Tag: Angela Merkel

Energy Security, Energy Reality in America, Germany

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke spoke in Milwaukee today with WisBusiness.com filing a report:

MILWAUKEE — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke told a Milwaukee audience the United States — and Wisconsin — needs to invest in alternative energy or it risks being left behind by other world powers.

“America doesn’t want to wake up five years from now asking itself how China was able to make the transition to alternative energy and not the United States,” Locke said during a speech to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce on Tuesday. “If you don’t develop your industries in alternative energies here in the state, then those jobs will be created in another state. I can tell you countries like China are spending billions of dollars to create energy alternatives.”

Locke said one way to improve the economy is to break America’s “oil addiction.” Locke said the Obama administration has made major new investments in next-generation clean energy sources like wind, solar and biofuels, as well as a national smart grid that can deliver that energy to homes and businesses across the country.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the Fukushima-inspired decision of the ruling coalition to join the Greens and Social Democrats in supporting an expedited phase-out of nuclear energy is running into problems, which is to say, reality. From Der Spiegel, “Resistance Mounts to Germany’s Ambitious Renewable Energy Plans“:

To reach its goals of a nuclear-free Germany, Merkel’s government now plans to dot all parts of the country with massive wind turbines as well as high-voltage power masts needed to create a modern smart grid to transport the electricity supply from the windy north to the southern part of the country. A €5-billion ($7.25 billion) special program to expand wind parks in the North and Baltic seas will be launched this autumn. Central to the program, Brüderle and Röttgen write, would be a “joint initiative by the federal government and the regional states to identify suitable locations for wind power facilities.” Obstacles to planning approval such as restrictions on the height and spacing of the turbines “will be removed,” the paper says. …

Those are the requirements of the current zeitgeist, say the green revolutionaries in Merkel’s center-right coalition. They have public opinion behind them: More than 80 percent of Germans want to see the country abandon nuclear energy. But there is one major caveat: When it comes to major energy projects, most Germans do not want them in their own backyard. Just as soon as plans are unveiled for mass wind turbines near residential areas, home owners and locals are quick to organize local campaigns to halt construction.

Indeed, NIMBY is a phenomenon found across prosperous, industrialized countries. (continue reading…)

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Japan’s Disasters Shake German Politics

The anti-nuclear-energy Greens get their first state governor by dint of a second-place finish in Sunday’s elections in Baden-Württemberg, widely perceived as rebuke to the federal CDU-FDP alliance led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Businesses in the southwestern German state are
Der Spiegel, “Election Debacle ‘Will Shake CDU, But Won’t Topple Merkel’“:

The defeat of the conservative Christian Democratic Union party in Baden-Württemberg, a CDU bastion for 58 years, in an election on Sunday is a major blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the party’s leader, but she will survive it, say German media commentators.

Triumph of the Greens, Disaster for the Black-Gold

The victory of the Greens in the rich southwestern state shows that many mainstream voters have no faith in Merkel’s sudden U-turn on nuclear policy following the Fukoshima disaster, and reflects the German public’s aversion to atomic energy, editorial writers said.

For the CDU, losing Baden-Württemberg is as bad as the loss of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia was for the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) of then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in May 2005.

Baden-Württemberg’s capital, Stuttgart, is home to many large manufacturers, especially in the aumotive sector. Business sent strong words of caution to the Greens this morning. From DPA:

Stuttgart – Business leaders on Monday warned the Green Party, which is expected to take power in Germany’s key industrial state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, to prevent steep rises in energy costs.

The state is home to some of Germany’s biggest industrial corporations, including Daimler and Robert Bosch. It has been ruled for 58 years running by the business-friendly Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

‘We expect the policies of the new government to provide stable, reliable framework conditions to preserve the good business climate,’ said Bosch chief executive Franz Fehrenbach in a first reaction.

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Power Politics: German Nuclear Shutdown Stresses Grid, Economy

Germany’s anti-nuclear movement has always been one of the strongest in the world, and the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan has provided more political energy behind the “Nein, danke” crowd.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat, has been irresolute in her handling of the issue, temporarily halting operations at seven of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants after events in Japan. She has backed away from the government’s support for extending the life of nuclear power plants, and created a commission to review operations.

The practical implications for the economy and German manufacturing are serious. As Der Spiegel reports today in an interview with Johannes Teyssen, CEO of the energy giant E.on, the country’s electrical grid could be rendered unstable.

SPIEGEL: Whenever power plants are to be shut down, the electric utilities warn of the dangers of supply shortages. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Teyssen: We don’t play around with dangerous situations. We have informed the Economics Ministry that there may be problems with grid stability following the planned shutdown of the nuclear power plants.

SPIEGEL: Why, exactly?

Teyssen: The grids are not designed to handle such a serious redistribution of loads. Major capacities will be eliminated in the south (of Germany) as a result of the power plant shutdowns. We lack the necessary power lines to transmit wind-generated electricity from the north. This could lead to massive problems in the grid, even power outages.

Japan’s catastrophe happened just before voters in three states went to the polls, heightening the political maneuvering over nuclear power.

In state elections in Sachsen Anhalt last Sunday, the eco-party, the Greens, claimed 7.1 percent of the vote, enough for it re-enter the parliament for the first time since 1998.

Next up are elections Sunday in the large southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to Stuttgart and much of Germany’s auto industry. Seven nuclear power plants generate 60 percent of the state’s electricity. The Wall Street Journal reports that according to a new poll conducted for ZDF, the Greens are drawing 25 percent, enough to make them the second largest party after the conservative Christian-Democrats (38 percent) and even larger than the Social Democrats or SPD (22.5 percent).
(continue reading…)

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In Germany, Campaigning on Manufacturing, Competitiveness

In reading governors’ State of the State addresses this month, we’ve been struck by how few specific references to “manufacturing” and “industry” there have been. In U.S. House elections last fall, manufacturing and manufacturing jobs were major campaign themes. Now, at the state level, governors are talking in more general terms about the economy and jobs and, understandably, state budget crises.

In Germany, though, manufacturing still figures prominently in the political debate.

The Christian Democrats (CDU), who head Germany’s federal government in a coalition with the Liberals (FDP), completed their annual party leadership retreat in Mainz last weekend. Tops on the agenda was a declaration of campaign themes for seven state parliamentary elections this year, including three in March: Sachsen-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg, and Rheinland-Pfalz.

This ARD TV report summarizes the themes: “CDU declares conservative themes for state elections.” (Our translation)

Thomas Berbner, ARD: The Chancellor pledged her party’s allegiance to the core themes of the Christian Democrats: The CDU intends to strengthen the manufacturing sector and improve its competitiveness. Construction of new rail, roads and electric transmission lines will contribute to this goal.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: We are making a clear statement that German is an industrial country. That’s certainly true as well for a state like Rheinland-Pfalz, of course, but also for the other states.
Berbner: The top candidates for the upcoming state elections welcomed the message.
Julia Kloeckner, chairman of the CDU Rheinland-Pfalz: The wind is at our backs, thanks to Berlin. Germany came out of the crisis exceedingly well. The chancellor has led the federal government wisely, other countries look at us and say, “That’s right. The people have work there, and in fact, more work than in decades.”
Berbner: Baden-Württemberg intends to fully align itself with the platform of the party leadership. Minister-President Stefan Mappus believes that skeptical core voters will return to the party as the economic recovery gains hold. (continue reading…)

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Circumnetting Energy Policy and the Lack Thereof

We catch up on energy news that may have slipped through the tines of the barbecue fork over the last days of summer, at least as Washington, D.C., understands the season.

Jobs …. Just thought we should mention the word.

Los Angeles Times (blog), Sept. 4, “Salazar: Arctic oil drilling must wait“:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is making it clear that he’s in no hurry to open the door to new exploratory oil and gas drilling in the offshore Arctic — not, he said, until more is known about the potential pitfalls.

Winding up a two-day trip to Alaska’s North Slope that included a town hall in Barrow, a stop at the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and a flight over the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, Salazar said reports on what caused the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico will have to be in before Shell Alaska can be allowed to commence drilling new wells off Alaska’s northern shores.

Politico, Sept. 3, “More Democrats call for oil drilling investigation“: “House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) on Friday sent Interior Secretary Ken Salazar a letter requesting a slew of documents, saying he is “alarmed” by the disaster aboard the Mariner Energy rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This follows on the heels of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s request that Mariner brief committee members.”

Bloomberg, Sept. 3, “Crude Futures Seen Falling Next Week as Refineries Do Seasonal Maintenance“: “U.S. crude oil production increased 1.7 percent to 5.6 million barrels a day last week, the highest level since May 2004, the [Energy] department said.”

Houston Chronicle, Sept. 3, “Energy workers speak out“: “More than 5,000 energy sector workers flocked to three Texas rallies Wednesday to protest what they view as an onslaught of punitive measures from Washington that threaten oil and gas jobs and domestic energy supplies.”

And on the nuclear front …

Der Spiegel, Sept. 6, “Merkel’s Government Extends Nuclear Plant Lifespans“: “The German government has agreed to extend the operating lives of the country’s nuclear power plants by up to 14 years. Energy companies will make payments to promote the expansion of renewable energy in return.” (continue reading…)

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Germany’s Austerity Budget

An example to be studied by the Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform?

From Der Spiegel, “German Government Agrees on Historic Austerity Program“:

The German government put together the largest austerity package since World War II on Monday, with spending cuts and new business levies aimed at saving 80 billion euros by 2014. Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany, as Europe’s largest economy, must set an example.

The German government on Monday announced plans to reduce spending by €80 billion ($95.7 billion) by 2014 in the largest package of cutssince World War II. The austerity program aims at reducing the budget deficit and helping to protect the euro as it continues its slide.

“We have to save €80 billion by 2014 to put our financial future back on a solid footing,” Merkel told a press conference on Monday afternoon. She said the budget cuts for Germany, Europe’s largest economy, were a “unique show of strength” that signalled her government’s commitment to tackling the European debt problems that have plunged the euro single currency into crisis.

“Germany as the largest economy has a duty to set a good example,” she said.

The CDU/CSU’s governing partners, the more market-oriented Free Democrats, have been calling for tax reductions.

Der Spiegel has a good map of the government debt in each of the Eurozone countries as percentage of GDP. Germany’s is 78.8 percent, Greece’s is 124.9 percent.

Total outstanding U.S. debt was approximately 88.9% of GDP as of June 1; debt for the first time exceeded $13 trillion.

Looks like Slovakia is the best model — 40.8 percent.

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An Austerity Budget? Maybe the Germans are on to Something

From the left-liberal Der Spiegel, ”German Austerity Program Offers Chance for New Beginning“:

As Chancellor Angela Merkel’s embattled government gets ready to thrash out an austerity program to rein in the budget deficit, fears are growing that stringent cuts might choke off growth and anger voters. But after 50 years of near-continuous spending hikes, there is ample scope for radical savings that would not hurt public services and may even boost the economy.

The German government is putting the finishing touches this week on an austerity program that offers a chance of a fresh start, not just for the country’s complex and bloated tax and welfare system, but also for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Yes, the taxes included are significant:  a higher tobacco tax, and new levies on nuclear fuel rods, airline ticket purchases and financial transactions.

This is telling:

The Americans don’t like the plans. The atmosphere was decidedly frosty at a meeting last week in Berlin between US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, because the two men fundamentally disagree. Geithner urged the Europeans to spend more and to run up debts to boost economic growth and help the global economy. Schäuble countered that high debts were the root of the turmoil now engulfing the euro zone.

In our experience, Germans are especially leery of deficit-induced inflation, certainly more than Americans. Something about Weimar …

P.S. Well, it IS using biomass for heating.

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Following the Elections, Nuclear Power Stays Potent in Germany

From Der Spiegel, “Merkel’s New Coalition Agrees to Extend Nuclear Reactor Lifetimes,” reporting on the results of negotiations between the two new coalition partners to head the federal German government, the CDU and FDP.

It was clear from the moment that Germans voted the Social Democrats (SPD) out of the government at the end of September that the country’s planned phase out of nuclear energy was in danger. Now, according to documents from the ongoing coalition negotiations between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her likely new coalition partners the Free Democrats (FDP) — papers which have been obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE — the phase out of the phase out is about to become official government policy.

“Atomic energy will be required as a bridge technology until affordable, climate-friendly energy sources are reliably available in sufficient quantities. The limit on German reactor lifetimes to 32 years is thus rescinded,” reads the paper, which was hammered out by the coalition working group responsible for environmental issues.

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Germany’s New Governing Coalition Preserves Nuclear Power

From Reuters, “Germany gets mandate to extend nuclear life cycles“:

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s majority for a new center-right government means she can rewrite a national nuclear phaseout deal by allowing reactors to run longer than laid down by her predecessors.

Nuclear operators’ shares rose on Monday, the day after the election, while carbon prices crept higher and power fell with oil, as Merkel’s conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) aimed for a quick coalition.

The election outcome may be a precursor for more nuclear projects in other European countries…”

But it is no carte blanche for nukes, Reuters adds, correctly. Being getting hammered so conclusively at the polls, the former coalition partner, SPD, may now feel free to go full-scale into opposition to nuclear power.

But the immediate lesson is that when faced with economic troubles and climate politics, German voters chose parties that support tax relief and nuclear power.

P.S.: Also, from the WSJ’s Green Ink blog: “German lessons, too: Chancellor Merkel’s re-election gives a boost to power companies long on nuclear, since the coalition will end the country’s nuclear phaseout, in the WSJ and Bloomberg.”

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Der Spiegel: Larry Summers is President Obama’s ‘Cheney’

This from Der Spiegel, the arrogant news magazine of the left-leaning German elite, in anticipation of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to the White House, “Chancellor Merkel Visits the Debt President“:

Obama’s Cheney is named Larry Summers. He is Obama’s senior-most economic advisor, and like the former vice president, he is a man of conviction. The financial crisis may be large, but Summers’ self-confidence is even larger. More importantly, President Barack Obama follows him like a dog does its master.

Gah. How dumb is that? The author is Gabor Steingart, Der Spiegel’s senior correspondent in Washington. He gained some attention for his book, War for Wealth: The True Story of Globalization, or Why the Flat World Is Broken.” We’ll save you the Euros: Globalization is bad.

For the record, there’s always interesting stuff in Der Spiegel.

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