AMSTERDAM - In 2008, Time Magazine named him 'Hero of the Environment'. His fight for renewable energy was embraced by Barack Obama and led to a $ 150 billion grant infusion for American windmills and solar parks. But Michael Shellenberger no longer feels proud. If it is up to the Californian, the Netherlands will build ten nuclear power stations and we will renounce wind and sun forever. "I advocate a worldwide moratorium on new wind farms."
Michael Shellenberger once believed in wind energy, but is now already aiming at nuclear energy. "Ten reactors in the Netherlands are enough to make all your electricity supply CO2-free."
"I got off the plane and saw a huge BP advertisement at Heathrow with solar parks spread over a lake area. I thought, "It can't be worse than this." The idea of future electronic waste, because those are the panels, so that insects, birds and sunlight can no longer reach the surface water ... How on earth can you see this as sustainable energy? ”
Another protest sounds today at Dam Square. No climate youth who sticks to the street for fear of the end of the world. However, demonstrators demonstrating before nuclear energy. Stand up for Nuclear (stand up for Nuclear) takes place in 30 world cities simultaneously. Uranium is, certainly in the eyes of Michael Shellenberger, the cleanest energy source on earth.
The founder of the American think tank Environmental Progress is perhaps the world's largest advocate of nuclear energy. Ten years ago he fell from his belief in wind and sun as an energy source. "The problem of the unreliable energy supply is unsolvable," he says while visiting the Netherlands. Friends from the past are now his greatest opponents. Because the dark greens , as he calls orthodox green thinkers like Greta Thunberg, reject nuclear energy the most.
You have not been a fan of nuclear technology since childhood.
"In the early eighties I was very afraid of nuclear war. I remember a TV program in which children in a classroom evaporated during a nuclear attack. That was very traumatic. And then suddenly, in 1989, the risk of that all-destructive war disappeared. Soon I was attracted to climate change. In psychology it is called displacement ; projection of the same fear onto something else. You see that with many people. The fear of a nuclear Armageddon has been exchanged for the climate apocalypse. "
So you became an environmentalist?
"I was at the UN climate conference in Rio in 1992. Later I did campaigns for Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. From 2001 I fought for renewable energy. I didn't really know what I was talking about, but just like everyone else on the left, I was certain that this was the future. We lobbyed hard for a green New Deal. Obama embraced our plans in 2007. Between 2009 and 2015, his government invested $ 150 billion in biofuels, electric cars, and windmills. ”
Was it your greatest success as an environmental protector?
"Looking back, I feel little pride. I do that for the rescue of the last unprotected Redwoods . A forest full of coastal mammoth trees that can grow up to two thousand years and are among the highest in the world. Standing among those trees has entered as a cathedral; quiet, old and impressive. It feels holier than the oldest churches in Europe. And we even managed to enlarge the forest area. "
Loosing 150 billion is not nothing either.
"We quickly come across the problems of renewable energy. The only way to get a significant part of your electricity from wind and sun is by using hydropower or gas. Hence the BP advertising. Large-scale storage in batteries is far too expensive. The introduction of wind and sun into a stable power network creates chaos and higher costs due to its peaks and troughs. ”
Yet wind and sun sound environmentally friendly.
"The energy density of the fuel determines the influence on the environment. The higher the energy concentration, the less space is required. In California, solar panels need 450 times as much land to generate the same energy as a nuclear power plant. If I fill this water bottle with uranium, you have enough energy to live a western life all your life. "
What is the greater environmental impact?
"The environmental impacts of wind and solar parks are much greater than we have acknowledged so far. There was already anecdotal evidence that wicks from German windmills had to be cleaned twice a year from insect attacks. This year Franz Trieb made the link between dying insect populations and wind farms. And then there are the birds of prey; sperwers die between rotating blades. "
In the Netherlands, local residents fear horizon pollution, noise pollution and health problems due to low hum.
"Exactly. And that growing resistance in Germany has ensured that hardly any wind turbines have been built this year. The wind industry lost 20,000 jobs. As Environmental Progress, we find this so important that we support anti-wind groups. I advocate a worldwide moratorium on new wind farms. Until the effect is clear on bird habitats. "
According to the wind lobby, domestic cats kill more birds.
"That is a sinister lie. As if the house sparrow has as much ecological value in the mouth of your cat as the sparrows, owls, eagles and condors that crash against windmill vanes. Birds of prey live longer, multiply slower and are often threatened anyway. "
Is nuclear energy safe?
"It is the safest and most reliable method of generating electricity. It does not cause air or water pollution. While the burning of biomass and fossil fuels requires seven million victims annually. The only serious incident with nuclear energy was Chernobyl. That cost 200 victims. Last year, four thousand people in the US died of car accidents due to staring at smartphones. "
According to the German think tank DIW, nuclear energy is financially impossible.
"Nonsense. Take France and Germany. The French pay slightly more than half for electricity than Germans and the French CO2 emissions from their electricity production is only 10% of German emissions. Germany gets 37% of its electricity from renewable energy, France gets 75% from nuclear energy. If nuclear energy were so expensive and renewable so cheap, why would Germany pay twice as much for energy that is ten times more dirty? ”
Why is renewable nevertheless prevailing?
"The only reason the wind industry gets away with this is because many people take the deceptive idea that wind energy is closer to nature. While uranium is just as natural as wind or sunlight. "
It is precisely the Greens who reject the nuclear most.
"When I say to Greta Thunberg:" I appreciate your passion. You want everyone to be vegan, nobody wants to fly or drive. But why don't we use nuclear energy? Then the CO2 emissions fall rapidly, even if we continue to fly and eat meat. Then she calls very loudly "No!" Nuclear energy robs the dark greens , the orthodox green stocking church, of their rational basis for moralizing. ”
What do you mean?
"Why do people moralize? To feel superior. This requires an external authority to confirm that. Until the 19th century that was God. I am better because I pray and go to church more often. Now it is the 21st century, and for the greens nature is the new authority. The medium is the priest class of climate scientists. So Greta can speak to the UN and the left feels far away. But then they have to reject nuclear energy, otherwise the basis falls away under their worldview. "
What do you think of the Swedish climate truant?
"Greta is the rebirth of Al Gore. If Gore was Moses, she is a kind of Joan of Arc. I saw the best answer to Greta in a series of photos on Twitter. Twelve children from India, Pakistan, Africa and Latin America. Greta as number twelve. Every child works; on the land, on the street and in the factory. And then the angry Greta at the UN. With underneath the text: who of these children thinks the elderly steal her future? ”
How scared are you about climate change?
"I am no longer apocalyptic about the climate. It is not the end of the world. It is a problem in maybe a hundred years. But if you understand how slow the transition is to another energy source, you will get a rush anyway. Power plants are incredibly expensive, just like the exploration of oil wells, investments are for the long term. That is why we must now opt for nuclear energy. "
Nuclear is not going fast enough, our climate tables stated.
"Slowness is an illusion. 'I install solar panels on my roof within one day. Building a nuclear power plant takes ten years', I hear then. Yes, but after ten years you have energy for millions of people. For many decades. Ten reactors in the Netherlands are enough to make all your electricity supplies CO2-free. And you have enough electricity for all cars and light trucks. To begin with, there is room at Borssele. ”
The Netherlands must build ten reactors?
"Absolutely, that's the very best. There will certainly be losers. The wind and solar industry is losing its subsidies. Vegans can no longer lift a finger. Farmers lack extra income. Renewable energy is a rack from which large groups eat. Nuclear makes societies richer, because it excludes this type of profit behavior. "
What do you hope for the future?
"I would like to see a new environmental movement. Moderate rather than apocalyptic. Before nuclear energy. A moderate utopia, a greener and richer world: I don't need more inspiration. If you only feel good by looking down on others - because they eat meat, fly or drive - something else is wrong with you. You have to heal that soul mart in a different way. "
Translation to English via Google translate