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Hollande’s France and its shift from nuclear to renewables

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Francois Hollande’s presidential election will shed new light on France’s nuclear debate as the nation prepares for a likely energy source swing away from nuclear and towards renewables, writes Jamie Mckenzie.

The aftermath of the unprecedented triple disaster – quake, tsunami and crippled nuclear reactors – that struck the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 11 last year told a story about the extraordinary resilience of Japanese society, and also about the imminent dangers of nuclear power.

Now, more than one year on, the Japanese Government has shut down all 54 of the country’s nuclear reactors following the human and environmental risks posed by the triple meltdown.

The aftershock from Fukushima shook global public confidence in nuclear power massively. Germany, which previously obtained a quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy, decided to implement a phase-out plan in response to growing pressure from anti-nuclear federal states.

Now, the German Government is shifting its energy policy towards energy-efficiency and renewable energy, focusing primarily on developing solar and wind as part of the vision to generate 20% of its electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

France’s newly installed president, Francois Hollande, already signalled his environmental views when he turned up to a ceremony at his presidential palace on May 15 in an environmentally-friendly Citroen car.

Combined with remaining public doubt over nuclear energy, the socialist leader’s new approach to energy solutions indicates that France – as one of the world’s nuclear powerhouses – may be next to phase-out the energy source.

Historically, France has been very active in developing nuclear technology, deriving over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy because of its long-standing policy on energy security. The nation currently has 58 reactors operated by Electricite de France (EDF) – a present situation created by the French Government deciding in 1974, after the global oil shock, to quickly expand the country’s nuclear capacity due to limited inland energy resources.

And it was not until 2003, that the first national energy debate called for the defining of France’s energy mix in the context of a sustainable development agenda which was increasingly percolating global governance.

In 2005, a French law established guidelines for a more transparent energy policy, setting out a research policy for developing innovative renewable energy technologies with greenhouse gas emissions reductions in mind.

Yet Hollande’s predecessor, Nicholas Sarkozy, and his centre-right party, remained fixed on nuclear power, giving little thought to the promotion of a more sustainable economy.

But now, Hollande has already committed to reducing the electricity generated from nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. One of the first closures will be the Fessenheim power plant, whose twin reactors are the two oldest in France.

Perched upon the banks of the Rhine and just 1.5km from the German border, the geographic location of the plant marks a boundary between nuclear ambitions – one of which will now change as France and Germany begin to converge in their previously diverging nuclear trajectories after Fukushima.

Since its construction in 1976, anti-nuclear campaigners and ecologists have continually targeted the Fessenheim plant, voicing concerns about the danger of weapons proliferation, imminent plant meltdowns and inadequate waste disposal management. More specifically, Fessenheim has received criticism because of its position in a seismic zone, as in 1356, an earthquake destroyed the city of Basel – just 30 miles south.

In addition, the concrete containers which surround Fessenheim’s reactors are too thin to meet French regulatory standards, measuring just a fraction of the thickness of those at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan – one of which ruptured in the disaster there.

The dangers of nuclear power are clear. But in both Germany and Japan, questions have been raised over how well the energy supply gap can be filled without nuclear, and indeed without adding to carbon emissions caused by turning back to fossil-fuel consumption.

In Germany, a recent meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and energy industry executives posed several challenges in the shift towards green energy. The issues will be discussed at a meeting of German state premiers on May 23.

In Japan, reactors may go back online if they pass “stringent tests”, but perhaps the Japanese Government should seize the new opportunity to focus on developing renewables to the point where Japan’s energy mix can be more sustainable in the long-term.

President Hollande will undoubtedly also face criticism for cutting back by 25% on a comprehensive nuclear programme that would have made France the world’s largest net electricity exporter, creating one of the nation’s strongest economic foundations.

Calling for an increased contribution from renewable energy into France’s energy mix, Hollande stated in his pre-election manifesto for France, that he intended “to preserve the independence of France by diversifying our sources of energy”.

Wind and solar will be the most likely target areas – bringing both environmental benefits and creating new jobs. But France’s currently installed wind power contributes just 2.8% of the electricity consumed in the country – and although there is growth potential in the industry, the bulk of wind power is concentrated in Northern Europe. There will be higher promise in France’s photovoltaic and solar thermal sectors – but decisions have not yet been made.

Clearly, in countries with limited internal energy sources, nuclear power can provide a secure and carbon-free electricity base-load – but one that must be complemented with renewable energy.

Technologically-advanced governments should focus on investing in to the development of renewables technologies to boost the cost-effectiveness of clean energy. Only when the renewable potential is fully realised can nuclear power plants be taken offline – and only then – will there be a safer, cleaner and more sustainable energy solution for the well-being of ours planet and its future generations.

Further reading:

Surviving without nuclear power

Fukushima: one year on

Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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