France and Freedom from Energy-Exporters

Razib sums up France’s power situation (very, very good) better than I can, so his thoughts get priority:

Gene Expression: France and nuclear power
France Reaffirms Its Faith in Future of Nuclear Power:

Nuclear power provides 77 percent of France’s electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas.

France generates half of its own total energy, up from 23 percent in 1973, despite increased consumption.

Electrical power generation accounts for only 10 percent of France’s greenhouse gases, compared with an average of 40 percent in other industrialized countries, according to EDF.

There is No Free Lunch, and life is about trade offs. Those who live in the American Pacific Northwest know this well; hydroelectric power is great and low risk, and results in cheap electricity which helps drive high tech industry such as aerospace and electronics. But, there are ecological downsides.

Well said.

Energy-dependence on unstable gap countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, etc) is fundamentally bad not because it “funds terrorism” or “warms the globe” or whatever, but because it limits the freedom of action of market-driven economies. The energy-exporters are essentially parasitic states, that limit the ability of pro-growth states to naturally develop their economies.

Nuclear, wind, solar, hydroelectric, and other domestic and renewable sources of fuel are very important for us. France is a great example.

Little Denmark is too.

5 thoughts on “France and Freedom from Energy-Exporters”

  1. While Sarkozy is shuttling around eastern European countries, he ought to be proposing joint ventures where Electricitie d’France will build and operate nuclear power plants in places where jobs and reliable electrical power are more important political considerations than the delicate sensibilities of tree hugging dirt worshipers. I am thinking that Poland, Romania and Bulgaria would be the places to start. If Germany continues to be antinuclear, more plants can be built in Poland and electricity can be sent over the wires to Germany where the greenies can pretend that it is all generated by windmills.

    French nuclear reactors are built to standard designs, meaning that they could ramp up additional production fairly easily. Plant operators could be sent through the same training at the same facilities as French plant operators. Spent fuel could be sent to France to be run through the same fuel reprocessing operation. The safety record of French nuclear reactors is better than that of the United States or Russia.

    The more nuclear power plants are operating in Europe, the less vulnerable Europe is to economic blackmail by Russian threats to cut off natural gas or by Arab threats to cut off petroleum.

  2. Glenn,

    I was under the impression Barnett had Russia in the core group?

    Yes, and his comments seem to reflect this belief [1,2]. But holding that this is still true seems to make no more sense than insisting that Bulgaria (a stable democracy that is member of both the EU and NATO) is still a member of the Gap [3].

    Mark in Texas,

    Exactly right.


  3. While our energy dependence is certainly a strategic issue, we should be careful about our response to it. A lot of popular alternative energy proposals may be worse than the alternative.

    For example, Wind Power is purportedly competitive now. But it has a very low energy density – you need to cover much of the midwest to supplant 20% of our electrical supply. Then you need to invest lots in power lines to distribute that energy to where it is needed (and think of the fun when trying to get rights-of-way). When you are all done, you have low grade power, because of its very rapid and hard to predict variability.

    The enemy of the electrical distribution system is supply or demand fluctuation. To cope with added fluctuation requires adding inefficient and expensive conventional power sources, since we have no way of storing significant amounts of electrical power. Balancing must be done in milliseconds and failure results in massive outages.

    Solar suffers the same problems – low density and variability.

    Hydropower is already totally used.

    We need nuclear, but the most rational energy policy for the short and medium term would be to mine and use our vast hydrocarbon sources – oil, gas, shale oil, and coal.

    As an aside, even if one believes the alarmist (and very poorly supported) predictions on anthropogenic global warming (CO2), the threat is long term, and I have yet to see any proposal that would make a noticeable difference.

    Prosperity follows energy use, and the world will not cooperate in the amount of economic depression necessary to make the slightest difference. Also, see Climate Skeptic Blog for some well researched analysis of the issues.

  4. U.F.,

    A generally good post.

    You’re correct that wind requires capital investment, but considering the wealth transfer that is happening in its absense, that’s doesn’t mean it becomes a net negative.

    Wind/solar definitely are part of a solution, rather than a full solution. Pickens [1] complements renewables with natural gas, for just that reason. Nuclear, domestic coal, and other sources may also be in the mix.

    Economic growth tends to go along with higher energy use. It’s funny when someone responds to this fact by mere contemplation, without adjusting their views.


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