EU Plan Declares Nuclear Power and Natural Gas ‘Green Energy’

Steam rises from the cooling towers at the Philippsburg nuclear power plant on March 21, 2011 near Philippsburg, Germany. The Philippsburg I reactor is among seven nuclear power reactors built before 1980 that the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has chosen to shut down for three months for a …
Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

ROME, Italy — The European Commission has issued a draft recommendation including nuclear energy and natural gas on a list of investments that qualify as “green” energy.

The proposal allows investments in nuclear power plants to be classified as green until 2045 while natural gas investments can be considered green until at least 2030 if their carbon emissions are under a determined limit.

“Could this winter’s energy crisis be shocking Europe into climate realism?” the editors of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) asked in astonishment Monday in reaction to the proposal.

“Someone please pass the smelling salts to the Sierra Club,” they added.

The draft recommendation still needs approval from EU governments and the European Parliament, and highlights fault lines dividing differing energy policies.

The German government registered its opposition to the plan Monday, a predictable move given it is in the midst of dismantling its entire nuclear energy program. Germany intends to decommission its remaining three nuclear power plants by the end of 2022 whereas France has taken the opposite tack, modernizing existing reactors and building new ones.

“This is that rarest of cases in climate policy where the politics aligns with energy reality,” declared the WSJ editorial. “If environmentalists mean what they say about the urgency of cutting CO2 emissions, nuclear is the only widely available power source that’s zero-emitting and more reliable than wind or solar.”

“In a world far from ready to wean itself off fossil fuels, natural gas stands out as much lower emitting than others,” the editors added. “The growth in natural gas to account for about one-third of United States electricity generation in 2019 helps explain the roughly 14% decline in gross CO2 emissions since the mid-2000s.”

The draft proposal has provoked consternation from more radical environmentalists, who object to any fossil fuels being included in programs of sustainability and who reject nuclear energy outright.

“Classifying investments in gas and nuclear power as sustainable contradicts the Green Deal,” said Ska Keller, the president of the Green group in the European Parliament, in reference to the energy initiative intended to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

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