Social Democrats and green groups wanted to close them in favor of wind and solar power
Reuters reports Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have won enough votes in Germany's election to form a center-right government with the Free Democrats (FDP). The anti-nuclear agenda of the lef-of-center Social Democrats was not accepted by the voters.
Reuters notes that Merkel’s political party and its partners will extend the operational lives of Germany's 17 nuclear plants. Plans by the Social Democrats and green parties to decommission the plants by 2020 were not accepted by the voters. Business groups campaigned vigorously to keep the plants as reliable, low cost source of electricity to power Germany's export driven manufacturing sector.
The New York Times reports that Merkel's election win, with a narrowly focused set of campaign tactics, came at at cost. She earned only 34% of the vote compared to 35% in 2005. Even so, her new government is expected to hold 320 of 616 seats, a solid majority which ensures her energy policies will prevail against further attempts to shut down the reactors. Merkel's coalition will continue to invest in solar and wind power. Funds for investment in these energy technologies will come from a tax on the profits of the nuclear reactors.
Merkel's partner in the election, the pro-business Free Democrats, boosted their share of the vote from just under 10% to 15% giving them a bigger voice in how the government implements measures to control greenhouse gasses. Some of their measures, which include limits on the pace at which new, higher gas mileage measures are imposed on cars, may not sit well with Merkel’s European neighbors.
Anti-nuclear agenda defeated at the ballot box
Merkel had at one time signed on to the plan by her “grand coalition” with the left of center Social Democrats to shut down the nation’s nuclear plants by 2020. However, in 2008 she returned from the G8 conference in Tokyo with a changed mind and a reversal of her policy stance. She arrived there as the only international leader in the group with an anti-nuclear agenda relative to the growing realization that global cooperation was needed to stop the growth of greenhouse gasses.
After talking with her counterparts, especially India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she returned to Germany issuing a courageous call to stop the plan to shut down the reactors which supply more than 25% of the nation’s electricity.
Had the Social Democrats prevailed, the nation could have become much more dependent on Russian natural gas and the political baggage which has emerged as a cost of doing business with Gazprom, which has become an unpredictable supplier. In January 2009, the Russians cut off natural gas exports to a dozen European nations, including Germany, in a political dispute with the Ukraine. The Russians accused western European nations of siding with the Ukraine.
The Social Democrats vowed to make Merkel’s defeat and the end of the nuclear plants center pieces of their elections efforts. Today, voters in Germany spoke and the anti-nuclear agenda lost at the ballot box.
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