A Stroke of a Genius.
By P. Leister, Vice president of Swiss Nuclear
Society and Vice President of ENS
When Germany took over the
six monthly presidency of the EU-Council at the beginning
of 2007, the start of this period fell right in the middle
of in the so-called “fifth season.” This phenomenon
is unique to Germany and manifests itself by a part of the
population going crazy for a couple of weeks. It is more
commonly known as the carnival season.
One of the first important tasks facing
the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her
team was to organise the European Energy Summit,
during which EU Member States were supposed to establish reference
points for the EU’s future environment policy in response
to the global climate change challenge. The circumstances surrounding
it sometimes assumed carnevalesque proportions.
First, Germany announced that it sees itself
as the pace-setter in environmental matters and wants to establish
itself as an exemplary paragon of virtue as far as environmental
technologies and politics are concerned – a paragon whose
lead other nations (not only European) should follow.
When asked by the European Commission’s
Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, whether the attempts
of German car manufacturers to reduce their vehicles’ CO2
emissions had proven successful and could be frozen from 2008
onwards at 140 g CO2/km (as they had voluntarily declared
to do nine years ago) Ms. Merkel was put on the spot. The German
automobile industry warned of drastic losses of employment should
this choice become reality to respond and urged Mrs. Merkel to
respond accordingly. She was forced to admit to Brussels that
German automobile engine development will take a couple more years
to achieve this goal than it originally foresaw. Other European
car manufacturers, however, are not far from achieving thet target.
After a tough round of negotiations Commissioner Dimas set a new
European target at 120 g CO2/km, which is applicable
from 2012 onwards.
Soon, a showdown of theatrical proportions started
between the German Environment Minister, Mr. Gabriel and his fellow
minister responsible for traffic and transportation, Mr. Tiefensee.
Mr. Gabriel claimed that he would reduce the maximum speed on
German motorways to 120 km/h in order to enhance car drivers’
safety (Hear, hear!). Mr. Tiefensee then counter-claimed that
he would introduce a law obliging car producers to declare the
CO2 emissions of any new car as an indication of the
car’s quality and energy performance. This would enable
customers to choose cars based on their environmental characteristics
Mr. Gabriel then turned his attention to the
subject of Germany's phasing-out of nuclear power. He stressed
that Germany can only influence global warming by modernising
its coal fired plants – as well as by boosting its renewable
energy output and by encouraging drastic energy savings. His argument
can be summarised for the benefit of the layman as follows: CO2
and radioactivity are both “toxic”, but Germany cannot
phase out both nuclear and coal-fired plants simultaneously! So,
the latter stays and the former goes! He then took the opportunity
to participate in a ceremony of laying the foundation stone for
a new, modern lignite plant.
Mr. Beck, President of German Social Democrats,
then topped this argument, explaining to the astonished German
nation that nuclear power plants would emit more CO2
than lignite plants! It was that well-known anti-nuclear scientific
institution, the Oeko-Institute Darmstadt that was embarrassingly
forced to clarify the confusion he had caused.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered Mrs. Merkel somehow
managed to make a success of the European Energy Summit. Clever
as she is, the day before the conference she met with France's
President Chirac. The result was that at the summit, states generating
nuclear power received the political “permission”
to continue producing CO2- free electricity - except,
yes you’ve guessed it - Germany!
Incidentally, Mrs. Merkel is a physicist who
received her “politically education” from former Chancellor
Helmut Kohl, for whom she served as Environment Protection and
Energy Minister. She is continuously showing her skill and ability
to lead the Germany’s “grand coalition” in what
she, as the person in charge of driving through Germany’s
presidency of the EU, feels is the right direction.
The Energy Summit came out with an easy play
on the figure of five times 20: the first two of which stand for
the year 2020, the next figure 20 means 20 % CO2-reduction,
the fourth means 20 % reduction of energy consumption and the
5th means 20 % enhancement of renewable energy. This is the new
earth-shattering world formula…. Sorry Mr. Einstein.
Shortly after the Summit, the second UNFCCC report
on global climate change was published, shocking the world. Expressis
verbis, the use of nuclear power as an important contributor
to CO2 reduction was mentioned amongst others, but
Mr. Gabriel’s messianic message to the world was now “BIOMASS.”
Biomass, an apparently promising alternative
energy source, is now the shining star in Germany and held up,
in his view at least, as THE solution for the world’s global
climate problems. Rape seen and maize should become the main ingredients
for new greener car fuels and electricity production. Maize and
rape seed sound like a simple recipe – an open sesame. To
meet Germany’s fuel demand, German agricultural land will
be used in the future to produce diesel, gasoline – not
to mention food too. Now we have to learn how clever and global
the strategy for promoting green renewable energy technology has
become. Very impressive! Biomass-based district heating plants
used as cogeneration plants are under construction. And they will
be fed by.... wait for it… palm oil!
Palm oil? Why? Well, according to German environmentalists,
the total CO2 balance of rape seed is negative. Instead
of rape seed, palm oil has to be imported from tropical countries.
Thank goodness this was found out so early! Well, as far as producing
palm oil in special tropical farms is produced, tropical rain
forests first have to be destroyed to make room for palm tree
farming to be developed. By burning down the tropical forests
a huge part of the CO2 that they are supposed to be
reducing is actually produced instead. Perhaps they should have
stuck to rape seed-driven power plants after. What a stroke of
But wait a minute! What more do we know about
maize and rape seed? Well, for example, if Germany were to replace
all its present diesel consumption by rape seed produced energy,
the land area that Germany currently has set aside for agricultural
production wouldn’t even be large enough to cover the needs
of the environmentalists’ strategy.
I say it again…what a stroke of genius!
German farmers will become monopolists and play
around with citizens’ lives: It’s a simple choice,
what do you want, diesel or food?
A lot of problems could be solved with a step-by-step approach.
Step 1: the unemployed will
be sent to work in the countryside. Throughout the year they can
be kept busy with light work that is easy to understand, doesn’t
require expert knowledge or training; harvesting rape seed and
maize does not require much intellectual insight or ability –
which, incidentally, the Polish asparagus harvesters who annually
flooding over Germany's fields in the early summer certainly do
have. Farmers will be the main employers, no trade unions are
necessary and the car manufacturers can sell their old-fashioned
harvesting machines once again - such classic models as Daimler’s
Unimog ® or Porsche’s Diesel-Bulldog ®. BMW, however,
has no agricultural heritage….
Step 2: The health and care
system could be revolutionised and drastically simplified. Air
in the country is clean per definition. Working in the fields
is, per se, healthy. The numbers of hospitals can be reduced.
Cities will be emptied. Since people will live in the country,
doctors will not be so important. What would we need pharmacists
for, once ill health is reduced to a few standard illnesses?
OK then. Why not also reduce the numbers of schools and universities.
Children will first be sent to kindergartens, then to plant nurseries
and, finally, out to work in the fields. What a healthy, idyllic
and productive life;
Step 3: Germany changes. It
will revert back to being an agricultural state. Why not? The
obvious advantages of such a scenario are clear for all to see:
the numbers of cars per family can be reduced. Motorways and highways
will no longer be clogged up with traffic. What would anyone need
an off-road vehicle for? People would be working all the year
off-road! Even politics would become easier because only two political
parties would be required; one representing Diesel harvesting
interests and the representing the giant food production sector.
What an ingenious simplification of the democratic process! What
a logical and effective strategy for reducing CO2 emissions
to a new German world record level (something that already claimed
by Mrs. Merkel).
Yes indeed, an unprecedented stroke of a genius!
All other nations will admire Germany and learn from it. Fortunately,
we in Switzerland are looking again, sensibly and thoughtfully,
at the "bigger canton".