Thursday, March 17, 2011

Financial Times' Lex Column Asks do Recent Events in the Middle East and Japan Portend a New Lease on Life for Renewable Energy?

Yesterday's Lex Column (March 16, 2011) in the Financial Times raised a thought provoking point about the impact of unrest in the Middle East as well as the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan: Will this perhaps herald a new "lease on life" for the renewables sector?

Lex, one of the oldest and most highly-respected business columns in the world, suggested that there is great value in "public sentiment and political goodwill," both of which seem clearly on the decline in the case of Middle Eastern oil and nuclear power in general.

"With nuclear, the largest carbon-free source of electricity, suffering a mortal blow to its reputation, it will now be harder to say 'no' to pricier alternatives," the Lex Column argued.

It seems a pretty broad statement to say that the nuclear industry has suffered a "mortal blow to its reputation" and, of course, it's worth remembering that many countries generate a huge amount of electricity from nuclear power -- for example, France generates about 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. But on the other hand, as governments begin to pull back on generous "aid" packages for renewables it may well be that politicians and societies in general will look more favorably on the higher costs traditionally associated with renewable energy.

This is probably not the best time to make any final declarations one way or another, but at least at this moment what Lex is suggesting is worth keeping in mind.

Don C. Smith
Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program

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