Tom Friedman Beclowns Himself Again [With Update By John]

The New York Times makes it very difficult to settle on who is their worst op-ed columnist, and it is hard to break the tie between the obnoxiousness of Paul Krugman and the know-it-all smugness of Tom Friedman. Elsewhere Niall Ferguson has a nice beat down of Krugman today at the Puffington Host (Niall makes the case that Krugman is the biggest loser of the British election last week), so it falls to me to note Friedman’s latest faceplant.

Last week’s Friedman self-egging is his column “Germany, the Green Superpower.” It contains several howlers, along with a prediction at the end:

[W]hat the Germans have done in converting almost 30 percent of their electric grid to renewable energy from near zero in about 15 years has been a great contribution to the stability of our planet and its climate. . . This is a world-saving achievement.

We’re saved!  Deutschland Uber Alles after all! Friedman takes at face value that Germany’s installed 30 percent of renewables of their electric grid means they produce 30 percent of their electricity, which any first-year fool in energy policy will know isn’t the case.  But then even the Times seemed to figure out that he’d got it wrong, running this correction:

Correction: May 8, 2015

An earlier version of this column imprecisely described Germany’s energy efficiency. The country gets nearly 30 percent of its electrical energy from various renewable sources — solar, wind, biomass and hydro — not just from solar and wind power.

So how much from wind and solar? The Times doesn’t say.  (Nor is “energy efficiency” the right term to use here anyway.  Dumkopfs.) It’s is surely less than 10 percent.

Friedman omits to mention that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising again because they’re building coal-fired power plants to replace the emission-free nuclear power plants they decided to shut down in some fit of Teutonic madness.  Oh, and inconveniently for Friedman, this article appeared in Time magazine a couple days later:

Germany’s Nuclear Cutback Is Darkening European Skies

If Germany wants to phase out nuclear power, coal is the only realistic option

Germany’s influence in Europe is unquestionable, but it appears that some of its neighbors may be adversely affected by recent German decisions; and Greece is not the neighbor in question here. France has been reporting heavy levels of air pollution which authorities in the country are blaming on diesel cars there. But the real culprit may in fact be the renewed German penchant for coal power.

Up until a few years ago, Germany, along with France, was at the forefront of nuclear power use. But after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, the Germans were quick to begin phasing out nuclear power. In some countries, phasing out nuclear power would be easy, but in 2011, Germany obtained 25% of its power from nuclear sources. . .

Overall, the increase in coal is likely to create a significant increase in airborne pollution and potentially stoke tension between Germany and its neighbors. But at the same time, if Germany wants to phase out nuclear power, coal is the only realistic option; a fact which some German politicians are starting to admit.

Heh.  Anyway, here’s Friedman’s prediction at the end of his column:

Here’s my prediction: Germany will be Europe’s first green, solar-powered superpower.

Here’s my prediction: He wasn’t specific enough to require the Times to run another correction some day, so no one will remember it anyway.

JOHN adds: This is really pretty shocking. Among those who follow energy issues, it is well known that Germany’s flirtation with “green” energy has been a fiasco, and Germany is now turning away from wind and solar. We wrote about the experience of Germany and other countries with wind and solar energy here, among other places:

[M]uch of the time, the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. This means that in practice, solar and wind facilities can produce only a small fraction of their nominal capacities. This chart requires a bit of study; for three countries, the U.S., Germany and the U.K., it contrasts the nominal (“nameplate”) capacity of wind and solar facilities with their actual production of energy:


Note that Germany’s actual production of energy from wind and solar is only around one-seventh of its nominal wind and solar capacity, which I take it is what Friedman is talking about. Note, too, that when it comes to actually producing energy from solar and wind, the U.S. is ahead of Germany.