Just a thought
Anti-nuclear policies leave Germany scrambling for power | Full Comment | National Post
Anti-nuclear policies leave Germany scrambling for power
Kelly McParland Aug 31, 2011 – 8:27 AM ET | Last Updated: Aug 31, 2011 9:51 AM ET
Germany was all in a lather to shut down its nuclear reactors after the disaster at Fukushima panicked the country’s leaders.
What if a similar tsunami and earthquake hit Germany? Nevermind that Germany, unlike Japan, isn’t located on an ocean coastline prone to tsunamis. The point was to make a public show of devotion to alternatives (even if that might mean coal), and please Euro envirozealots.
So Berlin declared that it would shut down eight of its 17 reactors immediately, and the rest within a decade or so. Great celebration. Hurray for the far-seeing legislators and their deep appreciation of environmental concerns.
Except now Europe’s economic powerhouse is worried about brownouts, and is busily importing energy from countries with working rectors and pollution-spewing coal plants.
The New York Times reports:
“… electricity producers are scrambling to ensure an adequate supply. Customers and companies are nervous about whether their lights and assembly lines will stay up and running this winter. Economists and politicians argue over how much prices will rise.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just go for renewables,’ and I’m quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt,” said Joachim Knebel, chief scientist at Germany’s prestigious Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He characterized the government’s shutdown decision as “emotional” and pointed out that on most days, Germany has survived this experiment only by importing electricity from neighboring France and the Czech Republic, which generate much of their power with nuclear reactors.
Then there are real concerns that the plan will jettison efforts to rein in manmade global warming, since whatever nuclear energy’s shortcomings, it is low in emissions. If Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, falls back on dirty coal-burning plants or uncertain supplies of natural gas from Russia, isn’t it trading a potential risk for a real one?
Much is made of the fact that Germany produces 17% of its energy from renewables, especially wind, which on some days produces more power than is needed. Except future plans call for an expansion of coal and gas-fired plants anyway, because wind power can only be used when it blows.
But not to worry. The new plants will use “the cleanest technology available and should not aggravate climate change.” (So, if you can generate clean power with coal, why bother with big ugly windmills?) And the plants “will operate within the European carbon-trading system in which plants that exceed the allowed emissions cap have to buy carbon credits from companies whose activities are environmentally beneficial.” Just like Al Gore, who justifies his monster, energy-sucking mansion by buying offsets from someone who, unlike him, practices what they preach.
Energy conservation always sounds so morally upright on paper. But turns out to be so messy in practise.