Written by Hilary Barnes
France's President, Francois Hollande, is probably a man who thinks clearly, but as a wise politician he is careful not to let people know too clearly just what he thinks. Perhaps a man after the heart of the character in a novel by Benjamin Disraeli, who was asked which party he supported:
"The party of all wise men."
"And which party is that?"
"Wise men never tell."
He says he wants to close down 25% of France's nuclear power stations by 2025, but if he thinks clearly he should now be able to see that France has an extraordinary chance over the next ten years to become the undisputed industrial champion of Europe.
One may think, after looking at the charts for profit margins in French business and industry, and the rising unemployment figures, the ingrained anti-business instincts of most French politicians but especially of the President's Parti-Socialiste (PS) and any parties to the left of it, that this is a ridiculous idea.
However, one has only to look at what is happening in Germany to see the point. Germany is committed to shutting down all its nuclear power reactors by 2022 and replacing the power supply from sustainable resources such as wind, solar and bio-fuels.
The final target is an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, the target set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and adopted by the European Union. This target if a serious attempt to reach is made; will put Europe back to the horse and buggy age. It is eventually, perhaps soon, going to meet furious opposition from voters, which politicians, ever men of principle, will of course take note off.
German industry, as reported in this week's The Economist's special report on Germany, says that Germany's energy transition
"will kill German industry. Power experts worry about blackouts. The voters are furious about ever higher fuel bills. The chaos undermines Germany's claim to efficiency, threatens its vaunted competitiveness...."
Go, France, go! Get realistic about energy supply, don't alienate industry as well as the wider public by forcing up power prices by replacing nuclear power capacity by unreliable and intermittent, not to mention expensive, "sustainable" energy.
Suddenly someone will notice one day that the statistics are showing that it is France and not Germany that is the European industrial and economic leader, with a nice healthy surplus on its current account generated by German imports, while Germany fights to finance its current account deficit.