Thursday, July 30, 2009

World Wildlife Foundation donations suspended

At the July 8-10, 2009 G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, Allianz (a global insurance company) partnered with the World Wildlife Foundation to deliver and publicize a report on how the 8 richest countries in the world are doing at reducing their greenhouse gases. Sounds good.

WWF/Allianz "does not consider electricity generated by nuclear power a sustainable option", an opinion shared by many. Their trouble was that any simple ranking of countries will show that nuclear power has made France the world leader in reducing greenhouse gases. Since WWF/Allianz doesn't want to promote nuclear power, they cooked the numbers.

They didn't lie. There have been a number of outraged comments about this report, but these folks did not lie. Their footnotes say specifically that numbers for France were "adjusted as if electricity from nuclear power was generated from natural gas." The report also includes, in footnotes, the numbers correctly calculated.

One of those same footnotes says that "without the adjustment, France would rank first with Germany." Unfortunately, this comment is not supported by either facts, or by the WWF/Allianz numbers. By any numeric measure, France is way ahead of the rest of the industrialized world.

Because I feel that this report is intentionally misleading, my wife and I are suspending our donations to the WWF until they amend their report to rank countries based on facts. We're also going to have a talk with a few friends who also donate to the WWF. We don't do business with Allianz, so there's not much leverage there.

Those of you who don't actually care that much about CO2 emissions or global warming can stop here.

The report ranks the 8 richest countries in terms of their "past, present, and future climate performance". Here I've listed their overall ranking, along with WWF/Allianz' calculation of their emissions per capita and per million dollars of GDP.
  1. Germany (12 tons/capita/year, 384 tons/M$ GDP)
  2. United Kingdom (11 tons/capita/year, 334 tons/M$ GDP)
  3. France (9 tons/capita/year, 276 tons/M$ GDP)
  4. Italy (9 tons/capita/year, 328 tons/M$ GDP)
  5. Japan (12 tons/capita/year, 367 tons/M$ GDP)
  6. Russia (16 tons/capita/year, 1140 tons/M$ GDP)
  7. United States (25 tons/capita/year, 567 tons/M$ GDP)
  8. Canada (24 tons/capita/year, 668 tons/M$ GDP)
France got dinged because they have not improved emissions much since 1990 (they'd already built most of their nuclear fleet by then). I notice they also got dinged for not having strong mandatory targets imposed on utilities to promote energy efficiency. The report fails to note that in France, saving electricity doesn't significantly reduce CO2 emissions, so there is no need for such mandatory targets.

The report completely failed to note that France is building new nuclear power plants on its borders to export more CO2-free power. Not only is this action going to cause more improvement in Germany's CO2 output than Germany's own utility policies, but it is also going to be profitable, which means that France is going to be able to do it AGAIN in a few years. Germany, on the other hand, is busy bankrupting itself with huge feed-in tariffs, and is already switching from expensive, imported aranthracite coal to cheaper domestic brown coal which emits more CO2 and other pollutants.

The United States clearly needs to clean up its act. Which country should we model our environmental policies after?

Germany: 51% of German electricity comes from coal-fired powerplants. They are building or planning another 26. These will add 23 gigawatts of production. Germany will be forced close its coal mines in 34 years when it runs out of coal, at which point their coal imports will peak until they will switch to imported Russian methane. Germany also produces 4.4 gigawatts from wind turbines. There is a lot of talk about wind turbines but the power comes and will come from coal.

France: France closed its last coal mine in 2004. 4% of its electricity comes from coal. 78% of France's electricity comes from nuclear, and produces no CO2. Most of the rest (11%) comes from hydro, and produces no CO2. France exports 18% of it's electric production, and most of that (5.9 gigawatts, more than $2 billion a year) is sold to Italy, which is one reason why Italy's CO2 outputs are low.

Bottom line: WWF/Allianz fudged the numbers to support a policy goal. That's wrong, and we're stopping our contributions until they fix it.

It's a shame, by the way. I liked some of the other stuff they were doing.