Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Nuclear Politics in Germany

Hi Everyone,


There were two big shocks in the Land (state) elections in two large German Lander: Baden-Wurttemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz. The Greens won big in both elections! The recent crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan seems to have been a major factor in both elections. You may ask, "so big deal, the Greens won a by-election." But Baden-Wurttemberg is one of the most conservative Lander in Germany. This would something like the American Green Party winning the governorship in Georgia. The Greens won enough seats that they can take the Premiership of the Land if they can form a coalition with the slightly smaller, Social Democrats (see election results here). In Rhineland-Pfalz, the Social Democrats had hoped to continue to govern alone but will be forced into a coalition with the Greens (see election results here). Both elections mean that the Greens will have more representation in the German upper house (Bundesrat).

Earlier I posted an attempt to start a discussion about the new politics of alternative energy that will result from the Fukushima crisis (and the oil price increases we're likely to see for the foreseeable future). These election results in South Western Germany suggest that the new political landscape is already emerging.

Germany gets about the same share of its electricity from nuclear power as Japan does (a little more than a quarter). The Social Democratic and Green Party coalition that governed Germany until 2005 had begun a plan to gradually phase out their nuclear power. The Greens had said from the start it wasn't going far enough quick enough but in any case, that coalition lost the election the Christian Democrats. In 2009 with the Christian Democrats consolidating their power, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced a major extension of the date by which nuclear power would be phased out. After Fukushima, Merkel announced that she was flip flopping and suspended operation at several older plants and suspended the extension of the phase out. Too little, too late apparently.

If these results had happened in one of the more left leaning, northern Lander like Nordrhein-Westfalen, I'd be less impressed by this. But that these elections, especially the one in Baden-Wurttemberg, are happening in the more conservative south western part of the country suggests a major shift in German politics. One might be inclined to say this was a fluke resulting from the high profile coverage of the Fukushima crisis. But anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany had been building for a long time. Fukushima may have just put it finally over the threshold where nuclear power is permanently on the outs in Germany.

Germany cannot hope to supply its power needs with wind power or current solar technology. Germany is already a world leader in research and development in alternative energy sources. I think there will be a number consequences of this. One of them will be that it will be even harder for Germany (and the EU) to meet their Kyoto targets. Another will be that the Germans are about to ramp up their investment in non-nuclear alternatives. This will mean that the warnings that Obama has been sounding about the US falling behind in the fields of research that will generate the 21st century economy are even more valid.

19 comments:

julia said...

what is Lander? If you cannot speak German, please leave it! I think you mean Bundesland/Bundesländer..

The Law Talking Guy said...

Julia: here in the USA, umlauts are not normal characters on a computer, so we tend to omit them altogether in writing German. Whether to say Lander or Bundeslander is really just a matter of ease and preference. Mr. RBR does speak German.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I actually find the whole anti-nuclear vote in Germany to be utterly puzzling. Nuclear scare politics? There must be a lot more going on there than that. Of course, I have a strong pro-nuclear bias. The number of human beings dead or afflicted with lifetime illnesses from coal mining vastly exceeds the number of people hurt in nuclear accidents (except for Chernobyl, which is a situation of Soviet engineering failures unlikely to be repeated, no deaths and little or no serious radiation exposure). Meanwhile, estimates of deaths from coal mining approach 100,000 for the twentieth century, on average 30 annually outside of China, and over a thousand annually in China.

Raised By Republicans said...

Danke, LTG.

Yes, the situation with anti-nuclear politics in Germany has been brewing for a long time. It's long been a plank in the Green agenda. My conversations with German friends, some of whom actually voted in the Baden-Wurttemberg election said that the Green list was lead by a relatively conservative environmentalist. My friend said half in jest, "He's almost like a CSU candidate who likes the environment." (a reference to the VERY conservative Christian Social Union party that dominates politics in Bavaria).

The "scare politics" aspect of this is certainly significant, but it works. What's more, it has forced not only a shocking election result in a key Bundesland (pppththt) but has robbed the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition of their majority in the upper house of the bicameral German legislature at the national level, the Bundesrat. The result of this is a defacto Grand Coalition on any policy issue that involves the Laender (which in practice means most issues). So with this election, the ruling coalition has effectively lost the political advantages they won in the 2009 national election.

julia said...

ähm nee also ich will nicht wissen, wo du das her hast.. Land ist ein Land wie Frankreich, Italien, Bundesland ist das was du meinst.. sorry so kleinlich zu sein, aber da bekommt man Augenkrebs beim Lesen. Und stell dir mal vor, ich hab auch keine Umlaute auf meiner Tastatur benutze aber Tastenkombinationen ;)

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