Germany, Italy, Greens, nukes and climate change

Mark Lynas continues to place his arrows in the energy policy bullseye. Unlike 99.99% of the media, Mark is doing his homework, then translating the facts and figures to language that most readers can grasp. This Guardian piece sums up the mess:

(…) As a lifelong environmentalist, and author of a 2009 book which laid out the terrifying prospects of uncontrolled global warming, I cannot help but feel that the decisions of the German and Swiss governments rank among the worst climate-related policies of recent years. Carbon emissions cannot do anything other than rise as a result of phasing out the continent’s largest source of zero-carbon power – and doing this just a week after the International Energy Agency reported that 2010 carbon emissions rose to the highest levels ever is little short of criminal.

There is perhaps a certain discomfort about the fact that one of the best options for tackling global warming just so happens to be a technology that greens had spent decades opposing before climate change even hit the agenda. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard green groups insisting that climate change is the “greatest challenge ever to face humanity”. Yet their refusal to reassess their inherited positions against nuclear power suggest that none of them actually believe what they are saying – or that most environmentalists are prepared to take refuge in ideologically motivated wishful thinking even when the future of the planet is at stake.

If the German greens really took climate change seriously, they would instead be pushing for a phase-out of coal – which generates by far the largest proportion of the country’s power and consequent carbon emissions – from Germany’s electricity grid. Instead, the new nuclear phase-out plan will see a hefty 11GW of new coal plants built in years to come, with an additional 5GW of new gas. (Update: Chancellor Merkel is now talking about 20GW of new fossil fuel plant that will be needed.) The only way emissions from these plants could be controlled would be through “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) – yet Greenpeace in Germany has already mounted a successful scaremongering campaign against this new technology, helping to ensure that future fossil emissions will go into the atmosphere unabated.

(…) The silliness does not stop there. Much of Germany’s renewables investment has been in solar photovoltaics in recent years, thanks to extraordinarily generous feed-in-tariffs. Yet these solar roofs are so expensive that they cost more than €700 per tonne (PDF) of carbon abated, compared to a carbon price in Europe of €15 or less. One expert study suggests that the whole solar experiment up until this year has already landed German energy consumers with a €120bn liability for the next two decades – this in order to generate a mere 2% of the country’s electricity, or less than a single large nuclear plant.

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