This week's Spectator includes an article by Elliot Wilson about nuclear power and Barbara Judge, one of the great-and-the-good, chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (amongst many senior roles), and wife of Sir Paul Judge (he of The Jury Team). The article contains the following passage:
"If there's a model to follow, it is the French one... In the wake of the first global energy crisis, the goal was to find ways to wean France off Arab oil... the plan work[ed] blindingly well - four fifths of French energy needs are now provided by 59 nuclear plants..."
I have written to The Spectator, quoting this passage, and pointing out that this is yet another repetition of the nuclear lobby's lies on this subject.
According to the International Energy Agency, nuclear energy provides 43 per cent of France's Primary Energy Supply, and 17 per cent of their Final Energy Consumption. Oil provides 33 per cent of their Primary Energy Supply and 49 per cent of their Final Energy Consumption. Their consumption of oil has reduced by 3 per cent since 1970. Over the same period, consumption of oil in the UK has reduced by 17 per cent.
France's lips are still wrapped firmly round the petroleum teat. Nuclear energy is not a substitute for oil. But when have the nuclear lobby ever let the facts get in the way of their propaganda?
Mr Wilson has made the classic mistake, on which various rent-seekers in the energy sector rely (including the wind and solar lobbies, as well as the nuclear crowd), of failing to distinguish between electricity and energy. It's not the first time this fundamental error has appeared in The Spectator, as in many other parts of the media. It's a particular favourite of Michael Portillo and Bernard Ingham. But journalists who are not aware of this basic distinction ought not to be writing on the subject.
Coincidentally, Sir Paul also has a track record of "economy with the truth" on this sort of subject - in his case, providing misleading claims about BA's carbon-offsetting facility. Perhaps it's a conjugal thing.