The French government has just published details of what its ministers are worth. (In monetary terms that is; their fundamental value is a closely guarded secret.) Only twelve out of thirty two are millionaires, (not bad for a government which is “neither left nor right”) the second richest being the popular minister of the environment Nicolas Hulot. Hulot, a kind of low cost David Attenborough, fronted a popular TV programme about the environment called Ushuaia, then founded the Nicolas Hulot Foundation for the protection of retired environmentalists, while retaining the rights to the Ushuaia brand name (Ushuaia perfume, organically extracted from the glands of rare squirrels in Peru by renewable indigenous labour – things like that.)
The press was mildly surpised to discover that part of his seven million euro fortune consisted of nine motor vehicles, including a BMW, a pickup truck, a boat and a landrover. In today’s “Journal de Dimanche” he explains to everyone’s satisfaction that his scooter and all his official ministerial cars are electric, that the landrover is for use on his estate in the mountains of Corsica, and the truck is for transporting his horses on his other estate in Brittany.
He could have argued that, however rich and important he might be, he (or his chauffeur) could still only drive one car at a time, so shut up and let him get on with the only thing that counts,
saving the planet getting the timing of his resignation right.
Because next month President Macron will put an end to a forty year hesitation about whether to build an new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes in Brittany on an environmentally fragile site currently occupied by several hundred green activists, who can call on several thousand supporters in the case of an attempt to evict them. Whether the President follows the legally binding decision of local government and the regional council plus a local referendum and goes ahead with the airport, or bows to the greenies and public opinion nationally, he has promised to clear the site, in which case Macron’s reputation as a planet saver will go up in a puff of tear gas.
The other difficulty which projected Hulot on to the front pages for several days recently, and may have given him the urge to retire to his Foundation and spend more time bottling perfume, was the government’s backsliding on its promise to reduce the proportion of nuclear in the energy mix from the current 75% to 50% by 2025. (The new date for switching off the lights is 2035.) The government is also banning all prospection for and extraction of fossil fuels in mainland France, and promising all electric transport for 2040.
What makes all this madness possible is the perfect ignorance of the French journalistic corps. True, a climatoréaliste like Benoit Rittaud may occasionally get invited on a discussion programme, (you can see him here at about 36 minutes in) where he was politely listened to, and then ignored; but there is no room for a Christopher Booker or a Delingpole in the French media, and, as Benoît laments here, no equivalent of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
In the discussions I saw about nuclear policy, most journalists seemed to assume that closing nuclear power stations was part of the battle against climate change. In a country with four major 24 hour news channels largely filled with discussions between panels of journalists, just being on telly is a full time job for most of them, and a chap just doesn’t have time to actually find out stuff, especialy on boring subjects like energy policy.
Here are three random bits of information I picked up by accident recently, but which have escaped the attention of mainstream media
– The French airforce has pressured the government into banning wind turbines over 90% of the territory because they interfere with their exercises
– Environmentalists have just won a court battle to prevent the number of turbines on the Mediterranean coast from being multiplied by five
– Environmentalists have blocked plans to install a solar farm on mountainous terrain where eagles feed.
Meanwhile Eléctricité de France’s official plan to go 50% renewable by 2040 involves increasing hydro from 6% to just 7%. Of course, they could do more, if they concreted over every valley in the Alps and the Pyrenees, but somehow I think they won’t. Most people, including the minister of the environment, would prefer to go on using their landrovers.
French climato-réalistes may be making some surprising alliances in the future.