Former investment banker, supposed outsider, President of France, Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron is a recognized apologist for 2015’s Paris Climate Accord failure to successfully coordinate production of usable Main Street benefits. Macron has publicly criticized U.S. President Trump for thoughtfully withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement. Many across the globe agree with President Macron, but is his criticism fair; or warranted?
According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), France, in 2017 produced electricity nationally using the following fuel sources: 74% nuclear; 10% hydro; 3% coal; 7% gas; 2% solar; and 4% wind. Per updated 2019 data provided by the WNA, France, via its long-standing energy security policy (resulting from the 1973 oil crisis), bumped nuclear fuel usage for electrical power up to 75% (17% from recycled nuclear fuel); though proposes reducing this to 50% by 2035.
French reduction in nuclear fueled electricity to 50% of electricity generation by 2035 is interesting given in 1999 the French Parliament recognized no feasible way for energy conservation measures or renewable energy sources to replace French nuclear energy in the foreseeable future. Does 36-years (1999 – 2035) extend beyond 1999’s foreseeable future? I don’t know.
Also emanating from the 1999 French parliamentary debate came a three-pronged national energy policy; a) security of supply; b) respect for the environment; and c) proper attention to radioactive waste management.
Let’s juxtapose French energy policy to environmental concerns and see what we learn. Per WNA, France is currently the world’s largest net exporter of electricity, so profitably sells nuclear fueled electricity to neighboring Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom among others. Any connecting dots here?
President Macron gains geopolitical climate capital by bragging on the use of low carbon emitting nuclear power, while openly criticizing fossil fuels used by other countries. Smart play by President Macron since France has negligible fossil fuel resources of its own. Over-use of once enormous French coal reserves were basically exhausted during the industrial revolution. By 2004, non-competitive, low quality coal reserves basically brought French coal mining to an end in 2004. It’s estimated over the next two years, coal mining in France will sink to zero production. France does have natural gas resources, but by 2000 these sources were also negligible.
President Macron claims France cares about the global environment and is serious about safely managing radioactive waste. I accept the stated French concern at face value, but I’m sorry; no country on earth, including France has solved radioactive waste disposal beyond the childish idea of burying it. All genuine concerns aside and bravo for that; to suggest a country with 67 million population and 58 operating nuclear power plants, producing high annual levels of radioactive waste is commensurate with concern for global environmental safety is insulting. President Macron’s position on this is a fine example of political pandering.
I’ve not noticed President Macron mentioning France’s profitable nuclear-powered electricity exports bringing in more than €3 billion annually. Granted €3 billion is only about 0.5% of French exports, but given France’s paucity of fossil fuel sources and self-chosen reliance on nuclear power for the bulk of its nearly $3 US trillion GDP (€2.75 trillion), President Macron does an excellent job selling France’s energy resource short-comings on the world stage as the world’s 7th largest economy. Credit is due here.
On the negative side, France’s 58 nuclear power plants, typically pressurized water reactors, an American design having an intended useful life of 40-years are aging, with the average French plant more than 30-years old and 15 plants now 35-years old. 17 plants are being considered for closure by 2025, though plans are being considered to increase plant useful life by another decade.
Is it any wonder President Macron is pedal to the metal, promoting alternative energy sources? France has no other viable economic choice. In 2016, France’s Cour des comptes, a government finance agency, estimated extending the useful lives of its nuclear reactors could cost €100 billion. EDF, the company managing the plants estimates building 30 to 40 new plants between 2020 and 2050, i.e. replacing the current nuclear fleet along with additional maintenance would run from €250 billion to €300 billion. In my humble opinion, given current costs, this estimate is outdated with €400 billion or more now more realistic.
Institut Montaigne, a liberal Paris think tank recently estimated French nuclear phase-out in favor of wind and solar, along with upgrading the national electrical grid would cost €217 billion by 2035; plus, another €85 billion to dismantle existing reactors coming offline. Again, this appears a low-ball estimate, particularly as it includes disposing of the radioactive waste.
I doubt anyone can blame President Macron for making lemonade with France’s energy lemons or actively pursuing what he apparently views as the best interest of the French people; but WHY criticize others; President Trump for example? How does that help anyone at all? Does criticism produce energy?
I understand President Macron’s view but take issue with his rhetorical criticism of President Trump and also his defense of the energy impotent Paris Agreement, which to date isn’t much more than a wealth transfer vehicle from financially productive Main Street countries and people – not to the less fortunate, but apparently to unaudited pockets Main Street can’t even see. Certainly, the world’s energy quandary isn’t being addressed beyond billions of Euros and dollars vanishing into unnoticed pockets.
I’d like to think President Macron a sincere politician on the world stage, but his singularly French-serving position on energy and environmental policy brands him just another hypocrite, incapable of seeking practical solutions to real issues as are so many other politicians of his stature.
President Trump is 100% correct to withdraw the United States from the unworkable, financial Paris Accord sinkhole. The larger question, not yet answered, is: IF NOT THE PARIS ACCORD – THEN WHAT? Perhaps sealed-supercritical geothermal generation of clean electricity at $0.045 per kWh can find its way to the energy table for consideration? At nearly half the cost of natural gas (±$0.07 per kWh); with clean water as its only emission; sealed-supercritical geothermal is certainly worth a viable look-see. It’s a concept President Macron and the people of France could consider.
A marriage of innovative American technology per US Patent 8,381,523 B2 with the people of France makes better sense than one country’s leader de-riding another country’s leader to no good purpose. Aging nuclear power plants don’t have to be a total financial loss. They can cost-effectively be retrofitted as supercritical geothermal power plants, which would actually support the Paris Accord currently being pandered to. Just sayin’.