A Conversation With Novelist Saladin Ahmed About Muslim Fantasy, Transcending Tropes and Writing Women
Saladin Ahmed wrote my all-time favorite essay about race and Game of Thrones, so I was terrifically excited to read Throne of the Crescent Moon, his first novel. The first installment in a series, the book follows Dr. Adoulla Makhslood, a hunter of monsters called ghuls who do terrible violence for the men who create them. Raseed bas Raseed, his dervish apprentice, struggles with his religious devotion even as he admires some aspects of the more profane Adoulla’s life and work. The world in which they do their work isn’t ours, nor is the religion that shapes their lives Islam, at least not precisely. But Throne of the Crescent Moon is a riff on and a response to everything from our contemporary conversations about Islam to the tropes of the Western fantasy canon. Ahmed and I talked about everything from his mythological influences to the way he thinks about writing women. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
When you started thinking about the novel, I’d be curious what kind of research you did into the mythology? I feel like Western readers are familiar with non-Western myths like djinns as they’ve been shoehorned into the edges of fairy tales, but they’re not often at the center of the frame.
In some ways, it’s two separate questions. What the research was going in was a hodge-podge. Growing up in Arab immigrant communities, my grandmother would, in halting Arabic, try to tell me stories. But [I also read] also translations of the Koran and stuff like that. Some of it was from my heritage. And some of it is integrating bits of, dare I say, Orientalist use of quote unquote Eastern mythologies…It’s very Arab-American novel in the mix of mythology that’s in there. And that made it easier to connect with a Western audience because there are a whole swath of things in there that nerds who read a lot of Western fantasy recognize.
The monster stuff, a lot of it’s my own stuff. The ghuls, which are the main creatures in there, they’re really just using the name. In actual Arab mythology, ghuls are sentient, and they’re dimwitted but cunning. They’re cannibals. I’ve had a lot of people in there use the zombie metaphor for them. They are these kinds of mindless hordes of creatures, but they’re not raised from the dead in the same way. They’re more like golems than anything else. There is probably some intra-Semitic mythology going on there…There’s definitely a take on the djenn in the later books…I’m interested in the theology issues that the Koran has with the djenn.
Similarly, a lot of fantasy relies on readers having some cursory knowledge of European history and geography, like George R.R. Martin’s use of the War of the Roses as an analogue for the concepts in Game of Thrones. What kind of knowledge did you assume on the part of your readers?
It’s a funny thing becuase so many aspects of this book, and discussing this book are counterpoints to European fantasy this and European fantasy that. Most people don’t actually know that much about European history, and most European geography. [In Western fantasy novels] where’s people’s terror of salvation, for instance? That seems like it would be a pretty big thing. I’m pretty much assuming nothing [about what people know]. In some ways, that’s freeing. This is very intentionally not historical fantasy per se, because it felt extremely constraining in ways I didn’t want to be constrained. The kind of straight-up analogues will start to come in more in later books. There’s a central Crusades analogue that will come up in books two and three. And the [series' version of the] standard trope of a dark army that’s on the rise where there will be the final clash will be the Crusader analogue. But hopefully I’m not just flipping the sides. In the Muslim world, [the story of the Crusades is that] there’s these savages that came. That’s not entirely accurate either. It’s proving thorny to write.
Dervishes are, of course, a real thing rather than a fantasy or cultural creation, but it’s not quite clear in the book whether your characters are Muslim or not, or whether they follow an analogous but not identical faith. How much did you want the novel to be directly tied to and function as a reflection on contemporary understandings of Islam?
That’s been probably one of the most interesting things that’s kind of been raised and discussed about this book. Some people reading the book feel like they’re mentioning God every couple of pages, it’s getting annoying. It’s a secular reading that wants an anachronistically secular reading of pre-industrial fantasy world. And there are some people who are reading it who say ‘I expected it to be more Islamic.’ It’s a secondary world. It’s a made-up world. It’s not Islam. It’s not the Middle East. It’s not Earth. It’s a made-up world in the way that Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin, that most people writing today are writing in made-up worlds. It might look like historical periods in our own Earth, but they’re made up. And that’s very intentional. And I didn’t want to wrie a book that’s about Islam. I’m choosing to write a religion that looks like a religion that gets maligned a lot in the culture the book is being read in. At the end of the day, this is an adventure fantasy novel that can’t bear the weight of truly depicting Islam in such a problematic world on its little shoulders.
But I feel like we’re in the midst of a nice boom in fantasy set in the Muslim world, whether it’s Matt Ruff’s alternate history novel The Mirage, or G. Willow Wilson’s hackers-and-djinn novel Alif the Unseen coming out this summer. Do you feel like your work, and that boom, is responding to the broader cultural conversation into which that work is published?
I’m not that writer who will say I’m a mystery writer, or I’m a horror writer, but I happen to be black, or I happen to be Puerto Rican, or I happen to be a woman. I’m not that person. Being Arab and being a Muslim is part of my consciousness on a daily basis. You’re telling your story in a world where stories are always being told. There are small attempts in this flimsy form of an adventure fantasy [to say something different.]…
Not to say that there’s not all sorts of oppression that’s specific to Muslim women, but there are fears and hatreds that are very specific to Muslim men in our culture. And on the other side, there are these stories about genre heroes, and what men should be. And a lot of my fiction straddles that line. I’ve got a story where there’s a Muslim gunslinger. This book is about a badass Paladin with a sword, to use my Dungeons and Dragons history here. Part of the sadly radical gesture, that phrase about feminism being the radical notion that women are people, a lot of my work is about the fact that Muslims and Arabs and people who look Arabic are heroes.
I really loved your essay on race and Game of Thrones, a franchise I love but that just utterly falls down on this issue. Do you think there’s a way to make the Western fantasy tradition more diverse? Or is it just a matter of getting to a point where Westernized fantasy isn’t the default position when we talk about the genre? I’m often finding myself super-bored by the standard complement of knights and witches.
I have dear, dear friends, Elizabeth Bear who has just put out a novel called Range of Ghosts, Howard Andrew Jones has written Arabian fanstasy called The Desert of Souls. There are white writers writing diverse settings, and I think we need more of that. I also think we need more writers of color in this field. I’m one of a few guys of color and not many more people of color writing fantasy novels and getting them out to national markets. That’s kind of a problem…And even in the meat and potatoes fantasy, I’d like to see more range of skin tones…First, the Middle Ages was much more diverse than people understand. Second of all, these stories aren’t set in actual historical fantasies. There’s a whole tradition of fantasy that’s really not interested in historical details. But even to people to whom that is important, there are things they ignore. The physics of dragons, it just can’t happen. But somehow, that exception can be made, but some brown people here, that’s alarming…If you can have a setting where half your characters don’t have scroffula and aren’t worried about eternal salvation, you can make that exception.
Speaking of writing experiences that aren’t yours, you’ve spoken publicly about some of the challenges you’ve faced in writing women.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot very recently because I’ve gotten a couple of blistering reviews about the gender depictions. There’s some of it that I internalize and say yeah, that’s probably true. And there’s some of it where I say they don’t really understand. There’s that danger of mansplaining here. There are a whole bunch of cultural angles for me. When you start telling stories, the very specific stories about Arab and Muslim women, and about their relationships with Arab and Muslim men..There’s all sorts of constitutive mysoginy in Arab culture, as there is in American culture. But the fetishization of that story is something I am very, very reluctant to add to.
It’s why I’m practicing what I preach in creating warrior women and badass grandma alchemists. I punted to a degree in that the book spends more time thinking out loud about class and religion than it is about gender…I found that I had a fine line to walk in terms of depicting their fears in a preindustrial society they’d face that men don’t face. And I probably erred on the side of Xena. I like liking my characters, I like enjoying reading the book. I like going with the option that’s not purely grim.
Want to know where the country’s dirtiest hotel room is? No, it’s not that $20-per-night drive-in motel on the side of the highway. Chances are that it’s a penthouse suite in a J.W. Marriott hotel in Chicago.
And if you’re looking for the cleanest hotel in the country, you might consider going to a Vagabond Inn located somewhere in California.
That’s according to a new report from the research firm Brighter Planet, which just released a comprehensive ranking of the energy and carbon intensity of hotel chains across the country. Here’s a look at the geographic spread of where the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” hotels are located:
There are 51,000 hotels, motels and inns scattered around the U.S. with roughly five million guests rooms. According to Brighter Planet, the lodging industry represents 4 percent of all commercial building energy consumption in the country, generating 34.5 million metric tons of CO2 each year.
As appliances and building materials get more efficient, you’d think that the industry would be getting more efficient. But this analysis shows that modern hotels use far more energy per room than their “vintage counterparts.” This trend is particularly stark in upscale hotel chains, which use 25 percent more energy per night than the average budget hotel.
The dirtiest 25 percent of hotels — a large share of which are upscale chains — represent more than half of the energy use and carbon emissions from the entire lodging industry. The cleanest 25 percent only make up 7 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions.
However, it’s wrong to conclude that high-class hotels are always going to be “dirtier” than budget lodging:
It’s probably no surprise that efficiency varies by price, with upscale hotels on average using 25% more energy per room-night than budget hotels. This is to be expected based on hotel characteristics: the average upscale hotel has twice as many rooms and was built a decade more recently than the average budget hotel, with midrange hotels falling in between.
But it’s important to note that there’s so much variability within each service class that the different service classes overlap significantly. Nationwide the cleanest upscale hotels are cleaner than most budget hotels, and the dirtiest budget hotels are as dirty as all but the dirtiest quarter of upscale hotels.
This study is particularly relevant for companies attempting to track their carbon footprints. It’s not just air or car travel that matters. Depending on the length of stay and the type of room purchased, lodging can rival the carbon intensity of office space.
by Rebecca Lefton and Andrew Light
In 2010 the U.S. launched the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) as a collaborative effort among governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders to promote policies, programs, and technical solutions that will accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
An outgrowth of the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum — which brings together the major carbon polluters in the world in a smaller forum than the U.N. climate negotiations — the CEM has evolved into a global alliance of 23 countries joined in a variety of partnerships to advance energy efficiency, increase renewable energy, and provide modern energy access solutions to 10 million people by 2015.
Last week the CEM met in London and had its most successful meeting to date, greatly expanding a number of its initiatives on technology cooperation. This alone would have signaled a successful meeting. But the parties went even further, joining forces with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) initiative. SE4ALL has emerged as the key goal for the upcoming Rio+20 meeting in June, an event marking the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit that gave birth to the U.N. framework conventions on climate change, biological diversity, and desertification.
Moon’s Sustainable Energy For All goals are to (1) ensure universal access to electricity by 2030, (2), double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030, and (3) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. While some in the environment and development community had doubted the U.N.’s ability to move this new platform over the finish line in Rio, this show of support from the CEM parties greatly increases the chances of success by adding a necessary level of detail for how the goals would move forward.
Advances in the Clean Energy Ministerial
With parties representing 90 percent of global clean energy investment and 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the CEM is essential for accelerating smart policy and market conditions for a faster transition to a clean energy economy. Developing countries hold 50 percent of capacity for building out clean energy, but more than 70 percent of growth in clean energy investment since 2000 has been in OECD countries. Global investment in clean energy reached $260 billion in 2011; however, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that $5 trillion is needed by 2020 to avoid a dangerous rise in greenhouse gases. According to the IEA we are on track for a 6°C [11°F] rise in temperature under current policies.
This week the leaders of the CEM — primarily represented by energy and technology ministers from the world’s largest economies — built on the progress of eleven ongoing initiatives to remove barriers to the adoption of clean energy technology.
Countries launched the 21st Century Power Partnership that will harness demand-side management and high volume renewable energy generation through smart grid technologies, as part of the 20-country International Smart Grid Action Network. The partnership will provide a forum for policy sharing and technical tools for regulators and the private sector to better integrate renewable energy into larger electricity grids. In addition, the Smart Grid International Research Facility Network will help to vet smart grid technologies between the R&D and commercialization stage.
The on-going Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative announced several new developments which should accelerate efforts to improve energy efficiency. This included a new effort to shift to more efficient lighting technologies led by India, in partnership with the $20 million UN Environment Program’s en.lighten initiative, which could reduce global electricity consumption by 2.5 percent. This is critical for the overall CEM goal to avoid the need for 650 mid-sides power plants reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 11 billion tons from 2010 to 2030, all while saving billions of dollars.
The CEM also announced the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership to provide modern, low-cost energy options for the world’s poor, expanding on the existing Solar and LED Energy Access Initiative (SLED) led by the US and Italy and now joined by the World Bank, the International finance Corporation, the UN Foundation, the Energy and Resources Institute, the African Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility, the UN Development Program, and Japan’s Ministry of Trade & Industry. SLED has already helped facilitate the sale of 500,000 off-grid lighting systems in Africa helping Lighting Africa provide modern reliable off-grid lighting to 2.5 million people by 2012. Lighting India aims to provide modern lighting services to 2 million people by 2015. These initiatives will advance the overall goal of CEM member governments to expand energy access to 10 million people by 2015.
A year ago at the second CEM, Australia and the United States have taken the lead on the creation of a new internet-based technical assistance project to provide low-cost high-impact support to governments implementing clean energy and efficiency policies. Now in partnership with U.N. Energy the Clean Energy Solutions Center has expanded as of this April to a $15 million project which has so far had over 10,000 users from 150 countries. In London the ClimateWorks Foundation announced a $1 million in-kind commitment to support for this project over three years.
And recognizing that clean energy solutions that include women will ensure a faster and stronger a transition to a clean energy economy that is stronger, sustainable, and equitable, CEM leaders advanced a Women in Clean Energy program as part of the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment initiative to encourage women to join the clean energy field. Women are underrepresented (and underpaid) in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education programs, and even more so in the STEM professional workforce.
Sustainable Energy for All
The CEM commitments are well positioned to support Moon’s Sustainable Energy For All Initiative. The principle U.S. players overlap on both. The CEM was the brainchild of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs David Sandalow. Chu is the U.S. representative on the U.N. High-Level Group for Sustainable Energy for All and he is supported by Sandalow and Carlos Pascual, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. State Department.
A helpful way of understanding the three SE4ALL goals on energy poverty, efficiency, and renewable energy is as a continuation of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One persistent critique of the MDGs has been that there were no MDG for energy hindering the goals on health, education, women’s empowerment, and the environment. Given that energy poverty is both an accelerator of overall poverty and a hurdle for moving out of poverty this is a major conceptual and practical flaw in the MDGs.
One in five people (1.3 billion), mostly in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia lack modern, reliable electricity. Twice that number, 40% of the world’s population, relies on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook their food using traditional cook stoves, which emit black carbon pollution that is dangerous for human health and a major contributor to global warming. Replacing outdated cook stoves would save 800,000 lives annually.
The IEA estimates the cost to achieving the goal of eliminating energy poverty would be less than $50 billion per year. While the average family savings (especially from the cooking fuel switch) would be $34 billion per year generating an economic return, according to the WHO, of $105 billion per year. The goal on energy efficiency are similarly cost effective. McKinsey estimates that investing $170 billion annually in energy efficiency will generate an internal rate of return of 17 percent, producing savings of $900 billion per year. Meeting this goal would also reduce global energy consumption by 14 percent by 2030 avoiding the construction of approximately 1,300 mid-size power plants.
The newly released Sustainable Energy Action For all Global Action Agenda outlines a course of action and specific objectives for governments, private sector and civil society for reaching the goal of sustainable energy for all by 2030.
Finishing up this week, Charles Holliday, Bank of America Chairman and Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All had this to say about the meeting: “The CEM commitments to action announced today in support of achieving Sustainable Energy for All are terrific examples of the power of partnership. Providing sustainable energy for all by 2030 is an ambitious, yet achievable goal. But it will only be achieved through collaborative action by the private sector, governments and civil society.”
The final step for launching SE4ALL will be at the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil June 20-22nd.
Rebecca Lefton is a Policy Analyst and Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow working on international climate policy at the Center for American Progress.
by James Newcomb, via the Rocky Mountain Institute
Electric utilities and policymakers in Japan and Germany have been scrambling for months to find ways to compensate for nuclear power plants shut down in the aftermath of Fukushima.
In both instances, fossil fuels are part of the stopgap solution to offset the declines in nuclear generation in the short term, but longer-term energy policies are shifting definitively toward efficiency and renewables. Now, the unexpected and indefinite shutdown of both units at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California has raised questions about California’s short-term electricity supply options and long-term contingency plans.
Not surprisingly, efficiency, demand response, and renewables could play a key role in helping to diversify and mitigate risks for Southern California’s electricity supply future. The solutions being pioneered in these three markets, while driven by different circumstances, all take advantage new smart grid technologies to manage and integrate distributed resources.
In Japan, only one of the 54 commercial nuclear reactors that supplied 30 percent of the nation’s electric power prior to the Fukushima disaster is currently operating. It, too, is scheduled to shut down for scheduled maintenance on May 5, leaving the country with no power supplies from nuclear plants for the first time in more than four decades.
Japan’s central government is now seeking to win agreement from local authorities in Fukui prefecture to restart two nuclear reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., but whether and when these reactors might actually be allowed restart remains uncertain.
These unprecedented circumstances raise the possibility of economically damaging power shortages as demand increases during Japan’s hot summer months. Kansai Electric, which depended on nuclear for 49 percent of its generating capacity, has warned that its power supply capacity could fall short of peak demand by as much as 18 percent this summer if none of its reactors are allowed to restart. And while Kansai’s service territory is geographically small, its annual economic output is worth more than $1 trillion.
The principal short-term solutions to the crisis have been emergency demand curtailments and heavy use of imported oil and natural gas in existing thermal power plants, a major factor behind Japan’s trade deficit in fiscal 2011, the first in more than three decades. The International Energy Agency projects that in 2012 Japan’s electric utilities will burn 300,000 barrels per day more oil and 23 billion cubic meters more liquefied natural gas to make up the generation deficit if none of the shut down nuclear reactors is allowed to restart.
The upshot of these events is an intensified focus on energy efficiency and renewables, two solutions that hold promise of bridging the supply-demand gap in the years ahead while simultaneously reducing the current heavy reliance on fossil fueled generation. Under its pre-Fukushima energy policy, Japan had set a goal of increasing renewables from 9 percent of power supply in 2008 to 21 percent by 2030. But an assessment released last year by the Ministry of Environment suggested that Japan could shift even more dramatically toward renewables. Already, major Japanese companies—including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Softbank—have announced plans to build hundreds of megawatts of new solar and wind projects.
At the same time, new investments in smart grid technologies to manage demand and integrate renewable power supplies into the grid are increasing rapidly. Hitachi, Panasonic, Toshiba, Fuji Electric, and Mitsui are among the major companies working to implement new energy management technologies, including pioneering experiments in integrated neighborhood technologies. Accelerated investment in these technologies by Japan’s most powerful technology companies will have global consequences as new products and service models come to market.
Halfway around the world, Germany’s electric power sector is turning to similar solutions in the aftermath of Fukushima. Within months of the Fukushima disaster, Germany revoked the operating licenses of seven of its 17 nuclear power plants and subsequently voted to exit nuclear power altogether by 2022. Germany now plans to get 35 percent of its power from renewables by 2020 and has committed to reaching 80 percent by 2050. The shift to higher shares of variable renewable generation will require parallel investments in efficiency, demand response, and better grid controls to help integrate high levels of variable renewable supplies.
Already, Germany’s largest electric utilities, EON and RWE, are increasing their investments in solar and wind energy to offset nuclear power supplies. Earlier this year, RWE began operating the first commercial scale virtual power plant, weaving together the operations of dozens of green energy sources in order to be able to bid up to 80 megawatts of power supply into the European Power Exchange. The changes already unfolding in Germany foretell the demise of baseload generation, together with increased needs for flexible, dispatchable supply- and demand-side resources.
Do the events in Japan and Germany have relevance to the United States? The answer is yes, and potentially sooner than almost anyone expected. The San Onofre plant is closed because of unusual and excessive wear in hundreds of tubes in the plants’ steam generator units, raising questions about the integrity of the steam generators installed by Southern California Edison (SCE) in 2009 and 2010.
The problems at the plants raise the possibility that California could face power supply challenges this summer not unlike those facing parts of Japan and Germany. San Onofre plays a critical role in Southern California’s electricity grid, so finding short-term solutions will be challenging. California’s policymakers, utilities, and grid operators are hurrying to create contingency plans to reduce demand and ramp up generation from gas-fired power plants and other interim supply sources to meet peak summer demands. Perhaps more importantly, however, even if the problems with San Onofre’s steam generators are overcome, the current troubles could increase the likelihood that SCE will face difficult challenges to relicensing the plant in 2022 for another 20 years of operation. Could efficiency and renewables make up the difference if San Onofre were to go out of service in 2022?
To explore answers to this question, RMI, in collaboration with Energy and Environmental Economics (E3), is studying long-term scenarios for Southern California’s electricity future using models developed on for the California Public Utilities Commission. These scenarios explore pathways to achieve up to 50 percent renewable electricity supply by 2030 with and without nuclear power in the supply mix. Results of the study will be released in June.
James Newcomb is the Program Director for electricity at the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Recently, the editorial board of the Washington Post asked if the world can fight global warming without nuclear power, looking to Germany and Japan for the answer.
Both countries are known for a nuclear shutdown path. In Japan, only one of the 54 nuclear reactors currently remains in operation. Germany has closed eights reactors following the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima in March 2011 and the remaining nine are scheduled to be closed by 2022.
That obviously must lead to rising emissions, the Post claims. Germany’s “electricity sector emits more carbon than it must after eight reactors shut down last year.”
If you look at the most recent emissions data, however, the opposite is happening. Germany reduced its carbon emissions in 2011 by 2.1 percent despite the nuclear phase out. How can that be?
The cut in greenhouse gases was mainly reached due to an accelerated transition to renewable energies and a warm winter. In addition, the EU emissions trading system capped all emissions from the power sector. While eight nuclear power plants were shut down, solar power output increased by 60 percent. In 2011 alone, 7.5 gigawatts of solar were installed. By the end of last year, renewable energies provided more than 20 percent of overall electricity.
The Washington Post refers to critics of this transition who “reasonably predict that the country will instead rely on electricity imports from neighbors running old, reliable coal, gas and, yes, nuclear plants for years to come.”
So this means Germany would import electricity from neighboring countries, such as France, Poland, and the Czech Republic? It’s true, depending on time of day and year, that Germany imports electricity. However, even after shutting its eight oldest nuclear power plants, Germany is still a net exporter of electricity.
In 2011, Germany exported 6 TWh more than it imported, according to the industry federation German Association of Energy and Water Industries BDEW. Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are not as concerned about providing electricity to Germany. On the contrary, they are mainly concerned about wind and solar power surges from Germany offsetting their own production of fossil and nuclear power. Additionally, German electricity exports to Europe’s nuclear power house France actually increased in 2011.
What does this tell us? The nuclear phase-out does not conflict with efforts to fight climate change. You can reduce emissions while shutting down nuclear power. And you can still supply industry and consumers with enough power.
By the end of 2011, Germany had reduced its CO2 emissions by more than 23 percent compared to 1990 levels, overshooting its Kyoto target. In addition, the country has build up a competitive renewable energy industry providing thousands of new jobs, even as competitors like China enter the game and catch up fast. In Germany, fighting climate change and phasing out nuclear power are two sides of the same coin.
Instead of repeating myths about Germany’s nuclear phase-out, the editorial board of the Washington Post would do better by looking at the facts. It would also help to expand the article’s narrow focus to include a question about whether nuclear is even the most cost-effective or safe option to fight climate change. It is not, says even the Economist.
A vast majority of Germans have made up their minds on the need to phase out nuclear. And what happens in Germany will be a major indicator for other countries. As Paul Hockenos, an American living in Berlin, concludes in the European Energy Review: “Whatever the case, Germans aren’t the only ones waiting for a more pro-active policy. The world is watching Germany’s Energiewende.”
Let’s see where the Germans can go with their energy transition.
– Arne Jungjohann is Program Director Environment for the Heinrich-Boell Foundation.
JR: The Economist article is here. The subhed is “A year after Fukushima, the future for nuclear power is not bright—for reasons of cost as much as safety.” I believe nuclear could play a modest role of, say, perhaps 10% of the solution to averting catastrophic climate change, but only if the industry can figure out how to build far more inexpensive plants both quickly and safely (see “How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution“).
- The Nukes of Hazard: One Year After Fukushima, Nuclear Power Remains Too Costly To Be A Major Climate Solution
- Nuclear power has a negative learning curve
- Turkey’s Turkey’s only bidder for first nuclear plant offers a price of 21 cents per kilowatt-hour
- French nuclear giant “Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns.” (5/09)
- Toshiba tells San Antonio its new twin $13 billion nukes will cost $4 billion more. The city balks. (10/09)
FACT CHECK: Americans For Prosperity Announces $6.1 Million Ad Buy To Push Totally False Green Jobs Claims
After pouring more than $8.4 million into bogus energy attack ads since November, the oil industry front group Americans For Prosperity announced yet another major ad buy of $6.1 million in eight states.
The latest ad is based on a set of mistruths about green jobs that have been widely debunked.
In the ad, AFP explains that “billions of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries,” and uses four examples that supposedly prove that Obama’s clean energy stimulus created foreign jobs instead of domestic ones.
All four examples are either mostly or completely false.
1. The ad claims that $1.2 billion is being used to create solar jobs in Mexico. This point was completely made up by a random conservative blogger and has been repeatedly called out as a lie. This $1.2 billion loan guarantee was issued for a large, first-of-its-kind solar plant in California being developed by NRG. However, the blogger falsely wrote that the money was being used to create manufacturing jobs in Mexico.
In reality, the jobs created in Mexico had absolutely nothing to do with the loan guarantee. The only connection to Mexico was that some of the solar panels would be coming from a manufacturing plant located there. And even though the source of the panels had nothing to do with the decision to issue the loan guarantee, the company providing the panels, SunPower, explained that most of the panels were coming from America anyway.
2. The ad claims that a loan guarantee for an electric vehicle manufacturer went to jobs in Finland. This is also a made up story pushed by Fox News and conservative bloggers. In fact, all of the money used through the loan guarantee went toward building a U.S. manufacturing facility.
There were some jobs created in Finland during final assembly of the vehicles, but that was announced up front in 2009 when the loan guarantee was issued. According to the Department of Energy, all of the money set aside for Fisker’s next-generation vehicle manufacturing was issued for American operations.
3. The ad claims that tens of millions of dollars went toward building traffic lights in China. This is another murky claim that doesn’t hold up. In 2010, because of the lack of domestic manufacturing, the Department of Energy allowed some LED lighting technologies for stimulus projects to be sourced from overseas companies:
Federal agencies may waive the “buy American” requirement if they determine that a needed item is not available from domestic sources in sufficient quantities, that it would inconsistent with the public interest to comply, or that the cost is unreasonable.
The agency says that all of the investments made for lighting projects followed the Buy America requirements established in the stimulus package. To make the spin worse, the ad implies that the stimulus money went to install traffic lights within China. That is totally false.
4. The ad claims that $2.3 billion in clean energy stimulus incentives went to overseas firms. This figure is based on a 2010 Washington Times piece borrowing from an investigative story from American University that found stimulus dollars going to foreign companies developing projects within the U.S. The piece raised questions about how many jobs were being created overseas to build the technologies being deployed in the U.S.
After publishing that piece, investigative reporter Russ Choma told FactCheck.org that the numbers showed more jobs being created in the U.S.:
It should be noted there were no farms that we could find that used turbines entirely built in China, so we can’t say for sure how much of this stimulus money went to create jobs in China. Some money definitely did, but it is safe to say more money went to creating jobs in the U.S. and Europe.
This latest ad brings the total amount spent by pro-fossil fuel groups to more than $24 million in just the first few months of 2012, based on a ThinkProgress analysis.
Jobs in green goods and services accounted for 3.1 million jobs in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, a study found that every dollar put into clean energy creates three-times as many jobs as investing in fossil fuels.
Watch AFP’s ad:
The New York lawmakers who voted in favor of same-sex marriage in New York aren’t regretting their support for marriage equality as they head into re-election. All four Republican senators are standing by their decisions and so is conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Addabbo, who “had cast no votes against the bill the last time the measure came up in 2009, but relented during last year’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo-led push.” “We vote here in Albany on well over 2,000 pieces of legislation and the marriage equality bill was to benefit a certain segment of the population,” Addabbo said, dismissing his Republican challenger’s attempts to make his support an issue in the election. “We vote on issues like the budget which effects everybody. I think a year later from the marriage bill people realize for many it didn’t concern them and it’s a non-issue for many of the people that I speak to in my district.” He added, “I think people are more concerned about the issues that concern them each and every day like taxes and health care.”