A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article about a Tim Wirth pep talk to the natural gas industry that I called the best smoking gun ever. When I went on Clean Skies TV for an interview, Susan McGinnis challenged me on that assertion stating that Wirth never said anything bad about nuclear energy, that he agreed it would be part of the mix. (Of course, he put it well down on his list of alternatives and used an effective rhetorical technique of damning with faint praise.)
I have recently discovered a far more direct attack on the use of nuclear fission power by a leader in a competitive energy industry, Aloys Wobben, the managing director of Enercon, a 3 billion euros per year German wind turbine manufacturer. Here is a quote from a signed “Dear Readers” introduction to Enercon’s Windblatt: Enercon Magazine for Wind Energy Issue 02 for 2009 (1.1 MB PDF):
The course set for the remainder of the power station fleet of the future, however, is also of crucial importance.The expansion of all renewable energies requires flexible power plants that can balance the fluctuations of electricity demand and electricity feed-in. If nuclear and new coal-fired power plants throw us back to times long thought overcome, the renewal of our power supply system will be set back by years. With their inflexible operation style, nuclear power plants cement the old power station fleet. Grids and pumped storage systems – indispensable complements to the decentralised renewable power station fleet – are blocked by the unwieldy giants. The urgently needed expansion of the grid would not benefit the decentralised energies of the future; rather, it would only serve to transport the electricity from fewer fossil and nuclear large-scale power plants across long distances.For this reason, after the election the new European members of parliament must correct the disastrous decision to promote investments in nuclear energy.
You cannot get much clearer than that. The magazine expands on that political strategy with a two page policy article titled Nuclear energy jeopardises green energy revolution. I want to make this as clear as possible. The green energy “revolution” that Mr. Wobben is talking about is the dramatic growth in his company’s sales of wind turbines due to the incredibly generous subsidies provided as a result of Germany’s feed-in tariffs.
This policy statement is not about a revolution that will make the world a better place; it is about a revolution that transfers money into the pockets of his company’s stockholders and managers. For Wobben and his company, nuclear energy must be halted not because of the residual fear of something like Chernobyl, but because its growth would halt most investment in his company’s primary product line. The nuclear fission influenced drop in sales volume would be a disaster, not for Germany or for the European Union but for Enercon.
Notice as well that Wobben specifically directs his attack on nuclear and coal fired power stations because they are supposedly “inflexible” and cannot provide the rapid response needed to enable integration of unreliable, weather dependent energy sources like wind turbines and solar collectors. The “between the lines” implication is that he supports investments in “flexible” fossil fuel plants, most likely supplied by natural gas.
Here is how I connect the dots between various energy industry interests. Tim Wirth made it clear in his strategy pitch to natural gas suppliers in the US that the natural gas and wind/solar industries should be engaged in a bear hug and walking hand in hand to their strategically elected leaders to enact legislation that establishes and maintains their market expansion plans. Here are his exact words from the Question and Answer session following the speech given to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association in July 2009:
“Many of you have, for reasons that are absolutely beyond me, decided that you are going to oppose the solar and wind industry, just at the time that is the teddy bear of American energy policy. Everybody wants to embrace solar and wind. But what happens when the wind doesn’t blow? What happens when the sun doesn’t shine? It’s natural gas that should be filling in that gap! You should be the closest buddy of the wind and solar industry and all be kissing each other in the neck and walking together into get this legislation passed.”
My bet is that there is a similar relationship in Europe between natural gas interests – mainly from Russia – and wind/solar power industries. I wonder if Wobben is a friend and/or a political ally of Gerhard Schroeder?