THE KEYS TO A GREEN FRENCH ECONOMY
by Robert Bell
On 11 November 2011, I sketched out a major energy policy departure (included in the outline below) to then French Presidential candidate Corinne Lepage that did in fact become, with some revisions, the centerpiece of her now concluded campaign. I suggested an energy policy based on my earlier proposal for a massive Green Redemption Fund made in a keynote address at the November 2010 G20 in Seoul, Korea as well as at a New York University roundtable chaired by Minister of Ecology Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. The Green Redemption Fund concept was further presented at the September 2011 Planet Workshops Global Conference at Evian.
My proposal was to shift the French energy discussion from exiting nuclear to entering something better. This would take advantage of France’s demonstrated and unique ability to create and succeed in colossal high tech projects, such as the TGV, the Ariane rocket, and nuclear itself.
The financing for the transformation into a new world of safe unlimited renewable energy, and therefore out of an old world of frighteningly dangerous nuclear reactors, would be provided by a massive, dedicated Fund. This Green Redemption Fund (GRF) would have a very long lock-up, sufficient to complete the total transformation into renewable energy, while exiting nuclear as the existing reactors were retired.
Much of the money for the GRF would be paid by a tax on nuclear energy to compensate for the latent but gigantic nuclear subsidy resulting from the cap on their civil liability in the event of a Fukushima-type accident. Alternatively, nuclear companies could be forced to invest, and be shareholders in the GRF, but, to avoid their obvious conflicts of interest, they would have no control over the disposition of GRF money. This is possible since of the two main French nuclear companies, one is totally state owned, Areva, and the other is overwhelmingly state owned, EDF. (The government could simply order them to participate, perhaps by passing a law if necessary.)
The GRF would buy existing European renewable energy companies, which are very cheap now, such as the Danish company, Vestas Wind Systems, or the Spanish company, Gamesa. The GRF would then finance their operations with a post WWII COFACE style accounts receivable insurance used exclusively for the companies owned by the GRF. This would end the unfair advantage from phony-capitalist, state-linked Chinese competitors and assure both economic and national energy security for France and its European neighbors. It would also massively amplify the power of the GRF— a €300 billion Fund could in effect help finance over €3 trillion of projects.
The GRF and the new energy policy were further discussed with Madame Lepage, at a later meeting where she made several suggestions and the policy was further developed by me and novelist and journalist, Patrice Lanoy. Patrice initiated the original meeting and actually composed all of the written iterations of the proposal–including changing the name to Le programme SOLEIL: Solution Energie Investissement Long terme.
Here is the final proposal submitted to Madame Lepage by Patrice Lanoy and myself. The final proposal is, in effect, the outline for a press conference:
Project Sun (SOLEIL = French acronym for Solutions for Long Term Energy Investment)
What do we want?
–Get out of short term thinking
–Finance an energy transition which will transform the economy
-Reindustrialize France, become a major international player in the space of worldwide renewable energy
–Don’t increase the national debt, but on the contrary, reduce it
–Preserve the environment
–Achieve energy security
I propose Project Sun.
What’s it all about?
It’s about a plan for energy transition of a magnitude of €300 Billion over 30 years accompanied by an energy-industrial plan which guarantees research and development, the installation of a mix of existing technologies concerning energy generation, energy storage, energy network and management of both decentralized and large scale sites (with a crash-program, including several technical and industrial thresholds).
This objective will be submitted to a referendum. A successful referendum is a commitment over time for the usage of the budgets to this sole end and in a trans-generational process.
Financing of innovation and of R&D has allowed us to construct Airbus or Ariane, and this type of process will be adapted to the 21st Century: planning, financing, engineering, technical excellence, material spinoffs notably in employment, local production and innovation. The major trump-card of France resides in its capacity to found and succeed in gigantic technical and industrial programs.
How is the Fund financed?
The objective is to invest to guarantee the future. The financing will be structured and secured to that end and can utilize mechanisms like COFACE. Nearly all the Fund should be blocked for 30 years and would not be permitted for any other usage than the transition to renewable energy.
The Fund should be fed by
–part of the nuclear industry’s profit, paid by all the French, and which should be invested exclusively in France (because of the fact that the nuclear risk is not insured and covered these payments will be the guarantee given by the nuclear industry for its reconversion)
–by the conversion of subsidies to the petroleum sector which represent according to the OECD €2.5 Billion per year
–by at least a part of the cost of carbon (traded permits and future carbon tax, based on BTU barrel of oil equivalency at the point of importation)
–by savings accounts of ordinary citizens in consideration of exoneration of inheritance taxes based on duration of the savings
How will the Fund and the Plan be administered ?
The Fund will be managed by a committee elected by an environmental electoral college (composed of elected officials, civil society representatives, local government representatives) and under the control of the Cour des Comptes. The administering committee, renewed every 7 years, will run the Fund and watch over the energy, financial, industrial and social objectives of the program. The aspects of R&D, of surveillance, of local initiative, of industrial capacity, of avoiding off-shoring and avoiding conflicts of interest will be particularly followed, as well as possible unintended effects appearing in the course of the realization of the Project (windfalls, misappropriations, concealed charges or others).
The Fund and the Plan do what ?
–The Fund can directly finance the projects that it supports.
–By the enterprises that it controls or creates, the Fund can coordinate and permit the exchange of information and experience among local actors. It provides directly or indirectly long term financing for projects of farms (solar, wind) and sites (energy storage, transmission, etc.)
–It can, in particular, buy strategic enterprises—national and foreign—to permit France to catch-up from its very late start in this regard.
–It watches to assure an energy balance among the sources (wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels) and the grids to make the transition happen.
–It encourages and supports R&D for the medium and long term and it produces an orchestration of the whole of the industrial and local know-how channels.
–It encourages local initiatives and their connection to the grid
–It participates at putting in place industrial R&D projects and the optimized exploitation of the grid with neighboring countries and Europe.
Since the mid-1980s, Robert Bell, Ph.D. has been at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, where he is a Professor of Management. Formerly the Chair of the Economics Department, he is now Chair of the Finance and Business Management Department. He has authored several books, including Impure Science (N.Y. 1992); Les peches capitaux de la haute technologie (Paris 1998); Beursbedrog—De windhandel op de aandelenmarkt (Amsterdam 2003); La Bulle Verte (Paris 2007), also published in New York in 2008 as The Green Bubble — Waste into Wealth: the New Energy Revolution. He is a recognized expert on investments in green energy, transition out of oil, and conflicts of interest: in capital markets, civil and military high-technology projects and science fraud. Dr. Bell is regularly invited to speak at seminars and conferences addressing the issues of renewable energy and the role of financial markets.