March Madness

In the closing days of March, not only are sports fans a bit crazy, so also are the electorate. Consider the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, long secure within the Christian Democratic “right-of-center” view (recall this is Europe, so “right” is at best “moderate” American conservatism), has moved left. More alarming, the Green Party gained most in the election and the Greens, one will recall, are anti-nuclear and anti-coal. The prospects for reversing the earlier German government decision to close down nuclear plants have dropped sharply and the increased clout of the climate change alarmists makes the prospect for new coal plants dim also.

As one unhappy CDU official noted, The election was decided in Japan, referring to the tsunami created nuclear disaster. That tragedy turned a side-issue in the German election into a major concern and led to the CDU defeat.

The results of all this are interesting. Japan is already experiencing significant power shortages and rolling blackouts and suffering economic losses above those directly inflicted by the disaster. Rationing might continue for some time. Building new power plants is difficult; building new nuclear plants for the near future is probably impossible. Ironically, those new plants would be much, much safer than the old ones that were damaged.

Nature triggered Japan’s disaster, but the German election may well trigger theirs. If Germany goes ahead with its nuclear plant closures and blocks or delays coal plant construction, then it too will soon experience power outages and energy rationing. But those losses will be political — not natural.