Sunday, May 8, 2011

Remember when there were sane Republicans?

Once upon a time, there were Republicans who actually represented the Producing Classes.  For example, in Ayn Rand's 1957 libertarian classic Atlas Shrugged, the hero gets frustrated because his plans to build a better railroad are thwarted.  In USA today by contrast, the numbers of Republicans trying to get better railroads built can be counted on one hand and Rand's followers are usually shameless Predators like Alan Greenspan.

German Producer Class environmentalism means that the world's most effective environmentalists are often conservative folks with engineering degrees.  Just by sheer statistical accident, one would expect a USA Republican to stumble onto their example that there are environmental strategies that mesh with the old principles of industrial capitalism.  You know, the idea that a conservative could be for conservation.  Well according to Spiegel, there is such a Republican!

'Germany Is on the Right Track'
A Republican Environmentalist Finds Green Nirvana
By Christian Schwägerl   04/21/2011
Republicans in the US have gained a reputation for being skeptical of any environmental legislation. But William K. Reilly, a former advisor to President George H. W. Bush, is an exception. In Berlin recently, he said he finds German efforts to transition to renewable energies "breathtaking."
Over the course of his long career as a Republican, a businessman and a governmental adviser, William K. Reilly has seen a lot. But during a recent trip to Berlin, the 71-year-old told SPIEGEL he finds Germany's evolving national energy policy "breathtaking."
Reilly recently led a delegation of senior US officials on a two-day trip to Germany. The officials were members of the board of trustees of Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions -- and they were interested in getting a close-up look at energy policies being implemented by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.
The trip happened to fall right in the middle of Merkel's radical energy-policy about-face precipitated by the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. To their amazement, the American visitors found officials in the inner core of Germany's conservative government who the Republicans back home would have dismissed as "eco nuts."
Republicans in the US show no mercy when it comes to environmental issues. They refer to climate change as the "big swindle" and some of them view efforts to increase high-speed train service as a way of decreasing automobile traffic as "socialist." What's more, most of them would like to see the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dissolved. They would likely refer to German Environment Minister Norber Röttgen, a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, as a "liberal weirdo" for his embrace of ecological principles, loose though it may be by German standards.
Reilly, though, no longer holds political office in Washington. And he is a rarity among Republicans. During the Nixon administration, Reilly joined the staff of the President's Council on Environmental Quality before going on to head the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). When severe heat and widespread air pollution became major issues in the 1988 presidential election, George H.W. Bush, its eventual winner, appointed Reilly to lead the EPA.
'On the Right Track'
At the time, Bush Sr. tried to present himself as "the environmental president," a shocking strategy for a Republican. His predecessor Ronald Reagan, likewise a Republican, is memorable for quips such as "A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?" and "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." But Reilly and Bush Sr. succeeded in toughening the regulations of the Clean Air Act, the effects of which are still felt today.
Now, Reilly is a private-sector businessman. But environmental issues have remained close to his heart. In June 2010, President Barack Obama appointed him to be the conservative co-chair of the commission charged with investigating the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Though he sits on the board of directors of ConocoPhillips, he continues to denounce the lax culture of oil firms when it comes to protecting the environment.
In Berlin, Reilly and his delegation met with industry representatives, environmentalist groups, senior civil servants and Klaus Töpfer, the former environment minister who has been appointed to lead the so-called "Ethics Commission" tasked with studying the future of nuclear power in Germany. Given the degree of polarization surrounding the climate debate in the United States, the American visitors were amazed at what they heard.
From the American perspective, Reilly thinks that it is "almost incredible" that the nuclear reactor accident in Fukushima would lead a conservative government to bid farewell to nuclear power while simultaneously trying to reduce the use of coal. He also thinks it will be hard to explain to his Republican friends on Capitol Hill.
But he says he will try. Reilly, after all, in contrast to those international observers who have criticized Merkel's about-face as being hurried and emotionally driven, is impressed. He is, to be sure, critical of the high subsidies on offer for renewable energies. And he believes Germany won't be able to abandon nuclear energy without increasing its natural gas imports from Russia. But, he says, Germany "is on the right track." more
Sometimes, it is good to let others make the mistakes.  Germany's transition to renewables has not been easy.
Electrical Resistance
NIMBY Protests Threaten Germany's Energy Revolution
By Michael Fröhlingsdorf   04/18/2011 
In the aftermath of Fukushima, Germany is pushing ahead with a transition to renewable energy. The energy revolution will only work if massive new power lines are built across the country, but the "energy autobahns" are facing resistance from all sides.
The black stork, ciconia nigra, is very shy, especially during the spring. Nobody can say with certainty whether it will return to the same place, safe and sound, after wintering in Africa. For example, it is impossible to tell whether it will build its nest in a particular tree in Germany's Münden Nature Park in the state of Lower Saxony, near the town of Laubach. Neither can it be predicted whether a female will be there, nor whether there will be offspring as during the previous year.
Forester Jörg Behling would rather not even go and check. The precise location of the stork's nest remains his secret anyway. He is afraid that a visit -- even by an expert like him -- could disturb the animals, causing them to abandon their brood. If the birds were to disappear, it would be a major setback for nature conservation efforts. In the state of Lower Saxony, there are only 45 breeding pairs of black storks.
This wary animal may be rare, but it also represents a threat to Germany's energy infrastructure. All it takes is for its nest to lie within a 5 kilometer (3 mile) radius of the planned high-voltage power lines that will soon distribute renewable energy throughout the country. It is very possible that the storks will prevent power masts from ever being built in this area.
To make matters worse, it is not just the black stork in the Münden Nature Park that is standing in the way of Germany's transition to more environmentally friendly sources of energy. There are obstacles everywhere. Either the landscape is so densely populated that it is poorly suited for big infrastructure projects, or it is so devoid of people that it should be preserved precisely for this reason.
Plans to Expand Power Grid
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced an "energy revolution" last fall in Berlin, she presumably had no idea that one of the battlefields of this revolution would be in this rural corner of Lower Saxony or in the nearby state of Hesse. And she probably little suspected that the black stork would be one of the combatants. Nevertheless, the question of whether Merkel can keep her promise will ultimately be decided in towns like Laubach. This will also have a deciding influence on whether, over the next four decades, four-fifths of Germany's electricity will come from wind and water power, solar energy and biomass.
Such an ambitious objective will not be possible without huge new power lines, running primarily from the north of Germany to large conurbations in the south. According to calculations made back in 2005 by the German Energy Agency (DENA), 850 kilometers of high-voltage transmission lines will have to be built by the year 2015. Only 100 kilometers of this extended grid has been built so far. In its latest study, DENA anticipates that an additional 3,600 kilometers will be required by 2020.
Now, after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, German politicians are pushing for everything to go faster. Last Friday, the chancellor negotiated with state governors on expanding Germany's green energy sector. There are plans to invest billions of euros.
Last week, German Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, presented a six-point plan for an accelerated energy transition. Brüderle wants to spur on expansion of the power grid through new legislation and the introduction of a centralized nation-wide planning procedure for new power lines.
This would come in addition to the 2009 Energy Line Extension Act, which includes four pilot projects that are to proceed at a particularly rapid pace. As it happens, Behling the forester and his feathered friends may play a key role in one of these projects. more

North Coast Doldrums
Why Germany's Offshore Wind Parks Have Stalled
By Frank Dohmen and Alexander Jung   04/27/2011 
With Chancellor Merkel's government turning its back on nuclear power, offshore wind parks are set to pick up the slack. But the installation of gigantic turbines in the North and Baltic seas has proven challenging, slow and hindered by bureaucratic hurdles. Could the future of wind be on land after all?
Whenever German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits one of her country's four major electric utilities, it is bound to have symbolic significance. This was the case when the chancellor and Jürgen Grossmann, the CEO of electric utility RWE, visited the Emsland nuclear power plant near Lingen in northern Germany last year. Merkel's message was clear: German nuclear power plants are safe. And they will be needed for years to come to ensure that the country's energy supply remains affordable and stable.
But after the catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, Berlin's energy policy changed dramatically. And an event Chancellor Merkel is scheduled to attend on May 2, together with officials from the electric utility EnBW, comes at a convenient moment. On that day, the chancellor will not be touring a nuclear power plant. Instead, she will be headed out to sea or, more precisely, to a point in the Baltic Sea 16 kilometers (10 miles) off the Zingst Peninsula in Western Pomerania.
Energy giant EnBW has almost completed the first commercial offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea at the site, and Merkel will inaugurate it.
Twenty-one giant wind turbines -- each 130 meters (425 feet) tall -- will jut out of the water over an area of seven square kilometers (2.7 square miles). When the wind is strong, they will feed about 185 gigawatt hours of electricity into the grid each year, or enough to supply 50,000 households with green energy.
A Central Role
The EnBW wind farm is only the beginning, assuming the German government is more faithful to its new energy concept than it was to the old one. It has been six weeks since the reactor accident in Japan, and the first cornerstones of the new policy are already clear. Merkel's administration, though, has yet to decide how many nuclear power plants must be replaced in the near future, and how much longer the remaining plants will remain in operation.
It is clear, however, that wind energy will assume the central role in the energy about-face envisioned by Merkel and Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, both of the center-right Christian Democrats. They laid out ambitious goals at a meeting with German state governors two weeks ago. And to meet those goals, the government plans billions in subsidies and loans.
The plan foresees that by 2030, offshore windparks will have a combined capacity of 25 gigawatts -- equivalent to 20 nuclear power plants. To get there, energy providers will have to install several offshore wind farms each year. Although they have repeatedly pledged to make the necessary investments, implementation has been sluggish. Projects like "Baltic 1" and the "Alpha Ventus" research project completed last year by utilities E.on, Vattenfall and EWE seem more like alibis than the real thing.
When building wind farms in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, the operators must overcome substantial obstacles. To protect coastlines and tidal flats, German authorities have required that wind turbines be located up to 40 kilometers from the coast. While neighboring countries like Denmark need just a few months to build wind farms in shallow waters within view of the mainland, German engineers must cope with water depths of up to 50 meters (164 feet). more

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