Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Meet the Politicians - Cécile Duflot

Today on France Inter it was the turn of Cécile Duflot, Party Secretary of the Europe Ecology Party (the Greens).

On the prestigious news and current affairs programme between 7am and 9am she was promulgating all the current received wisdom of this disproportionately influential minority party.
·         Nuclear power is not sustainable in the long term,
·         Renewable energy can provide all our needs and,
·         We don’t need growth because you can have prosperity without economic growth.

The depressing thing in France is that nobody challenges such statements.  Not on the radio at any rate and the result is that people are at risk of being persuaded that it’s true.
Nuclear Power is Sustainable
With the use of the right technologies, such as liquid fluoride thorium reactors, nuclear power can be both safe and sustainable for centuries to come, without increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and without generating wastes which will still be radioactive in thousands of year’s time.  There are even technologies available which can safely burn existing nuclear wastes and surplus plutonium stocks, but they all need political commitment and investment.
Renewable Sources cannot provide all our needs
Renewable energy sources do have a place in the energy mix, I'm even considering an installation myself, but they cannot be a complete replacement for nuclear power, or power from fossil fuels, because they either only work during daylight hours, or when it’s windy.  There is no suitable storage technology that will enable sufficient energy storage solely from such sources for our current patterns of demand.   I didn’t hear her mention biofuels but they need huge areas of land and, unless you live in a country that has thousands of hectares of unpopulated forest, they are in direct competition with food crops.
German consumers already pay 40% more for their electricity than consumers in France because they have less nuclear power and are now going to withdraw from it altogether.  They haven’t yet admitted that there’s a problem of satisfying the base load with renewables but when they do they will make it up by burning more Russian gas or importing French nuclear electricity!  Fortunately they are unlikely to be in direct political conflict with Putin et al, who have a history of turning off the gas as a political weapon and, however high the price of gas gets, they can afford it!  They are a successful country that can export its manufactured goods and has sustained higher economic growth over the decades than its neighbours. 
Prosperity without economic growth is a myth
France is not so lucky but Cecile Duflot has an answer to that as well, “prosperity without economic growth”.  Even that might be possible in an unconnected world where we all lived in our own small isolated communities.  I suppose it would be rather like after the romans left, no economic growth but just lots of invasions.  Between successive waves of wars and invasions there was a form of prosperity, if you could call being able to feed yourself and stay alive until the Black Death arrived, being prosperous. 

Somewhat more recently we saw what happened to communist regimes following over seventy years of stifling dogma and the cold war, both of which had the effect of restricting economic growth.  Eastern European countries are still living with the economic and political legacy. 
Oh sorry!  You want an army to defend your borders, a better health service, state subsidies for failing industries and more social protection but all without economic growth to pay for it.  Clearly we need another revolution!
So if you want to pay at least 40% more for your electricity, you think economic growth is a bad thing and you have no children or grandchildren who will need jobs in the future, then vote for Europe Ecology. You know it makes sense!


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