Green France: Macron bans Fracking and welcomes US renewables Scientists fleeing Trump

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The French government wants to steal increasingly unemployed US green energy scientists, who are being systematically defunded by the Trump administration.

After Trump pulled out of the Paris accords, Macron addressed US professionals:

“To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland . . . I call on them: come and work here with us. To work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.”

At the same time, the Macron government has ambitious plans to make France a green energy powerhouse and major research hub, in hopes of capturing the trillions of dollars the renewables sector will generate. In short, who will invent the next inexpensive and efficient solar panel? The US, France or China? Whoever does will make a killing.

At the same time, French environment minister Nicolas Hulot (an actual environmentalist) announced that he France will ban any new fracking or exploration for oil, gas or coal on French soil. Now that’s what it is like to belong to a country not run by the CEO of Exxon Mobil.

France has a relatively low carbon footprint because 78% of its electricity is generated by some 58 nuclear power plants. Many of these plants are aging, however, and Macron will close a lot, reducing the nuclear share of electricity production to 50% only a few years from now (2025) Likewise, the French government hopes to see all coal plants in the country closed by 2022!

Macron and Hulot want to make up the shortfall with greater energy efficiency (many French buildings don’t have insulation), by encouraging 10% of work days to be telecommuting from home, and by making a massive push for wind and solar energy.

French wind power grew 7% last year, but the plan is for that pace to pick up substantially through government policy. It is now toward 5% of French electricity production.

France wants to build 2 gigawatts worth of small-scale solar installations.

France currently gets 11% of its electricity from renewables, but wants that proportion to be 23% by 2023– more than doubling in 5 years. France has applied to the EU to add 17 gigawatts of clean power over the next 7 years at a cost of $1.1 billion.

France is about to embark on the kind of “energy switch” Germany has long devoted itself to, with massive consequences for French society, science,engineering and the economy. The twentieth century was cruel to French military defenses, but this is a war where France will proudly be in the forefront, and winning, perhaps more than the fossil-fuel addicted US.

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13 Responses

  1. I understand that progress is being made with solar panels that convert visible light to heat, directing such infrared to solar cells maximized for such, making the resulting panels very efficient even during cloudy days where infrared mostly goes through clouds when visible light cannot.

    • there are technical breakthroughs in PV everyday at universities and research labs around the country and around the world. That is why projections to 2040 or 2050 are so unreliable. Solar power will come much faster than anyone realizes.

    • Right now – it is a race between Europe and Asia (mostly China) to figure out the “best” combination of broad spectrum solar energy harvesting and low cost manufacturing.

      The USA is not even in the race anymore for a few simple reason:

      – Lack of political will. As the article noted, Europeans and Asians are INVESTING heavily in non-carbon energy, not only to clean up the atmosphere BUT more importantly to ensure they have enough low cost energy to ensure their economy continues to thrive. Non-USA countries are well aware that all the “cheap” carbon energy has already been used up and the costs of future carbon energy can only increase particularly as more and more suppliers run out of stuff to sell.

      – USA “magic bullet” obsession. USA companies and universities are obsessed with finding the “magic bullet” rather than finding the “best” low cost practical solution. This is the reason why many “magic bullets” developed on small scale in USA labs never scale up to commercial production. For example, the technology you cited is very expensive to manufacture and may never be manufactured at realistic costs. that is, the cost per installed kilowatt is vastly higher than ordinary medium efficiency Chinese panels. Americans tend to want to make the “optimal” product whereas the Asians and Europeans are looking for the lowest cost per kilowatt.

      • We’re so much like Britain in 1913 it’s sickening.

        As for the problem of the magic bullet, note the little-told story of World War 2: the countries that won didn’t have the most advanced weapons (the Germans), or the most unstoppable weapons (the kamikaze). The mainstays of the Allies were weapons that their particular economies were capable of producing reliably in large numbers with the available resources. The USA nailed down which weapons it was staking victory on early in the struggle, even before Pearl Harbor: the B-17, the P-47, the Garand and M-1 carbine, the Sherman tank, the Jeep, and one basic generation of submarines. None of these were the best of their types in the war, or the most innovative, or the cheapest. We could have saved the lives of many airmen by using the small, ultra-aerodynamic B-43 that used speed instead of gunners to survive, replacing the B-17s that fell in vast numbers taking 13 crewmen each with them, but it was too late. Some important additions were made late, like the P-51, which was designed in a crash program and was cheaper to build than other fighters of the war. So our procurement system was flexible enough to make some amendments. But ultimately, they had to dance with who brung them. And the civilian factories that converted to produce those weapons largely had succeeded in the commercial marketplace in the same manner; never the most advanced or the most optimized, but conservative, overbuilt, and lacking the last word in every area of performance. That was American industry’s strength.

        To say that this notion is dead in our country is a pathetic understatement.

        • Low cost, reasonably accurate weapons that can be produced by the thousands are the “winners.” This is why the AK-47 is so ubiquitous. AK-47 built in the early 1950s are STILL in use killing humans in large quantities because the design “just works.”.

          This is why the USA will get devastated by Iran when the USA attacks. Iran has designed and made thousands of inexpensive, reliable and accurate missiles and other weapons whereas the USA has a few very expensive ego boosters for the USA officers.

          The main reason I strongly dislike the F-35 is, it is extremely complex and based on my almost 45 years of engineering experience, I know that complex stuff breaks a lot. From a practical engineering standpoint, the F-35 is a total mess and I will not be surprised that it fails spectacularly in combat.

          BTW – USA companies have out-sourced the knowledge of how to build low cost reliable products to Asia.

  2. You don’t need to go to France to find a hospitable place for alternative energy scientists and engineers. The state of California is doing a fine job on its own and there are 40 million people in the state, almost as many as in Spain (46 million).

    • Further information. Thanks to renewables, California has faced an energy glut during daytime hours. There have been days when the state power authority actually paid Arizona to take excess power from California. Yes, that seems crazy, but under certain circumstances it makes a sort of sense. A big article in today’s (6/25) LA Times goes into detail.

  3. It is possible that one of the reasons behind Trump’s senseless, symbolic withdrawal from the Paris agreement was that Paris is in France, Macron is French, and Macron made him look foolish in front of the cameras. It won’t stop. Trump is always going to look the crude fool he is against Macron. He has no chance in this fight. He is the rodeo clown forever.

  4. Finally, a national fracking ban. We need to get these going everywhere until the oil industry can demonstrate it has a solution to the earthquake and groundwater contamination issues.

  5. The greatness of the WWII generation tossed in the rubbish bin b/c US govt acts more like Germany did in the 30s/40–and less like the great power it was then. Such a shame.

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