Separating Fact from Fiction In Accounts of Germany’s Renewables Revolution

Amory Lovins l RMI Blog  15 August 2013

RMI Blog

I recently wrote about—and debunked—the renewables “disinformation campaign” that spreads misinformed and falsely negative stories about the growth of renewable energy. A special focus of such disinformation has been reportage on Germany’s efficiency-and-renewables revolution. The impressive success so far of the German Energiewende (energy turnaround) is an important existence proof for the world, because Germany is cloudy, high-latitude, heavily industrialized, highly competitive (it rivals America’s merchandise exports with one-fourth its population), and the world’s fourth-biggest economy.

Perhaps because German success would therefore belie the supposed necessity of fossil-fuel and nuclear energy, some media regularly report the Energiewende’s failure or supposed impossibility. As I highlighted, Germany’s renewables revolution is in fact highly successful and strong as   ever, but that hasn’t stopped three myths from gaining traction in the media: 1) Germany’s supposed turn back to coal, 2) how renewables undermine grid reliability, and 3) how renewables subsidies are cratering the German economy. None of those are true, and here’s why.

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The Knock-on Effects of Global Warming: Too Darn Hot for Nuclear Power

Climate change deniers abound but the evidence is all around us. Weather extremes are getting wider and more frequent, the temperature is inching upward,  and the world is starting to look at water differently. In a look at how long we can pretend something isn't happening when the evidence is right before our eyes Peter Sinclair examines nuclear power and it's use and abuse of water in a warming world. The impacts of which may well shut reactors down where common sense has failed.

"The problem of Nuclear plant performance in climate driven heat waves is well known. During the European Heat Wave of 2003, and several times since, many of France’s vaunted nuclear plants had to be shut for fear of boiling the rivers where they drew their cooling water. In 2007, the Brown’s Ferry Nuclear plant, part of the TVA system, was forced to shut down down due to cooling water issues..."

"Water for cooling thermoelectric power generation, coal, gas and nuclear, represents 49 percent of US surface water withdrawals. The numbers are similar world wide..."

In a seperate article included within Sinclair's cautionary tale of water risk, a study funded by the European Commission done by a research center at Wageningen University in the Netherlands found it likely that:

"thermoelectric power generating capacity from 2031-60 will decrease 6-19 percent in Europe because of a lack of cooling water..." and that "the likelihood of extreme reductions in thermoelectric power generation will, on average, jump by a factor of three during the period."

We have alternatives to water intensive, toxic energy souces. We have no alternative to water.

Read full text at: http://climatecrocks.com/2012/07/17/the-knock-on-effects-of-global-warming-too-darn-hot-for-nuclear-power/

Additional info: 

Summary of Estimated Water Use in the US in 2005

Burning Our Rivers

Coal & Nuclear Power Have Over 15x the Water Footprint of Renewable Energy Sources

As U.S. Moves Ahead with Nuclear Power, No Solution for Radioactive Waste

Excellent article on the nuclear dilemma worrying everyone except, it seems, the US government and the NRC who have issued another Waste Confidence Rule.

Essentially they are, once again, saying they have no idea what to do about the waste problem, but they are confident that someday they will. See the detailed challenge to the new Waste Confidence rule by the NRDC here. A challenge was also filed by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

In addition the article highlights the issue of the enormous release of chlorofluorocarbons annually produced by the enrichment of uranium:

According to the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), which runs the only U.S.-owned uranium enrichment facility in Paducah, Kentucky, the enrichment cycle releases 300,000 pounds, or 150 tons, of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere yearly.

The radiative properties of CFCs make them a dangerous global warming agent — 1,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to EPA figures. Ozone-depleting CFCs have been banned in the U.S. except in the processing of uranium ore.

And the dependence of reactors, and enrichment, on coal:

Further, the Paducah plant enriches the yellowcake, a lightly processed form of uranium ore,  to produce uranium oxide and make nuclear fission from two 1,500-megawatt, 30-year-old coal plants, which release CO2 and other environmental pollutants. 

All the while the industry still maintains that nuclear power is the clean energy solution.

SolveClimate logo

Abby Luby    3 March, 2011

President Obama has won wide bipartisan support for his determination to revive American nuclear power — a low-carbon energy solution that electric utilities and conservatives can support.

But a pair of legal actions last month could complicate matters for Washington by forcing theNuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) to address a longstanding and almost intractable problem: How and where to store the highly radioactive waste.

For many, the separate suits by state attorneys general and environmental groups raise fresh questions over why America is pouring billions into a nuclear renaissance with no long-term strategy for handling waste from the nation's existing facilities.

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The new Civil Society Institue report, "Benefits of Beyond Business as Usual," looks at the concealed costs of coal and nuclear energy production. The figures for water usage and contamination alone are staggering. The amount of nuclear waste produced without regard for the complete lack of long term storage- ie. there is nowhere to put it and it will be radioactive and dangerous, in human terms, forever- is terrifying. But it is also inexplicable. What other industry would be allowed to put the environment, public health, and the actual future of life on earth at risk with such impunity when there are alternatives?

Civil Society Institute l Media Release   25 January, 2011

As Washington Debates "Clean Energy Standard," Report Details Little-Understood Harmful Water, Health and Other Impacts of Coal and Nuclear Power in U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C.///January 25, 2011///An astounding 200 billion gallons of water withdrawn from America's water supply each day … annual costs to society from premature deaths due to power plant pollution so high that they are up to four times the price of all electricity produced in the U.S. … and four metric tons of high-level radioactive wastes for every terawatt of electricity produced by nuclear reactors, even though there is no long-term storage solution in place. These are just some of the little understood and largely "hidden" water, health and other costs from U.S. coal and nuclear electricity production detailed in a new analysis released today by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) think tank. The Synapse report for CSI also outlines the considerable health impacts of the nation's current reliance on coal and nuclear power.

The full text of the Civil Society Institute reports prepared by Synapse Energy Economics are available online at http:///www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.

Read full text of Media Release: http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/media/c012511release.cfm

GOP Solution to Air Pollution: Pass a Law Declaring that Pollutants Aren't Pollutants

We are are worried, but are we worried enough yet?

Lots of complaints are circulating about the increasing role corporations have taken in their own regulation, and on the influence they have on governments. But there is still a tendency to wait until "something happens" before there's a big mobilization against "that thing." The time to act on our justifiable fears is now, before the next big accident, before we lose ALL of our rights. It's easier to prevent environmental contamination than to clean it up, once lives have been lost you can't remediate them back. Once the water is all gone, or polluted beyond usability, what will the big mobilization achieve?

It's time to stop complaining and start naming names, listing companies and facts about their unsustainable practices out loud. It's time to take it to the streets and force the media to take notice. It's time to take it from the living room to the public meeting room.

The new Republican proposal to avoid penalizing corporations for polluting by re-designating known pollutants as NON pollutants is almost as scary as the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that may have enabled it. As the article says, and as we need to keep saying, polluting agents keep polluting even if you say they don't. 

We are hearing loud and clear the the new GOP is not interested in the environment, public health, or the future. They need to hear loud and clear from us that we are. People need to start talking. Van Jones once said: If it's hard to love, love harder. If we feel no-one is listening, maybe we need a sharper edge to what we're saying. We need to "talk harder." More facts and fewer compromises. If we don't mean what we say, and are not willing to back it up, we are going to get walked right over.

AlterNet / By Michael Brune   January 15, 2011

"Job killing" regulations are a scary myth -- but cynical, irresponsible, "people killing" bills that put all of our lives at risk are a much scarier reality.

Only a couple of days into the new Congress, Representative Marsha Blackburn and at least 46 colleagues have proposed an air-pollution solution that's both simple and ingenious: Pass a law declaring that pollutants aren't pollutants. Blackburn's bill, H.R. 97, states:

"The term 'air pollutant' shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarb ons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride."

If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, sulfur hexaflouoride isn't bound by the whims of Congress. If that particular greenhouse-gas pollutant (with a climate-disruption potential that's22,800 times that of CO2) wants to destroy our atmosphere, then that's what sulfur hexaflouoride is going to do...

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Will "Smart" Household Electricity Meters Give You Cancer?

Mother Jones weighs in on smart meters. Are they good, or is Big Brother knocking on your electricity door? They had some interesting findings, worth reading about. But, the radiation issue in general, if not for smart meters, is still up in the air. To that end, as an incidental aside, look at that spike in the graph for cell phones at the ear. It would be good to find an answer to that question in this age of smart phone dominance.

The article brings up the issue of some new ways we are exposed to radiation due to changes in technology use. It's not the subject of this article, but maybe a future one?

All this being said, if we do not accept the need to actually practice efficiency, there will be no hope of ever changing our energy and environmental future for the better.

Keira Butler | Mother Jones    Jan. 17, 2011

You'd think Marin County, California, famous for its tree huggers, would be all for "smart" household electricity and gas meters. Experts say that the devices, which allow utilities to calculate your energy rates in real time instead of once a month, are an important step toward greening our Rube-Goldberg-ish energy grid. But earlier this month, the Marin County Board of Supervisorsvoted unanimously to impose a moratorium on installation of the devices, primarily because of health concerns about the electromagnetic radiation the devices emit. AsJonathan Hiskes points out in his post on the subject, health worries are only part of the debate: Some worry that smart meters will broadcast consumers' private information to utilities and businesses. Still others believe that smart meters will actually increase users' power bills.

So is there reason to fear the new system, or are Bay Area folks just nuts? I polled a few experts. Herewith, their answers to some of the most pressing smart-meter questions.

Will my smart meter give me a brain tumor?

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Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission finds everyone to blame

Oil Spill Commission finds everyone to blame in their findings on Deepwater Horizon:

While the commission found the blame to sit with BP and its contractors Halliburton and Transocean, it also found that government oversight was badly compromised. The agency in charge of promoting the expansion of drilling was also in charge of keeping it safe. Its officials did not have the necessary experience or training for dealing with the ever deeper and more technologically challenging installations they had to oversee. And it had a budget that did not come close to keeping up with the expansion of what it was meant to be doing. Nor had there been adequate planning by companies or by government for what to do in the case of such a gigantic spill.

Every one of these findings could be applied to the nuclear industry and it's regulators.

There are many lessons to be learned from Deepwater Horizon, but the findings above highlight what may be most important in terms of the consequences of allowing powerful corporations and industries a major role in their own regulation. 

Not to diminish the horror of what happened, it is a good time to think about what the consequences would have been had this been a nuclear accident. The oil industry, like the nuclear industry, claimed its technologies and equipment were safe. They said accidents like this couldn't happen. That safety measures had been taken, requirements had been met. But it did happen. Corners were cut, systems failed. There was human error. The consequences of this were terrible. The consequences of an equivalent  nuclear accident would be unimaginable. 

The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations may have been created after Three Mile Island to play this role, but the nuclear industry again has a stranglehold over their own regulation, and the government's energy agenda. They too need to be held to a "safety strategy." They too need to prove, not that emergency plans exist but that they can be implemented. They need to be held responsible for the waste they create and the damage it has done and will be capable of doing forever. If the Commission's recommendations were applied to the nuclear industry, the industry would not be able to meet them. This should make us very frightened.

It's time to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear, towards an energy future of true renewables, that will be well regulated, safe, and sustainable.


The Economist l NEWSBOOK  Jan 11th 2011

Cleaning up a mess

HAVING last week released its findings on how the Deepwater Horizon was lost, on January 11th America’s national Oil Spill Commission released its findings on what happened afterwards—and on how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. As the commission points out, the damage done fell short of some of the worst expectations and conjectures, with much of the oil kept out at sea by winds and currents. But in terms of economic loss, health impacts and social, as well as environmental, damage it was still a disaster for a set of states that have had more than their fair share of such things.

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A-infos Radio Project Helen Caldicott on the Three Global Crises

A-Infos Radio Project

Program Information

 New World Notes 
 Weekly Program
 Helen Caldicott, MD
 Kenneth Dowst  
 For non-profit use only.
 Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc) 
 No Advisories - program content screened and verified.
 Famed antinuke crusader Helen Caldicott, MD, displays her signature combination of wit, compassion, passion, and technical expertise. She spoke in Houston on November 12, 2010.

Caldicott discusses, in turn, what she sees as the three greatest threats to life on earth--global warming, nuclear war, and nuclear power--and urges the audience to take concrete actions against each. She even suggests a few specific actions.

With preface by K.D. & a song by Tom Lehrer.

For more info and to download podcast or listen to program CLICK HERE


Progress Energy's Nuclear Project Gets Closer Look

An environmental victory in Florida as  the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled that an independent review of Progress Energy's data on the ecological impact of it's proposed nuclear power plant will be allowed. This decision could have an impact on all new nuclear construction projects.

Sunshine News l Kenric Ward    6 January, 2011

Florida environmentalists win right to an independent review of facility's water use

Federal regulators are turning up the heat on Progress Energy's proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County.

In a ruling that could potentially affect every proposed nuclear facility in the country, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ordered Progress to produce modeling data regarding the ecological impact of its proposed plant. The West Coast facility would withdraw up to 5.58 million gallons of water per day from the Floridan aquifer system.

The ASLB order came in response to a motion filed by the Ecology Party of Florida and Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which contended that wetlands, streams, springs and estuaries in the surrounding area, and the federally listed species that rely on these natural resources, would be "irreparably harmed" by the withdrawal of such large amounts of water from the aquifer. 

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E.P.A. Limit on Gases to Pose Risk to Obama and Congress

As the new year approaches the EPA gears up to begin implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is expected to be a disproportionate reaction from republican legislators who have been heavily backed by corporate polluters and who still insist, despite all evidence and consensus to the contrary, that global warming is a fiction.

The EPA's plans for 2011 are very modest, but the battle expected is no less critical. Now is the time to remember how hard won the gains of the Clean Air & Water Acts were. And to make sure they are upheld. The role, and strength, of the EPA has never been more important. They will need strong backing from the public. We need to make sure that we give it.

NYTimes l JOHN M. BRODER   30 December, 2010

WASHINGTON — With the federal government set to regulate climate-altering gases from factories and power plants for the first time, the Obama administration and the new Congress are headed for a clash that carries substantial risks for both sides.

While only the first phase of regulation takes effect on Sunday, the administration is on notice that if it moves too far and too fast in trying to curtail the ubiquitous gases that are heating the planet it risks a Congressional backlash that could set back the effort for years.

But the newly muscular Republicans in Congress could also stumble by moving too aggressively to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency, provoking a popular outcry that they are endangering public health in the service of their well-heeled patrons in industry.

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Nuclear Power is not the Answer