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Energy policy - July 10

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Revealed: G8 plan for global nuclear expansion

Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald
World leaders are planning a massive expansion of nuclear power in their own countries and across the developing world, according to documents drawn up for the G8 summit and leaked to the Sunday Herald.

An action plan for “global energy security” to be agreed in St Petersburg next weekend envisages a network of nuclear fuel plants in G8 countries combined with the widespread sale of reactors to developing countries - as long as they promise not to use them for making nuclear bombs.

G8 leaders also want to resurrect fast breeder reactors, which are highly controversial because they “breed” plutonium, a nuclear explosive. It was this type of reactor that was pioneered, and abandoned, at Dounreay on the north coast of Scotland.

Environmentalists accuse leaders of “double standards and dangerous hypocrisy”. But the G8’s nuclear plans are likely to be backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose own much-heralded energy review favouring new nuclear stations in the UK is due to be launched this week.

The G8 summit is due to take place in St Petersburg between July 15 and 17, just over a year

after the leaders of the world’s eight most powerful countries met at Gleneagles in Scotland. This time it will be led by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has put global energy security at the top of the agenda.

Confidential drafts of the energy “plan of action” drawn up by the “sherpas”, the senior G8 officials who guide prime ministers and presidents towards the summit, have been passed to the Sunday Herald.

One of the plan’s main aims is to spread nuclear power stations around the globe.
(9 July 2006)


Nuclear to power ahead of renewables in UK plan

Neasa MacErlean, Guardian
Experts fear that billions in government subsidies are set to go to the nuclear sector at the expense of green energy
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Government announcements this week look set to overhaul our energy supply and lay down a new infrastructure that could last for the next half a century. A helping hand for the nuclear industry will be the issue that grabs the headlines. More likely to be missed in the tumult is the damage that could wreaked to much of the renewables sector.

On the surface, the government will have many positive things to say about renewables. Wind, solar and marine energy emit few greenhouse gases. Since nuclear energy also emits little carbon dioxide, the government can lump nuclear and renewables together and claim that it will support them all in the cause of being environmentally-friendly.

This green message will undoubtedly resonate better with voters than a statement that nuclear is preferred for its own sake. What will not be spelt out, according to some experts, will be the way that the lion's share of government assistance to the energy sector will go towards building a new nuclear fleet of as many as 10 reactors.

Bridget Woodman of Warwick Business School said: "We will be moving towards a very large scale, centralised electricity generating system which could be set in stone for the next 50 years. There will be twiddly little bits of renewable development - but it will never be a mainstream option. It could be a pretty bleak day for renewables."
(10 July 2006)


Germany's New Power (renewables)

Chris Hammer, Dateline’ ABC (Australia)
In Australia, John Howard provoking a debate on nuclear power, politically motivated or not, has actually forced Australians to think about where they stand on the whole contentious issue of global warming. Here in Germany, they’ve already gone further than anyone in encouraging renewable energy – solar hydro, you name it – but at what cost? And what can we learn from the German experience?
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Huersdorf, Germany – It’s a pretty little village – heritage buildings, a 13th century church..oh yes, and a death sentence. For this is a community living on borrowed time.

MAYOR HORST BRUCHMANN: No, there’s no hope left. We launched two lawsuits in the Constitutional Court of Saxony. We won the first case. Then the State of Saxony passed a new law and this new law was approved in the second case. So there’s no hope that the town can be saved.

Already some homes here have been demolished. And here’s the reason why – the neighbouring lignite mine. It may be inefficient, subsidised and produce highly polluting brown coal, but the state government has decided the American multinational that owns it can bulldoze Huersdorf to expand the mine’s operation. Over the decades, dozens of other villages have met the same fate.

The fact that this mine continues to operate and devour entire villages is a pretty graphic illustration of how desperately Germany needs new sources of energy. On one hand this has led to a new push to reinvigorate the country’s nuclear program, on the other side there are those that say the future lies with renewable energy – an area where Germany already leads the world.

Another town – Swabisch Hall – post-card perfect and in no danger whatsoever of being bulldozed. Tourism is the big money spinner here – now it’s been joined by renewable energy. The visitors strolling across its covered bridges may not realise it, but they’re also traversing one of the Swabisch Hall’s renewable power sources. For tucked away discreetly along the river are a number of small-scale hydro-electricity turnines. This one generates about a million kilowatt hours a year – enough for about 60 houses. And here I find Hermann Scheer, the father of Germany’s renewable energy revolution.
(21 June 2006)


A Dated Carbon Approach

Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post
These days almost nobody asserts that global warming isn't happening. Instead, we are confronted with a new lie: that we can respond to climate change without taxing and regulating carbon.

The Bush administration -- and many Democrats, too -- promise technological salvation: hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol distilled from grass, solar power, windmills, whatever. It's more fun to call for whiz-bang technologies than regulations and taxes. But it's also dishonest.

We already have technologies to cut carbon. Hybrid cars have been around for years, but almost nobody drives them. Small cars have been on the market even more years, but they aren't consumer hits either. There are dozens of technologies to insulate buildings and design heating and cooling systems in efficient ways. The problem is we don't use them.

You can even cut carbon using no technology whatever. Mexico City has reduced its output of carbon dioxide by almost 55,000 tons a year by opening one efficient bus route; the key innovation here was the creation of two bus lanes. The new buses run on diesel -- not exactly a technological breakthrough. But because they are rapid and frequent, the buses have brought car use down and reduced emissions.

So what matters is not just the technologies we have but the incentives to deploy them.
(10 July 2006)
Recent articles on carbon tax.


EU may introduce carbon tax on airplanes

Payton Chung, Gristmill
Following up on an earlier post on commercial aviation and global warming: the European Parliament voted 439 yes / 74 no / 102 abstain last week to tax jet fuel used on cross-border, intra-European flights, to allow member states to impose VAT (sales tax) on jet fuel, and to apply a cap-and-trade system to carbon dioxide emissions from aviation. (Currently, international flights, including those within the EU, pay no tax on their jet fuel.)

Airlines predictably condemned the maneuver, calling on the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization to issue a proposal that would apply globally.

According to Crain's Chicago Business, ICAO favors a trading system that would allow airlines to buy carbon credits from other industries, something the European Parliament proposal would not allow. Analysts in the UK report that ticket prices could go up a mere $3 if airlines could buy credits from other industries, but up to $35 if buying from other airlines.

Although new, lighter aircraft promise 20% increases in fuel efficiency, there is little that airlines can do to dramatically cut carbon emissions.
(10 July 2006)


So We Drive On

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
...unless the demand for transportation fuels actually changes direction and heads downward, prices have nowhere to go up. But is the U.S. leadership class talking about demand reduction, as measured in barrels of oil and motor gasoline? Why no, that would be unthinkable.

Instead, we are told via the mainstream media that high price of energy is the greater scourge. Unfortunately, there seems to be an endless supply of officials and commentators on tap to inveigh against the high cost of motoring and pitch their latest cure-all, whether it’s more drilling on federal lands and over federal waters, bigger tax credits for hybrid cars, or rolling back state gasoline taxes. As long as we Americans remain hung up on energy prices and not on the larger issues of energy sustainability and security, the policy remedies and infrastructure improvements that might actually make a dent in our supersized energy appetite will never leave the drawing board.

In the current political environment, the only thing that can bring about a more serious discussion of our energy predicament and--dare I dream it--a forward-looking set of federal policies is the economic pain that will come with gasoline prices breaching the $5.00 per gallon mark. Absent that stimulus, the likelihood that American motorists will somehow summon the self-discipline necessary to limit fuel consumption is extremely low, while the odds of discovering new and vast energy reserves to bail us out of our impending date with the global energy bottleneck are slimmer yet.

To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald’s closing line in The Great Gatsby: So we drive on, fuel tanks running low, sucking dry the wealth of the past.
(10 July 2006)
Michael Vickerman is executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. According to the group's About Us page, they are:

a network of clean energy businesses, educators, utility mangers, builders, farmers, state agency officials, environmental advocates, and concerned citizens.

Their mission is to promote clean energy strategies--conservation and energy effciency, renewable energy, and low-emission distributed generation--for powering the state's economy in an environmentally sound manner.

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