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Busting the carbon and cost myths of Germany’s nuclear exit

Damian Carrington, The Guardian
With the UK taking another step towards supporting new nuclear power on Tuesday – at either no extra cost to the consumer if you believe ministers, or substantial cost if you believe most others – it’s worth taking a look at what actually happens when you phase out nuclear power in a large, industrial nation.

That is what Germany chose to do after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, closing eight plants immediately – 7GW – and another nine by 2022. The shrillest critics predicted blackouts, which was always daft and did not happen.

But more serious critics worried that the three things at the heart of the energy and climate change debate – carbon, cost and security of supply – would all head in the wrong direction. Here in Berlin, I have found they were wrong on every count.

On security of supply, critics predicted that Germany would have to import energy to make up that lost by the closure of the nuclear plants. It’s an important issue for a nation that imports 70% of its energy. But what actually happened is that Germany simply exported less in 2011: 7TWh instead of 70TWh. “We are still a net exporter,” says Franzjosef Schafhausen, a senior civil servant…
(23 May 2012)

The energy transition juggernaut

Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
Poll after poll show that citizens of the Western world want more renewable power and are willing to pay for it. So what’s the hold-up?..

The public has clearly become sensitized to the risks of producing fossil fuels from our remaining, increasingly marginal resources. The last several years have offered a handful of hard object lessons: The Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, and its lingering effects on the ecosystem, replete with the ongoing spectacle of eyeless shrimp, clawless crabs and fish with lesions. A series of reports about water contaminated by shale fracking activities, with tone-deaf industry responses. Small towns turned upside-down by the sudden influx of trucks and roughnecks drilling for shale oil and gas. Even nuclear power is now suspect after the specter of the Fukushima plant meltdown, with low levels of its radiation turning up in California a few days later.

Is it any surprise that the public is becoming risk-averse, and embracing renewables as never before?

An overwhelming majority of citizens now support the “precautionary principle”: Rather than letting industry do whatever it wants and putting the burden on the public to prove that those activities are risky or damaging to the environment and the public health, voters would rather put the onus on industry to show that its activities are safe before being allowed to proceed…
(16 May 2012)

Clean energy as culture war

David Roberts, Grist
Not that long ago, some folks were arguing that clean energy — unlike climate change, which had been irredeemably stained by partisanship (eww!) — would bring people together across ideological lines. Persuaded by the irrefutable wisdom of wonks, we would join hands across the aisle to promote common-sense solutions. It wouldn’t be partisan, it would be … post-partisan.

Some day, I will stop mocking the people who said that. But not today. The error is an important one and it is still made regularly, especially by hyper-educated U.S. elites. They think clean energy is different from climate change, that it won’t get sucked into the same culture war. They are wrong…
(14 May 2012)