Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Enviro-fundamentalistic "cult of fear" behind Germany´s decision to phase out nuclear plants

Poland and other EU countries should not let German enviro-fundamentalists stop future shale gas exploration in Europe

Dr. Frank Furedi (professor of sociology at the University of Kent) has written an interesting background article about the German government´s hasty decision to phase out its nuclear power plants by 2022. Furedi points out that the anti-nuclear movement has old roots in Germany and that the now so powerful  German green movement grew out of the anti-nuclear protests in the 70´s. During the last two decades the green ideology has dominated public life in Germany. All political parties - including Merkel´s CDU and the Social Democrats - have internalised the core values of environmentalism:

Since the 1970s, protests against nuclear power have enjoyed considerable support from a heterogeneous coalition of students, youth-activist movements, trade unions, far-left and communist organisations and rural conservative lobbies.
Anti-nuclear power sentiment has become normalised to the point that it is difficult to encounter any German who does not subscribe to the popular slogan Atomkraft? Nein danke! (Nuclear power? No thanks!)
It is important to recall that the powerful modern German environment movement grew out of the 70s anti-nuclear protests.
Unlike any other cause upheld by radical protesters, hostility to nuclear power resonated with the mainstream of German society. Public opinion regarded nuclear power and the NATO nuclear missiles sited on its soil as merely different forms of the same threat.
By the end of the 70s the term nuclear had become the focus for German existential insecurity. Hostility to nuclear technology resonated with the traditional German idealisation of nature and its romantic cultural imagination. The historic valuation of nature as something that is morally good in its own terms drew a significant section of the conservative intelligentsia and political class towards an anti-nuclear standpoint.
At the same time the German Left, particularly its more radical section, regarded this issue as an opportunity to overcome its own isolation and gain public influence. One reason the German Green Party has succeeded in gaining so much prominence is because from the outset it succeeded in bringing together a coalition of otherwise hostile constituents.
In Germany the significance of the Greens should not be seen merely in electoral terms.
During the past two decades their ideas have dominated public life. Their influence in education, the media and cultural life is palpable. Public relations companies rely on green messages to sell their products and companies insist that the environment is their principal concern.
The CDU, similar to its Social Democrat and Liberal counterparts, has internalised the core values of environmentalism: the sacralisation of anything natural, aversion to risk and the celebration of precaution and of safety.
These values validate the fear-mongering that has erupted in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake.
Merkel has always played the green card. Last year she argued for maintaining nuclear power stations to realise a cleaner and greener future. Her argument was that this technology would help save the planet because nuclear plants did not emit any CO2.
Merkel took the view that the fear of global warming would trump anxieties about nuclear power.
For a while, at least, it appeared that a risk-averse environmentalist consensus obsessed with climate change would come around and accept this argument. However, our culture of fear is still surprisingly pragmatic. It tends to privilege nuclear phobia over apocalyptic visions of planetary destruction in the distant future.
The main beneficiary of German nuclear hysteria could be France, whose growing nuclear power industry may well be exporting energy to its very green neighbours. And the Germans will be unlikely to say, "Nein danke."

Read the entire article in the Australian here

Probably the French nuclear power generators will be able to benefit from the German nuclear phase out, but the greatest winner is Russian state owned energy giant Gazprom. Already now Gazprom provides 30% of Germany´s natural gas. In the future this dangerous dependence will grow considerably. Instead of relying on Russian gas, Germany should, of course, by all means encourage the exploration and future production of shale gas, both in Germany and in neighbouring Poland, where the government with the assistance of  US companies is actively promoting shale gas. The present danger is that the German enviro-fundamentalists in co-operation with the Russians will try to prevent European shale gas exploration on bogus environmental grounds. Poland and the US must not let German and other European misguided green fanatics stop Europe´s unique chance to diversify its energy future!

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