The Fessenheim nuclear power plant closing, the critics surged during these previous years against “the all high speed train” policy and the stigmatization of air transportation are related to a typical French attitude: to denigrate and to attack everything that has generated the success of France and which the whole world is envying. To harbor these critics a new argument has been found, the protection of environment. The country is supplying its residents with power at the lowest price and emitting very few greenhouse gases. So we will limit the contribution of nuclear energy to the power mix by law. The development of a high speed trains network has allowed to offering to many cities an economic renaissance. A policy driven to the detriment of secondary lines is denounced and the destabilizing and polluting development of coaches lines will be encouraged. We are boasting ourselves to be the first tourist destination in the world but we want to close local airlines which offer connections to visitors coming from everywhere which allow them to discover our country. In the same time, during a major crisis, aeronautic industry is weakened through the downgrading of its growth perspectives when it is one of the very few sectors where France has a world leader position.
The decision to close Fessenheim when the Nuclear Safety Authority has judged it was apt to operate is, in reality, a symbol. It is necessary to put an end to one of the most spectacular success of these last thirty years. It occurs during a major economic crisis. Hundreds of thousands jobs are going to be destructed. Some more thousands will be added to that. Arguments are absurd. Are we going to close Reims cathedral because it is one of the oldest in France? Experience shows that the older a nuclear power plant is, the safer it is because it has been able, through decades, to pass all the controls and it has profited from works continuously dedicated to improve its safety. The worst, in this case, it is that the political pressure came from the other side of the Rhine because near half of its production was exported there and that was competing with coal-fired power plants.
The argument according to which it was necessary to reduce the nuclear power stations to leave some room to renewable doesn’t make any sense. These ones are intermittent. And we generally need power when they cannot produce it (during winter or by night). To guarantee supply safety, it would be necessary to build thermal power plants, along with the reduction of the nuclear power stations. During the same time, nobody seems worried by the damages caused to the animal life. Wind turbines are chasing out birds and solar panels insects when they are not killed by these equipments, which are recommended by environmentalists who defend biodiversity in the same time.
Critics formulated against the development of high-speed train lines have lead to a near stoppage of investments. The construction of the Bordeaux-Bayonne line is put off indefinitely and no agenda has been set regarding the achievement of the Lyon-Turin connection which is indispensable to reduce the pollution in the Chamonix valley which has reached an alarming level. In the same time, and it is considered as one of the more important decisions of the last years, a kind of “reform”, travel by coaches has been liberalized. An electric transportation mode, train, is replaced by another which uses vehicles, most of them being imported and operated with diesel. They are emitting not only CO2 but also particles which hurt the health of the populations leaving near the roads they use.
In doing that, the State has also contributed to the destabilization of the economic equilibrium of the rail transportation model because the new operators are not submitted to the same rules than the public sector. They can choose the most profitable lines and concentrate their offers on the period of the year when demand is at its highest level. They permanently weight on prices and leave to SNCF the task to operate the less profitable lines and when demand is at a low level. So that policy has heavy consequences both on the whole rail transportation system and on environment. It is surprising that, during the meetings and in the report of the Citizens Convention on climate issues, that question has not attracted attention.
It is not the same regarding air transportation. Trough putting an objective to reducing or even to closing a large share of local air lines, this transportation mode is fully attacked and two essential sectors of the French economy are hurt with illusory advantages regarding CO2 emissions. France is emitting 1% of the world CO2 emissions and air transportation, inside this 1%, represents 2% of it. It is also forgotten that in many agglomerations have been developed around airports economic activity zones and habitations which are much better served by airports than by rail stations in the city centers. Through the denunciation of this transportation mode, the aeronautic industry, which is one of the few domains where France has world leaders like Airbus and Safran which produces aircraft engines, is first hurt. And, of course, it is not through the promise that in ten years from now, the fleets will be made greener that a remedy will have been found, and even with the supposition that it is possible.
Nobody is able to affirm that we will be able to change the airplanes power propulsion mode. And, with the supposition that it is done, nobody is able to say when and how long it will take to have homologation processes reaching an end and safety guaranties being fulfilled. As life duration of airplanes is at least twenty years, it delays any significant impact on emissions. But the damages created to this industry, regarding which we have all the reasons to be proud, will necessitate a long time to be repaired.
France is rightly flattering itself, regarding the number of foreign visitors, to the default to consider the expenses, to be the number one touristic destination in the world. Today, we measure the economic consequences of the outbreak on the retail, hotel and restaurant sectors. The restrictions put to international travels, regarding direct flights or connections to reach tourism centers would have heavy and lasting consequences on these activities. They already will have a lot of difficulties to recover from the current crisis. In cities, except if coaches cortèges are authorized when it has been promised to exclude cars, the prospects are quite also worrying.
To cope with urgency, the government has promised to finance Air France and has launched a support program in favor of aeronautic industries. Considered amounts, more than seven billion euro, are important. But to what can it lead if, in the same time, clients are dissuaded through the stigmatization of air transportation to satisfy an ideological fashion as irresponsible as lacking of any basis?
Environment, how much silliness has been committed in your name? We can remember the subventions in favor of diesel, A consequence, rarely mentioned, has been the closure of one third of the country refining capacities. If we go on the current directions, there are a lot of reasons to be worried. Instead of a green wave, it would be more appropriate to talk about a black tide.