Elon Musk makes a suggestion that could deepen divisions in Germany
Germany has been immersed since last year in a debate that arouses passions and divides its government coalition.
The object of the divisions is to know whether to continue to operate its three remaining nuclear power plants while the Russian war in Ukraine has revived the question of the energy dependence of Europe, and particularly of Germany, vis-à-vis screw Russian gas.
The consensus on the energy issue that has prevailed in Germany for the past 10 years was that cheap Russian gas, less polluting than coal and whose supply was considered very secure, was the ideal way to support the transition to renewable energies. .
This follows a decision taken after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. The country then decided to phase out nuclear power. Angela Merkel, then chancellor, had given an exit schedule.
Divisions within government
But when Russian President Vladimir Putin decided last year to drastically cut Russian gas supplies to Europe following European Union sanctions, Germany, like many European countries, found itself in a very bad situation. Electricity prices rose sharply and energy rationing measures reappeared.
The country, Europe’s largest economy, depends on Russia for almost half of its gas supply. It is therefore not surprising that this gas war has raised the question of the energy independence of the country, which is home to multinationals such as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Siemens.
Divisions over this have emerged within the ruling coalition, made up of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the liberal FDP. The latter, close to the business community, are traditionally more favorable to nuclear power. The rejection of this energy is on the contrary one of the founding principles of the ecologist party.
Tensions between Greens and Liberals did not lead to a compromise. As a result, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced last October that the country would maintain the last three German nuclear power plants. He added that legal bases will be created to allow the operation of the Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland nuclear power plants until April 15, 2023.
His coalition government had only agreed to maintain two of the three power plants beyond the end of 2022, the date originally planned for a nuclear phase-out. The Emsland power station in the north of the country has been at the heart of the showdown between the Greens and the Liberals.
Initially, Germany planned to close its last three nuclear reactors in operation at the end of 2022. But the government of Olaf Scholz reversed this decision after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and decided last September to extend until spring two of the three plants still in operation. 2023.
“They should make them work”
The German liberals would like to go further than the spring of 2023 and keep the three plants in operation longer, while the Greens are historically deeply anti-nuclear.
Faced with the threat of an energy shortage this winter, the German government has already decided to increase the use of coal, a particularly polluting energy according to experts and environmental activists, with the extension of the activity of several coal-fired power stations until spring. 2024, even though the country has set itself the goal of abandoning this energy in 2030.
But Swedish climate activist icon Greta Thunberg had deemed it preferable to continue to use the nuclear power plants currently in operation in Germany rather than turn to coal.
This is an opinion that Elon Musk seems to share. Tesla CEO (TSLA) – Get a free report, which pushed the automotive industry to reduce its CO2 emissions by developing electric vehicles, has just encouraged Berlin to continue operating its nuclear power plants. He delivered the message on Twitter after entrepreneur Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, tweeted that German public opinion on nuclear was changing.
“‘Now more than 80% of Germans are in favor of extending the life of existing German nuclear reactors,” Gebbia wrote on January 27.
“They should make them work!” Musk commented.
Last June, Musk had already indicated that the continued operation of the three nuclear power stations was one of the options for Germany’s energy independence from Russia.
The billionaire’s opinion is interesting because Tesla’s one and only factory in Europe is located near Berlin in Germany. It was opened last year and produces the hugely popular Model Y SUV.
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