More On Germany And Nuclear

This short paper is an upgrading of a document that I published about three years ago. I am resorting to this because of the extreme amount of criticism I received for that contribution, while my present work on the nuclear future is largely overlooked by members of the anti-nuclear booster club. This is almost certainly because where Germany and nuclear are concerned, the outcome of the Energiwende (= Energy Transition) has become embarrassingly clear: that exercise is not running on empty, but is going nowhere on a full tank of optimism and subsidies. Moreover, sooner or later Germany will revert to actions that by mid-century could make them the most energy intensive country in the world, although they might have to share the leadership with Japan.

Before commencing however, I would like to assure my future students that they have every right to dislike nuclear, and surprisingly uncompromising dislike is easy to find in my earlier articles, lectures and books. The dilemma where I am concerned has to do with the preposterous notion that wind and solar based energy can completely replace nuclear, where  by “replace” I mean supply the electricity necessary to maintain the present or an improved standard of living. In Germany the argument that this is true was put forward in order to obtain votes, but when the price of oil begins a new escalation, and the international macro-economy once again reels under a dose of unemployment and uncertainty, that silly myth will be exposed.


Lets start with the bottom line, or what I usually call 'The Message:'

While Germany might temporarily abandon nuclear facilities located there, they will never cease trying to obtain reliable electric power generated elsewhere -- at least as long as German voters want to continue enjoying the present level of prosperity. Put another way, for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of nuclear-based power lost because of temporary nuclear closures that might take place in that most important European economy, another kWh will probably be obtained from somewhere else in Europe, regardless of how it is generated. What has never been understood is that the most important replacement for German nuclear is not solar or wind, but electricity imported from Sweden or Belgium or France or any country too careless to place a heavy tax on their energy exports..

Notice the two words temporarily and probably in the above paragraph. "Temporarily" means that in the long-run the massive disinformation campaign that Chancellor Merkel and others have launched -- or will launch -- to influence voters in her country, will eventually cease to generate politically acceptable results. 

As for "probably", this has to do with some logic taught in Economics 101, because an increase in electricity/imports by Germany could possibly lead to a welfare loss in the rest of Europe, and as I argue in my new energy economics book (2014), perhaps also North America.

I look forward to the day when Chancellor Merkel provides modest teachers of economics like myself with a description of how her energy ambitions were thwarted by impatient voters, who will eventually reject her absurd intentions to find a replacement for electricity generated in nuclear facilities. When this happens I hope that I will also encounter a misleading reference to rogue economists, know-it-all nuclear shills, and busybodies who fail to share her grotesque vision of the optimal strategy for maintaining Germany's industrial competence, and who in addition reject the anti-nuclear gospel preached by true believers such as engineering Professor Neven Duic of Zagreb University (Croatia).


Not long ago I was informed by Professor Duic that nuclear was a lost cause, and the energy future was going to be wind, solar thermal (PV), and natural gas. I mention these items because they are evidently high on the wish list of Dr. Merkel and her foot soldiers. Of course, wind and PV have been on energy menus for decades, but even so -- globally -- they are only a few percent of the real as opposed to the claimed nergy supply.

Without large subsidies wind and solar are pretty hopeless, although I am ready to accept that subsidies are justified in order to bring wind and PV up to their equilibrium level, by which I mean a level where – if it exists – they are  ‘roughly’ (as compared to ‘exactly’) competitive with other energy sources. 

However, while I am unable or unwilling at the present time to argue for nuclear subsidies in every country, I am quite willing (and very able) to insist that although the comparatively large nuclear energy output in Sweden was initially subsidized, when the final 'social' accounting was made by those who understand this issue, the Swedish reactors did not cost Swedish taxpayers -- as a group -- a penny. 

As for the natural gas that has apparently caught the fancy of Professor Duic's and many other amateur energy buffs, this sounds to me like another  'bet' on shale gas. If the promise of shale gas is not fulfilled -- which according to the CEO of Exxon-Mobile is definitely possible where Europe is concerned -- then German or other European politicians with a genuine recognition of energy needs should closely examine the history of natural gas prices and expectations before sounding off about how natural gas (together with wind and PV) will be able to keep the energy wolf away from their doors.

I'll conclude by confessing that there are no questions that I would like to ask Professor Duic, even though he sent me a diagram showing the development of wind, PV natural gas and nuclear that in my opinion is completely and unambiguously without any scientific value. Here I remember a long day spent at the Stockholm School of economics, listening to short and long lectures on things like natural gas that displayed the gravitas of a ‘brown-bag’ seminar at Boston Public

Given the opportunity I would like to ask Angela Merkel two questions that I intend to ask my students in their final examinations the next time I teach energy economics. First, Denmark is the promised land of wind energy, and yet wind apparently supplies less than twenty six percent of that country's electricity. Please explain why it does not supply thirty percent, and after a rendezvous with Google, please discuss the origin of the remainder of Denmark's electricity comes from. 

Second, the wires between Sweden and Germany carry electricity from Sweden to Germany. If the situation in Germany becomes as wonderful as Frau Merkel and her experts say that it will become when Germany's reactors have been liquidated, will my electric 'bill' (and yours and theirs) be reduced? The answer here happens to be no, which should be elaborated, and an explanation can also be given for why Germany may end up with an electric price even higher than that of Denmark, which is the highest in Europe, and if present Danish and German intentions are realized, could easily become the highest in the industrial world


Banks, Ferdinand E. (2015). Energy and Economic Theory. Singapore, London and New York: World Scientific.

Disclosure: None.

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