A regular Atomic Insights reader sent me a link to a program produced by Al Jazeera English titled 101 East – Asia’s nuclear addiction that offers an interesting, if somewhat disturbing, point of view about nuclear energy development. About half of the program describes an effort to site a nuclear power plant in Indonesia and the other half features a debate between Helen Caldicott and a Malaysian nuclear engineer.
Someone recently asked me why Al Jazeera often produces shows that demonstrates discomfort with the use of nuclear energy. Her point was that Al Jazeera’s point of view did not not support my “advertiser supported media” theory that the media often slants against nuclear energy due to subtle pressure from petroleum company advertisers. That network does not depend on advertiser dollars.
My response was to point out that Al Jazeera has plenty of petrodollar reasons of its own to dislike the competition from nuclear energy against natural gas. The network is owned by the state of Qatar, which also happens to own Qatargas, the largest Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) producer in the world. Nuclear energy is a direct competitor to natural gas.
As reported by Bloomberg yesterday, one of the effects of the reaction to the Fukushima events has been a 33% increase in the world price of LNG, which is on a trajectory to exceed $20 per million BTU. That is more than 5 times the price per unit heat of natural gas at the wellhead in the United States. From the Bloomberg article (which is a must read) titled LNG Surges as Japan Vies With China, Exxon’s Shipments Grow:
“The Japanese tsunami certainly did increase the demand quite dramatically for LNG imports into the region, which effectively tightened the global LNG market more quickly than most people had anticipated,” said Allison Nathan, a senior commodities economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York. “We now see the global market as tight.”
Supplies have become scarcer partly because Germany decided on March 15 to close eight of its 17 atomic stations following Fukushima. Qatar, the world’s biggest LNG producer, said Sept. 5 it will shut three of seven production lines for maintenance through October.
Can you see why I am firmly convinced that the seemingly irrational response to Fukushima in comparison to far more deadly recent fossil fuel accidents comes partly from pressure provided by the suppliers and traders? They are salivating at the prospects of accumulating additional wealth from all of the rest of us as a result of tighter energy supplies.
Is it really credible to consider the enormously positive effect of shutting down nuclear power plants on LNG and coal prices to be an “unintended consequence” of an almost non stop media blitz aimed at sustaining and expanding a carefully taught fear of nuclear fission energy production?
To directly answer the title question of this post, the reason that Al Jazeera and its sponsors are worried that Asia might be increasingly addicted to nuclear energy is that would mean that Asia is becoming less addicted to fossil fuel, specifically their world-leading LNG – liquified natural gas – product.
PS: Whenever I can, I will post videos that include Ms. Caldicott in debate against someone who knows something about nuclear energy. Every time she speaks, she provides evidence that many of the most prominent people who publicly battle the use of nuclear energy while claiming to be fighting against the dangers of coal mining and climate change are irrational nut cases.