that lived on remarkably into the mid twentieth century) as a reaction to the emancipation of the Jews by the French Revolution. Some people's (perceived) added freedom may infuriate others. Anything that smacks today of the dirty fucking hippie can be attacked with vehemence speaking to a reactionary constituency. Sarkozy's communicators appear to think this, to judge by the regularity of his attacks on May '68 and everything that may be considered its consequences.

Looked at from another angle, it's now been forty years that some people at least have been saying that the planet needs to be an integral part of any political platform, and it's still an uphill battle.  

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 12:51:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
great comment afew.

master bloggery

'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 Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 11:59:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I don't just find this biased against renewables and in favour of nuclear, I find the points made are neither new nor accurate. And, at the moment, it would seem we're hearing rather a chorus of them. In my view, Ramsay is disingenuous when he pretends to give objective information to the electorate, and is in fact offering talking points in a one-sided discourse.

Not merely a chorus, but an orchestrated chorus.

As in any industry, including wind, public relations is a part of the game. Talking points memos are discussed and circulated. Additionally, and more importantly, backroom lobbying tactics are discussed, evaluated and tried.

In the context of the worst nuclear disaster to hit the industry yet (limiting that "worst" to power plant accidents), Frau Merkel has thrown a huge spanner in the works. (By going back to the policy already in place from the previous government.)

This action has hit the global industry hard, as evidenced by Obama's comments to Frau Merkel. Especially as she now says she's changed her "personal" views as well. (Perhaps her nuclear studies puts her in position to understand that Japan is really fucked.)

So what does the CEO of RWE say in response. "Eco-dictatorship."

When quite intelligent people believe that a "running nuclear plant" has no carbon footprint, the debate is already skewed.

When an industry (IEA) shill who happens now to be Ambassador to Germany takes the country to task using falsification, obfuscation and omission, and even fucks up the few facts presented, it would seem that calling it propaganda is actually pretty mild.

You see, a former IEA executive has read all manner of studies and commentaries on energy issues, over a prolonged period, including from the opposition. He's listened to endless discussion from diverse experts. He knows his arguments, knows them well, and has chosen to spread propaganda through his power position.

Actually, perhaps i should say he's a professional liar. Would that be clearer?

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

by Crazy Horse on Fri Jun 10th, 2011 at 02:53:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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