Opinion | The Tragedy of Germany’s Energy Experiment – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

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Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Ronald Wittek/EPA, via Shutterstock

“HAMBURG, Germany — Are the Germans irrational? Steven Pinker seems to think so. Professor Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel recently that if mankind wanted to stop climate change without stopping economic growth too, the world needed more nuclear energy, not less. Germany’s decision to step out of nuclear, he agreed, was “paranoid.”

My country has embarked on a unique experiment indeed. The Merkel government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants. The last German reactor is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2022, the last coal-fired plant by 2038. At the same time, the government has encouraged the purchase of climate-friendly electric cars — increasing the demand for electrical power. And despite efforts to save energy in the past decades, Germany’s power consumption has grown by 10 percent since 1990.

Skeptics fear that the country is on a risky path. Sufficient renewable energy sources might not be available in time to compensate for the loss of fossil and nuclear power. Though renewables account for around 40 percent of Germany’s electricity supply, there are limits to further expansion, for reasons that are political rather than technological.

In some rural parts of Germany, people are fed up with ever growing “wind parks”; more citizens are protesting new — and often taller — wind turbines in their neighborhoods. And there is growing resistance to the new paths needed to transport electricity from coasts to industrial centers. According to official calculations, close to 3,700 miles of new power lines are required to make Germany’s “Energiewende,” or energy revolution, work. By the end of 2018, only 93 miles had been built.”

Opinion | Is Merkel to Blame for Brexit? – by Jochen Bittner – NYT

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For those of us who still want to see a vibrant, unified Europe, our best hope for the moment is the faint chance for a second referendum on Brexit. If Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan on how to leave does not find approval in Westminster, the question of whether to leave with no deal at all could be put to the British people: Look, is this really what you want?

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It is a remote possibility, yet it offers Ms. Merkel her own second chance — an opportunity to do everything she can to show British voters that the European Union is worth keeping. She could begin by endorsing limits — even slight ones — on the free internal movement of labor. Done right, it would send a signal that Brussels and Berlin are listening to voters, while doing minimal harm to Europe’s labor markets.

This would not hurt the principle of free movement as such. It would also be a move that the Germans themselves might find attractive, given that a new batch of countries — this time in the western Balkans — are lining up for membership. Whatever her answer, the choice is pretty clear for the European Union: reform, or face the next revolt.

Jochen Bittner is a political editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a contributing opinion writer.

via Opinion | Is Merkel to Blame for Brexit? – The New York Times