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Power Politics: German Nuclear Shutdown Stresses Grid, Economy

By | Economy, Energy, Global Warming | One Comment

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).
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Germany’s New Governing Coalition Preserves Nuclear Power

By | Energy, General, Global Warming, Taxation | No Comments

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.”

Environmental Ministers Get Obama’s Ear, Scold America

By | Economy, Energy, Global Warming | No Comments

Well, that sends a message.

From Der Spiegel, “German Environment Minister Gets Audience with Obama“:

In a surprising move, Barack Obama met with Germany’s environment minister in Washington on Monday. Sigmar Gabriel reportedly called on the Americans to make further reductions in CO2 emissions — a move developing countries are also demanding before they agree to any cuts.

At best, heads of government around the world can expect a few minutes to meet with Barack Obama — and people working at the ministerial level from abroad can generally forget about getting any face time in the Oval Office.

But on Monday, despite the economic crisis and the outbreak of swine flu, the US president took time out to meet with the environment ministers and climate negotiators of the 20 countries with the world’s highest levels of carbon-dioxide emissions

You’re only wounding your economy, Minister Gabriel told the President. We want you to kill it.

The minister said he was pleased the US now wants to take an active role in climate protection, but that the proposals that have been recently announced don’t go far enough. He said carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, just to be in line with what climate scientists are already calling for. The ambitious US project, the so-called “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” only foresees a reduction of 6 percent to 7 percent.\

Gabriel is an SPD member, i.e., left-leaning Social Democrats, part of the governing CDU-SPD coalition. He remonstrates more against the United States in this earlier Spiegel interview.