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French exceptionalism: a guide through the energy wars

By Fred Hansen - posted Monday, 19 May 2008

Are the “culture wars” being transformed into “energy wars”? That’s what we might see after Bali for quite a while - brought about by the Green doctrine on human-made global warming, which is going mainstream and could ultimately rock most developed economies.

What is at stake in this new battle? With the kind of European pressure experienced in Bali - with the backdrop of the so-called consent on climate change getting more controversial by the day - the Rudd Government seems committed to set short-term emission cuts on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by mid-2008 at the earliest.

Yet such cuts jeopardise our standard of living and Western credentials to boot: individual liberty, indispensable economic growth, free trade and markets.


Emma Brindal arguing for “climate justice” in the run up to Bali wrote on the Australian Climate Action Network’s Weblog, a climate change response should have “at its heart a redistribution of wealth and resources”. This motive together with the tactical exclusion of the developing countries by European activists exposes the global warming campaign as another envy driven anti-capitalist attack.

If carbon cuts of about 20 per cent by 2020 or 80 per cent by 2050, based on 1990 emissions, become official policy, Australians might wake up to a different world. Any service and product may then become subject to carbon-taxes with energy prices the first to rise dramatically.

Already UN officials are threatening to enforce a “mandatory global CO2 tax”. And the European Commission is aiming for carbon regulated cars that would cost $2,000-3,000 more than at present.

An assault on human freedom to procreate comes from Dr Barry Waters, who in a recent issue of the Australian Medical Journal calls for green population control with a “Baby Levy”. This is meant to offset the “carbon footprint” of newborns by planting 40 trees. Parents who give birth to more than two children, would be charged $5,000 at birth for each one, followed by an annual carbon-tax of $400-800.

With most of the Anglosphere possibly dominated by the secular Left in years to come, green Democrats and Labour are trying to occupy the commanding heights of “cultural hegemony”. Let’s look for respite at the Francosphere. France provides an attractive role model for the “energy wars”.

France has, for the better part of the last century, been the beacon of nuclear energy generation worldwide - against a trend among most, but by no means all, of her neighbours. Nevertheless the mere persistence of France’s exception has already helped to turn around public opinion in the West. A 2005 EU poll returned as much as 62 per cent votes to the advantage of nuclear power, up from 41 per cent in 2001. And in a recent poll a mere 30 per cent of Britons were against and 60 per cent in favour of nuclear energy. In nuclear-free Australia a public poll returned only 45 per cent in favour last March, down from 49 per cent in June 2006.


Lucky France, where for a long time polls returned a stable two-thirds majority for nuclear power. Some pundits even guess America, long known for her unique exceptionalism, while now on the right track, is roughly 50 years behind the French in realising that Western security is jeopardised by the reliance on imported energy.

Greenpeace founders James Lovelock and Patrick Moore, now advocates of nuclear power, appear as mavericks compared to the French mainstream environmentalist Bruno Comby, who founded Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy (EFN) which has grown since the early 90s to a nearly 10,000 member strong international organisation.

However, we have to keep in mind that after all, it is far from proven that reducing GHG can halt global warming. Nevertheless the French experience has been widely cited as demonstrating both the impact nuclear power can have on curbing dependence on fossil fuels and on the emission of greenhouse gases.

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About the Author

Dr Fred Hansen is a science writer having published mostly in Germany and the UK. He came to Melbourne a year ago and has published some articles in the IPA Review. He also has a regular blog at the Adam Smith Institute in London. Dr Hansen was a green MP in the state parliament of Hamburg in Germany in the mid-1990s and chaired the science select committee there.

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Related Links
France and Nuclear Energy
Scientific American
World Nuclear Association - French Nuclear Power Program

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