Thursday, September 01, 2011
German logic: Shut down German nuclear reactors and then import nuclear power from France
"Back to nature" feelings have always been strong in Germany. Hitler made it his ideal
Germany is importing massive amounts of nuclear-generated electricity from France following its decision to abandon atomic power in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster.
But it is still bracing for blackouts of the kind not seen since the Second World War as eight of the 17 reactors were switched off overnight in a populist move that is now seen as a rash decision.
Nuclear plants generated nearly a quarter of Germany's electricity. But after the tsunami and earthquake that sent radiation spewing from Fukushima in March, the government disconnected the eight oldest of Germany's 17 reactors. Three months later parliament voted to scrap nuclear power altogether, pledging a growing reliance on renewables.
The remaining nine reactors will close by 2019 - but experts predict a shortfall that will see the lights going out in power cuts across the continent's biggest economy before then.
Energy producers are scrambling to ensure an adequate supply while consumers fret about the costs.
Joachim Knebel, chief scientist at Germany's prestigious Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, said: 'It's easy to say, "Let's just go for renewables", and I'm quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt.'
Power producers have also warned that they cannot guarantee that the lights might not go out, especially if harsh winters are on the way.
Mr Knebel characterised the government's shutdown decision as 'emotional', and pointed out that, on most days, Germany had survived this experiment only by importing nuclear-generated electricity from France and also Czech Republic.
Fears are growing that the German plan will torpedo efforts to rein in man-made global warming as it might have to resort to burning coal or oil, or become reliant on natural gas supplies from Russia.
Laszlo Varro, head of the International Energy Agency's gas, coal and power markets division, called the plan 'very, very ambitious'.
But he added: 'It is not impossible, since Germany is rich and technically sophisticated. But the nuclear moratorium is very bad news in terms of climate policy. We are not far from losing that battle, and losing nuclear makes that unnecessarily difficult.'
The government counters that it is prepared to make huge investments in improving energy efficiency in homes and factories, as well as in new clean power sources and transmission lines. So far, there have been no blackouts.
Juergen Grossmann, chief executive of the German energy giant RWE, which owns two closed reactors here in Biblis, about 40 miles south of Frankfurt, said; 'Germany, in a very rash decision, decided to experiment on ourselves. 'The politics are overruling the technical arguments.'
Some 17 per cent of its electricity output is now renewable, a figure the government estimates will double in 10 years. On days when the offshore wind turbines spin full tilt, Germany produces more electricity from renewable sources than it uses, according to European energy monitors.
In Biblis, where two nuclear plants were shut down, the mayor thinks that popular support for a nuclear power-free Germany would have been far different if the electorate knew that power cuts might be the price to be paid.
He said: 'Yes, there is German angst about nuclear power. But if you phrased the question, "Would you want to phase out nuclear energy if it cost massively more and you risk blackouts?', the answer would be very different.'
WA: Green jobs program gets $20 million, creates 14 jobs
A green jobs program in one of America's greenest cities is being called a bust 16 months after a $20 million federal grant to weatherize homes in Seattle ended up putting just 14 people to work in mostly administrative jobs and upgrading only three homes in the area. "The jobs are not there," Todd Myers, who wrote the book "Eco Fads," told Fox News. "So we're training people for jobs that don't exist."
Seattle is not alone. The Department of Energy has allocated $508 million to 41 states for its Better Buildings Neighborhood Program and 600 jobs have been created or retained.
"While communities are advancing their programs at different rates, we are pleased with the progress," the agency wrote in a recent statement.
One year into the three-year program, 9,000 homes have had energy audits and received some kind of upgrade. The goal is to weatherize 150,000 homes by 2013 and save consumers $65 million annually on energy bills.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says it's too early to declare the program a failure.
"We may have to adjust how we market it and the incentives we provide," McGinn said. "Nobody has really cracked the green jobs code."
Contractors who do the energy audits and home retrofits blame government for getting in the way. To be a participating business in Seattle, the contractor is required to pay workers $21 an hour with full benefits, including retirement pay. But according to several small business owners in the area, the prevailing wage for new workers who lay insulation is $12. per hour.
McGinn, however, insisted that allowing contractors to pay anything less than what the city has declared a ‘living wage', amounts to a 'race to the bottom' for jobs.
"The workforce agreements that were negotiated with contractors at the table made sure that some benefits of this work is going to local workers, and we're going to pay fair wages for it," he said.
But Myers and others say the biggest problem with the program is government is trying to create a market that consumers don't want. The average homeowner in the U.S. pays about $2,000 a year for energy.
The weatherization upgrades are aimed at saving 15 percent on energy consumption. If the retrofit costs $10,000 even with all the government incentives, it will take over 30 years to pay off through lower energy bills.
"The problem is the policies the politicians choose, whether green jobs or retrofits, are based on appearance," Myers said. "They choose things that look good, rather than what's best for the environment."
Among the other cities having trouble fulfilling the green jobs promise are Toledo, Kansas City and Phoenix. So far, those cities have created a combined 72 jobs with $65 million in grants.
The difficulty is magnified on the federal level. President Obama once said he wanted to create 5 million green jobs over 10 years. The 2009 stimulus package included $5 billion toward that goal.
A chunk of that money went for weatherization programs, but according to a Department of Energy inspector general report one year later, "only two of the 10 highest-funded recipients completed more than 2 percent of planned units."
Agitator Hansen arrested at White House
One of the nation's foremost experts on climate change was arrested outside the White House on Monday morning after he joined a protest against a planned Canadian tar sands pipeline.
Dr. James Hansen (pictured), who runs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was arrested along with 139 other protesters taking part in a series of demonstrations against the planned $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 500,000 barrels of crude per day from America's neighbor to the north all the way to the Gulf coast of Texas.
So far, 521 activists have been arrested since their first protest on Saturday, Aug. 21. Also included in Monday's arrests were Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford, president of CREDO Mobile Michael Kieschnick, 350.org Executive Director May Boeve and many others.
Hansen, a 44-year veteran of the nation's space agency, is perhaps the best-known climate scientist in the world. He was the center of a years-long controversy in the last decade, after he claimed that NASA had tried to censor his findings about earth's climate on behalf of the Bush administration. He's also the author of "Storms of My Grandchildren," a book that calls for radical action to combat climate change. He's also been arrested before, protesting against mountaintop mining.
A U.S. State Department environmental impact study released last week claimed the pipeline would have a minimal effect on the environment, and officials maintained that even if the U.S. refuses the pipeline, Canada will just sell their oil elsewhere.
Climate protesters preparing to be arrested on Monday. Photo credit: Josh Lopez, Tar Sands Action
Canadian tar sand is seen as a horribly inefficient form of hydrocarbon energy due to the separation process, which requires more energy than the finished product puts out. Production methods also put off 3-5 times more greenhouse emissions than typical oil production.
"If Obama chooses the dirty needle it will confirm that the President was just green-washing all along, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians, with no real intention of solving the addiction," Hansen said, according to an advisory.
Proponents argue that the pipeline would bring hundreds of new jobs to the U.S. and help the nation achieve greater energy independence.
President Obama has not issued a decision on the pipeline, but one is expected before the end of this year.
Green jobs' promise something for nothing
Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada caused the central economic planners' heads to explode in March 2009 when he released a study showing every "green job" the Spanish government was creating with its regime of open-ended subsidies was simultaneously devouring enough resources to create 2.2 jobs in Spain's private sector.
"Green jobs," the professor concluded, were economic losers, destroyers of wealth and productivity. What's worse, 70 percent of them were short-lived installation gigs, not long-term jobs at all.
Spain's socialist government, which had presented "green jobs" as the way out of the country's economic problems (perhaps that sounds familiar), reacted to Calzada's study with fury. The Industrial Ministry took the incredible step of trying to make his university disavow his work. But behind the scenes, the same government officials were quietly coming to the same conclusions as Calzada.
In the United States, Calzada's study upset the wind power lobby, environmentalists, and the Obama administration. American liberals tried to argue that Calzada had erred by doing what is obvious to everyone outside of government who uses money -- he accounted for the opportunity costs of government spending.
Imagine that -- an economist who doesn't assume that you can get something for nothing.
Since then, Calzada has been proven right in nearly every metric. Spain has a serious sovereign debt crisis -- not helped much by its commitment of 11 percent of Spain's gross domestic product to subsidize renewable energy. The renewables program will cost the Spanish crown four times what it had originally budgeted.
The government is trying to wiggle out of its already-promised subsidies, which could generate legal problems or else a banking collapse. Unemployment in Spain exceeds 20 percent. Spanish industry is paying inflated prices for energy -- causing greater inefficiency and more job losses.
Speaking with me this week, Calzada expressed amazement that in the wake of his own nation's failure in this area, a few progressive members of Congress still want to drive the United States off the same cliff.
"How is it possible, having the example of Spain. ... Why would you like to repeat the same story?" It's a great question.
In reality, Calzada wasn't nearly bearish enough on green energy welfare. His study did not explore the consequences of the artificially high electricity prices the Spanish scheme has created for industry and residential customers.
He didn't try to measure the economic damage caused by misallocation of private investment. After all, thousands of Spaniards withdrew good investments and borrowed against home equity to install potentially worthless solar panels -- what if their capital had been invested to create real jobs instead of simply chasing government subsidies?
The central planners in Spain, much like President Obama with his stimulus package, assumed that they could get something -- a lot of really good jobs -- for nothing. They were wrong. People who think that way are always wrong.
How could a magnetic reversal trigger an ice age?
“New findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth,” says this article by Lawrence Solomon.
“The research, published with little fanfare this week in the prestigious journal Nature, comes from über-prestigious CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research involving 60 countries and 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities and national laboratories,” Solomon continues.
CERN built the Large Hadron Collider
“CERN is the organization that invented the World Wide Web, that built the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, and that has now built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the Earth’s atmosphere.”
In this stainless steel chamber, 63 CERN scientists from 17 European and American institutes have demonstrated that “cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that in Earth’s atmosphere can grow and seed clouds, the cloudier and thus cooler it will be.”
Cosmic rays seed cloud formation
In other words, cosmic rays seed cloud formation, just as the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark has long postulated.
“Because the sun’s magnetic field controls how many cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere (the stronger the sun’s magnetic field, the more it shields Earth from incoming cosmic rays from space, the sun determines the temperature on Earth,” Solomon explains.
And here’s where magnetic reversals come into the picture.
You see, not only does the sun’s magnetic field shield us from cosmic rays; the earth’s magnetic field – the magnetosphere – also shields us from these energetic subatomic particles. The stronger the earth’s magnetic field, the greater the protection. The weaker the field, the less protection.
During a magnetic reversal our magnetosphere disappears
Prior to previous geomagnetic reversals, the earth’s magnetic field strength declined to about 15 percent of normal before suddenly reversing. During the reversal, scientists believe that magnetic field strength dropped to zero, thus disabling our protective shield.
With no shield, huge amounts of cosmic rays would have have rained down on our planet, thereby seeding the clouds (just as CERN suggests), leading to vast amounts of precipitation, cooler temperatures, and thence to an ice age.
Magnetic field strength is declining rapidly
The earth’s magnetic field strength has declined by about two thirds during the past 2,000 years. Unfortunately, the rate of decline is picking up. Magnetic field strength has declined about five percent in the past 100 years alone. (Not by Fire but by Ice, p 190.)
This increase in the speed of the decline is worrisome enough. But just this year, the British Geological Survey (BGS) admitted that we may now be headed for a magnetic reversal.
The South Atlantic Anomaly is growing and spreading westwards from South Africa as the Earth’s internal magnetic field rapidly weakens in this region, says the BGS. “This may be early evidence of a forthcoming reversal in the direction of the Earth’s internal magnetic field.”
The BGS is so concerned about our weakening magnetic field that they have opened an observatory on South Georgia Island to track the latest developments.
If CERN and the BGS are correct – and I think they are – then we’re in for some tough times ahead.
We need to prepare for an ice age
At least seven magnetic reversals during the past 400,000 years can be correlated with glaciation. (Not by Fire but by Ice, p 198) To think it won’t happen again just because we humans now inhabit the planet would be wishful thinking.
Forget all this talk about global warming. We need to prepare for an ice age.
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Posted by JR at 5:32 PM