Sunday, February 13, 2022

France defends its ‘big nuclear adventure,’

French pragmatism triumphs over the hysteria elsewhere

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told CNBC on Friday that the country’s decision to bet big on nuclear power was driven by geopolitical concerns and the desire to achieve “total energy independence.”

His comments come shortly after French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to build at least six new nuclear reactors in the decades to come, with the option for another eight. The move controversially places atomic power at the center of France’s bid to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.

Speaking to CNBC’s Charlotte Reed on Friday, Le Maire described the move as “the most ambitious plan for France over the last decades.”

He said scientific analysis seen by the government last year had shown it was necessary to build new nuclear plants and accelerate the deployment of renewable energies to reduce carbon emissions and achieve “total energy independence.”

Policy shift

The French government’s buildup of its atomic power program marks a stark policy shift from the start of Macron’s presidency when he committed to reducing the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix.

Asked whether geopolitical concerns had prompted this reversal, Le Maire told CNBC: “Of course, the changes in the geopolitical landscape [have] played a key role.”

Alongside soaring energy prices, escalating tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the West in recent months have heightened concern about the future of Russian gas flows to the European Union.

Lawmakers and energy providers have scrambled to prepare contingency plans in the event of a full supply disruption of Russian gas to the EU — which receives roughly 40% of its gas via Russian pipelines, several of which run through Ukraine.

Climate concerns

Speaking on Thursday with the presidential election just two months away, Macron said the new nuclear power plants would be built and developed by state-controlled energy giant EDF and tens of billions of euros in public financing would be channeled to support the projects.

“We need to pick up the mantle of France’s big nuclear adventure again,” Macron said.

Ahead of the announcement, the French government had lobbied to successfully get the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to label nuclear power as “green.”

The EU’s decision to designate nuclear power as a climate-friendly power source has been sharply criticized by some member states, with environmental campaigners saying the move “makes a mockery” of the EU’s desire to position itself as a sustainable finance leader.

The Green presidential candidate, Yannick Jadot, said via Twitter on Thursday that Macron’s move would condemn France to “energy and industry obsolescence,” adding that it was “irresponsible” to push ahead with the plans “without any debate and for a cost equivalent to the budget of the public hospital.”

Asked whether it was pertinent for the French government to prioritize nuclear power, Le Maire emphasized that the strategy was based on a mix between renewable energies and nuclear plants.

He added: “We are explaining to the French people: This is our strategy. If you want to work in the nuclear plants, if you want to be an engineer … you could do it [and] you should do it because there is a future for the nuclear plants in France and also everywhere in the world.”


After ousting its green leader, Canadian Federal Conservative Party drops support for carbon tax

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Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 10, 2022.

Interim leader Candice Bergen told her caucus about the change at a meeting on Feb. 9, saying that the carbon tax issue will be dealt with in the upcoming leadership race, according to a report in the Toronto Star.

Conservative MP John Williamson tweeted the Star article, headlined, “Conservatives drop support for carbon pricing, bring an O’Toole foe back from exile,” without disputing its reporting, except to say, “‘Tax’ spelled incorrectly by headline writer.” His comment is a reference to the Tories’ official position under Erin O’Toole’s leadership that their carbon levy isn’t a tax, but just a price on carbon generation.

The Conservatives’ decision comes a week after O’Toole was ousted by his caucus on Feb. 2.

O’Toole had announced his own version of a carbon tax during the 2021 federal election campaign, reversing a previous pledge to never introduce a national carbon tax scheme of any sort.

On Jan. 31, Conservative MP Bob Benzen issued a statement to caucus calling for a review of O’Toole’s leadership, citing his “adoption of a de-facto carbon tax policy in April 2021” as one of the reasons.

Bergen’s decision to drop the carbon tax was welcomed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), which issued a statement the same day saying that it was the right thing for the party to do.

“Carbon taxes cost Canadians a lot of money but aren’t working, and that’s exactly the kind of policy the Official Opposition should be opposing,” said CTF federal director Franco Terrazzano.

“Inflation is one of the key economic issues facing Canadian families and the carbon tax is making these tough times tougher by making it more expensive to drive to work and heat our homes.”

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the federal carbon tax is scheduled to increase to 11 cents per litre of gasoline starting on April 1.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced in December 2020 that he would raise the carbon tax on fuels to $170 per tonne by 2030. The tax is currently priced at $50 a tonne but will increase by $15 a tonne yearly starting in 2023 until it hits $170 per tonne in 2030, as part of Liberals’ plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 40-45 percent lower than in 2005.


Gasoline prices jump in Keystone Pipeline cancellation fallout

Oil demand is at record highs in the U.S., but domestic oil producers can't or won't catch up because they have been canceled by the Biden administration, which is feeling the sting of its own anti-energy policies.

Prices at the pump hit a seven-year high of $3.41 per gallon as oil topped the $92- per-barrel level.

President Biden, who canceled the Keystone Pipeline on his first day in the White House, continues to chip away at America's energy industry.

Drilling moratoriums, threats for fossil fuel investors and desperate appeals to OPEC for help have contributed to rising energy prices, a major component of the inflation spike.

The Biden administration has tried to backtrack on that and now is calling on the U.S. shale industry to drill the leases that they have and to add rigs, but even though the rig counts are going up, the production that's coming online is barely moving the needle.

The U.S. shale industry is in need of constant investment to keep oil production going up at the same time companies have to be more fiscally responsible than they were in the past because the Biden administration's clampdown is making it almost impossible to take economic risks.

Adding insult to injury, on Thursday lawmakers called on Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to limit natural gas exports.


Desperation: Britain to drain electric car batteries at times of peak demand

Electric car owners will be called on to help Britain avoid an energy crunch as suppliers prepare tariffs allowing them to draw power from parked vehicles at times of low supply or high demand.

Cars which are charging on driveways are to be plugged into a system responsible for balancing the National Grid for the first time, in an experiment aimed at easing the burden on the country's creaking energy infrastructure.

It will lay the groundwork for a national rollout of the technology if successful, paving the way for millions of electric cars to act as a giant battery so that power supply is stable at times of low wind speeds after the transition to green energy.

In the trial, which will begin at some point from April to June, car owners will agree to allow the grid to draw power from their vehicles and release it as and when required. They will be paid for energy which the grid drains off.

The scheme is being run by the National Grid and domestic supplier Octopus Energy, which has recruited 135 households. [...]

As part of its work with Octopus, the National Grid ESO’s control room has been testing how to send and receive signals from cars that are part of the vehicle-to-grid trial.

Eventually it is hoped these cars could be called upon to release charge when extra supply is needed, or in turn create demand by drawing power.

Ms Miller said that a typical electric car had an output of about seven kilowatt hours.

At peak hours, or between 4pm and 7pm, a typical household would only use around three kilowatt hours of energy, leaving about four kilowatt hours of spare capacity.

That means one million electric cars could provide 4,000 megawatt hours to the grid at peak times – roughly the same as 5,000 onshore wind turbines, Ms Miller said.




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