Monday, May 30, 2011

Let Germany save us all

As it happens in democracies, events in the real world affects German politics. After being severly punished in the state elections, Merkel's liberal right governement changed its mind on nuclear power, and decided to honour the previous government's promise to close all German reactors by 2022.

Nuclear power plant blue

It is easy to hold strong opinions about nuclear power. In spite of the fact that influential green thinkers such as James Hansen and James Lovelock both advocate nuclear power as the best/only way to maintain civilisation without fossil fuels. True as they might be, what Lovelock and Hansen are talking about is the so called fourth generation of nuclear power. These plants theoretically solve a host of the problems today's plants create. Like the waste issue - in stead of building an enrourmous pile of potentially lethal waste, these plants promise to reuse the waste as fuel, until it is not dangerous any more. Which sounds great if it works. We might have no choice but to try.

The facilities that are to be closed down in Germany are nothing like this though. They are old and problem torn. Any one who believes in nucelar power should be glad to see them closed. The industry, however seems more eager to run them as long as they are profitable before building next generation plants, which is the core of the nuclear problem. Nuclear power could maybe be safe in the hands of scientists like Lovelock and Hansen, but any CEO will treat it as just another souce of large and safe income which makes him relunctant to renew it.

The reactions in Sweden, and elsewhere in Europe, to the German U-turn is shock and fear. The major newssource Dagens Nyheter claims that the price of electricity will double if the decision is carried through. Interstingly, most people interviewed in the article does not think so, but DN chose that headline. For some reason, that is what they want readers to believe.

Let us for a moment presume that it is true. Prices on electricity will double. Everyone agrees that we need to save energy - wouldn't a drastic price hike be the best way to create energy prudence? Wouldn't it drastically increase the profitability of renewable energy?

For sure it would, and the way things look right now it would be a blessing. The Swedish energy authority forecast Sweden's energy useage to keep growing until 2030. If that happens, what chances do we have to lower co2 emissions? None. Any positive development would require a shock therapy. If the decision in Germany doubles prices in Sweden - we ought to thank he Germans for saving our future. Unfortunately, it is so much easier to whine about higher prices, than to realize what problems low prices create.

IN the real world it is unlikely that the German decision will have so drastic consequenses, and it is still far from fait accompli . Merkel's decision must first be approved in the parliament, where it will come under fierce critizism from the industry and politicians. It will be intersting to see who comes out as the winner in the end - Europe's strongest civil society or an infamous industry.


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