What Angela Merkel said.
Just to clear up a confusion I have seen in comments... I am not the one claiming that use of this or that source of power source are strongly correlated in any concrete way (leaving aside the price of energy). On the contrary... they are not... but the politicians and many big time investors THINK they are. Which provides enough of a link for such policy to effect the wealth of nations.
Quoting Xinhua news agency this is what Merkel said.
Germany could show to the world how a developed economy can achieve "such a transformation toward efficient and renewable energies, with all the opportunities that it has, for exports, development, new technologies and jobs," Merkel said.The proposition is thus.... Go green create jobs. That is what many people seem to think will work. President Obama had made similar claims when first entering office... then the economy of Portugal which he used as an example during his campaign collapsed. He was wise enough to learn the lesson that green economies are not as recession proof as they were billed as.
What Fukushima says about nuclear power.
The Fukushima incident does not reveal an inherent danger of nuclear power plants nor does Japan's difficulty reveal how hard nuclear power is to deal with. This is because Japan is dealing with a nuclear incident embedded within a much larger zone of destruction due to a magnitude 9 quake and a resulting huge wave. The tsunami has done way more real damage than the power plant which has had a more or less psychological effect.
If the plant had blown up and melted down by itself and Japan wasn't able to handle this situation that would be different. However as I wrote in an earlier blog post that natural disaster was of a magnitude that no plant could be designed to withstand.
What we can learn from Iceland's economic collapse.
Iceland is a "european" country by culture if not geography and during the 90's and earl 00's I know it had a booming and very green economy. Iceland took advantage of their wealth of geothermal energy. Iceland is also a country with very little in the way of exportable natural resources compared to other nations. However it's money was more valueable than that of many other countries, which had much more economic activity, like China and India, or even south Africa with it's vast gold and gem reserves, for some reason. Probably because Iceland is a country populated by people of European descent and those who have the power to decide who's money will be worth what are also European. Plus investing in such a green economy must have made many investors feel good.
When the world economic collapse hit in 2008 investors began to reconsider the bonefieds of Icelands economy. Hard economic reality of iceland as the barren, cold, wasteland that it mainly is.... finally hit people. The Icelandic economy has lost 90% of it's market capitalization and their currency lost 1/3 of it's value. All of this inspite of having a magic green economy.
A bit of the science of energy...the break even point.
A major part of the reason for Germany's move is to generate green energy. This would be done with solar cells and windmills.
The thing to remember about green energy products is that it takes non green carbon releasing sources or Nuclear power to produce the solar cells and windmills. It takes numerous mechanized processes that burn oil to mine the minerals and transport the materials to make them. It takes electricity in copious amounts to produce solar cells and windmills by the various industrial process that go into producing them. This is also true of nuclear and coal powered plants as well.
Once these energy sources are up and running in terms of the energy budget they are actually negative however many kilojoules of energy it took to produce the energy source. The point where they repay this debt is called the break even point.
The result of this is that when Germany produces or buys all the windmills and solar cells it needs it would end up releasing huge amounts of carbon, and using mega joules of nuclear power. There would also be tons of solid waste from the industrial processes that go into producing that many solar cells and windmills which would need to be dumped somewhere. Solar cells and windmills are very inefficient energy producers which only work under certain conditions. So it could take a very long time for one joule of actual green energy to be produced.
Interestingly the European union is considering cutting funding to the International Thermonuclear (fusion) Test Experimental reactor. Part of the reason for this is that they are demanding it be built to earthquake and disaster resistance standards made with Fission reactors in mind. Hasn't anyone informed them that ITER is a fundamentally different beast from any other reactor? That if such a reactor had the worst possible accident NO appreciable radiation could be released since no heavy isotopes will be produced?
Nuclear power is one of those technologies which reminds me that scientist and engineers are the wizards and sourceerer's of our era... we deal in forces that are unseen, poorly understood, and feared by the masses in a way that might as well be magic to them. What fear must drive such decisions in otherwise intelligent and discerning persons?
The Fukushima disaster proves NOTHING about nuclear power and more about natural disaster readiness.
The economy of Iceland is a good counter example to the myth that going green will magically fix an economy. It is also a good example of how perception of an economy can effect it for good and bad.
The point at which Germany's move would result in a truly green economy would actually be decades after 2022 when these green energy sources produce all the energy that will have gone into setting them up. In the mean time not one new job will have been created, nor a new resource discovered. Leaving Germany no better off and at the mercy of nations like China, India and hopefully the USA who will have expanded nuclear capacity with a new generation of safer fission plants. (Which by the way may not happen since the EU may not be able to come up with the money for it's share ).
The result of this is that sometime shortly after 2022 investors will wake up realize that Germany has blundered and capital will leave there at the speed of international trade. Perhaps in the run up to 2022 Germany will do a little better as people invest in the media hyped green sector of there economy. However there is no there there and while such technologies have their place in a total energy solution they are not the whole answer.