Matthew Hulbert Making Up His Own Reality at Forbes

Matthew Hulbert has written about the decision of the Japanese government to bury nuclear energy in Japan at Forbes. Reading that article, one might get the impression that nuclear is still not dead in Japan. Let’ s take a couple of moments to debunk some of his more glaring mistakes.

He starts off in his first sentence with “Japan has taken the decision to phase out nuclear power by 2040 – a mere 28 years from now.”

That is false. Just read the new Government strategy paper.

It does not decide on phasing out until 2040, though it does say that they want to be able to get away from nuclear power until that year. What it does decide is that no reactor will be allowed to operate longer than forty years, and no new ones will be approved.

He then leads off another paragraph with this mistake: “Prices have cooled in Asia now that Japan has filled most of its nuclear gaps, but in large part, that helps to explain why Japan is in no rush to take their nukes offline at breakneck speed.”

Does he even know that there are only 2 nuclear reactors running now in Japan? Japan has shut down the nuclear fleet much faster than Germany.

He follows up with this interesting analysis:

Debate will obviously rage in Japan as to the relative merits of the DJP proposition, but it wouldn’t be particularly surprising if nuclear operators take this as a cue to get more plants back online now that the political air has been ‘cleared’.

The decision on getting plants back online is not up to the utilities. Actually one of the three principles on nuclear power in the new strategy paper makes that very clear. But it was clear for anyone with the slightest idea about nuclear energy in Japan before already.

Having conclusively shown that he knows nothing about Japan, Hulbert then goes on to demonstrate the same thing for Germany:

Germany has had little choice but to massively expand coal fired plants (‘clean dark spreads’ aren’t exactly hurting in Europe these days given a collapsed carbon price), coupled to increased quantities of expensive Russian gas through the Nord Stream pipeline.

In his fantasy world. Meanwhile, in reality, electricity from coal fired plants in Germany went down to 111,8 TWh in 2011, from 117,0 TWh in 2010.

He then adds the fantasy of Germany buying French nuclear power:

Whether Berlin will continue on their path of ‘nuclear nonsense’  remains to be seen once the true political and economic costs become clear – the most galling of which will be signing power purchases agreements across their borders for French nuclear power.

Again, in reality, France needed bailing out from Germany when things got somewhat tight in February of this year.

And, again in reality, those fantasy power purchase agreements from French nuclear won’t happen, because nuclear can’t compete on price with renewable energy.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

11 thoughts on “Matthew Hulbert Making Up His Own Reality at Forbes

  1. I think the breakneck speed point means towards 2040. The article makes perfectly clear this is a 40 year phase out, a cue to get plants back online

    I can appreciate you’re an annoyed anti nuclear prof working in Japan, but you probably want to brush up on your English skills before totally misreading an article again…. your figure on coal is totally misleading, the overall number is down because overall demand is down. Anyone who has any understanding of european energy nows coal has become the sweat price spot. Please don’t waste folks time with politically motivated crituques again.


  2. Again, here is what he wrote:

    “Prices have cooled in Asia now that Japan has filled most of its nuclear gaps, but in large part, that helps to explain why Japan is in no rush to take their nukes offline at breakneck speed.”

    Prices have cooled now, in his assertion. That’s not talking about 40 years shutdown (which was a mistake in its own).

    Your assertion that the overall number is down because demand is down has no base in reality. Production was 628.1 TWh in 2010 and 612.1 in 2011, which is only a 3 percent change, statistical noise. Anyway, the article asserted the common myth that production from coal is up, which it isn’t.


  3. I could do without your inflammatory remarks. That is two comments in a row I approved even in face of that, but this one is the last. Moderate your language, or kindly comment elsewhere.

    That Reuters article is not without interest, though their data for 2011 seems to be slightly off. Thanks for the link.

    From the article:

    “If the high coal margins persist, Reuters research shows that Germany could produce almost 130 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity from hard coal in 2012, up from 114.5 TWh last year.”

    We will see what happens once the figures for 2012 are in. Until then, the 2011 figures are the latest available. And even 130 TWh would fall short of a “massive increase”. We had 142.0 in 2007, with much more nuclear in the mix at the time.


  4. Dear Karl

    On the one hand, thanks for looking over the article. On the other, please do feel free to posts these kinds of comments on the original article – paritcularly if the title makes things very direct and seemingly personal. Makes for a much better reading for people to take an objective view.

    I never normally bother replying to anyone slightly over-animated on nukes or renewables, as you can never have a realistic debate, but I’m sorry to say this is a pretty twisted interpretation of what the original article notes – the 40 year issue is makde very very clear. The finer points can be mulled over at length (p.s. you’re way out on coal,next phase of ETS makes a french ppa very likely), but the overall take I’d stand by, this is a policy hedge, not outright closure. Most global analysis has now caught up with this take (this was drafted over a week ago).


    Matthew Hulbert


    1. Thank you for your comment. I will address some points on style here, and the – scarce – substance of your comments in some new posts on the blog.

      I am not sure why you think it is appropriate to include a direct address in a blog post comment, or to call me by first name. But you got that first name wrong.

      I might be able to clear moderation for this as a comment to your blog post, but as a general rule I prefer to write on my own blog.

      Far be it from me to attack you personally. I disagree with just about all of your points. But that tends to happen. I have had the strange experience of having someone say things on the Internet I don’t agree with before.

      I am not sure what you think is “slightly over-animated” about pointing out that you got your facts wrong. Let’s just say that I don’t agree with your assessment here.


  5. Karl, I know you are fluent in Japanese, but do you think really that on the other side reporter TABUCHI Hiroko at the New York Times was unable to properly interpret the Japanese press about what actually happened ?

    And that she also misinterpreted about the Keidanren praising the new position, after having called a special news conference to demand that Mr. Noda abandon the 2040 no-nuclear goal ?

    That lastly she was unable to correctly translate what the chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry said when she quotes him saying it ‘was not a viable option in the first place,” or do you mean that he himself was not understanding what the government was saying ?

    In effect, nothing has been really decided for now except that Japan will probably both restart existing plants, and complete construction of the ones already under way, and 20 years.

    I don’t know for sure what will happen in Japan, but this nuclear shutdown plan may still go the same way the Swedish advisory referendum on nuclear power in 1980.
    It initially said there would no nuclear power in Sweden in 2010, and at the end it essentially has been canceled. At the end in 1999 and 2005, they only closed the two that were dangerously close to their Danish’s neighbor capital of Copenhagen, and now plan to replace all the other with new reactor at end of life.

    Sweden’s electricity mix is a very good one. It’s almost 100% no carbon energy, with about 50% hydro and 50% nuclear. I approve any energy mix as long as it ends up being no carbon (or at least below 50gCO2/KWh), within a reasonable time frame.

    Unfortunately Germany’s electricity mix is 510 gCO2/KWh growing in 2011, and given the current results growing more in 2012. There is no plan in sight for this to go significantly lower in any time frame, that’s reasonable with regard to the current climate situation.

    The fact is that the CO2 emissions in Germany went a *lot* more down between 1990 and 2000 (in 91 more than 12 tons down to 10 in 1999) than from 2000 to 2008 (down to 9.5 in 2008).
    The fact is that between 1990 and 2000 there was some quite easy gains to do from shutting down, old, utterly inefficient Soviet Union infrastructure from east Germany.
    In 1999, there was only a little renewable (5,528 TWh wind, 1,849 biomass), but a lot of progress had been made.
    In 2008, there was 40,574 TWh wind, 22,872 TWh biomass, 4,420 PV and that little progress ?
    By the way, the number come from this document and in 116 pages about renewable it says nothing about CO2 emission, which I would have liked to update with newer data than 2008, but I don’t have at hand now.

    Let’s see what this gives on a curve compare with the effect the developement of nuclear had in France in the 80’s :

    It’s interesting also to see also the even more impressive view of fossil fuel use :

    France in the 2000 just like Germany turned to putting on-line some wind turbine and PV. And just like Germany almost no effect of CO2 reduction is to be seen.


  6. Ms. Tabuchi filed her article on September 19 (Wednesday). Prime Minister Noda cleared the question up the next day (Thursday), saying on national television that “definitely” (machigainaku) the Cabinet approved this policy.

    I understand that pro-nuclear forces like the Keidanren or the Chamber of Commerce try to take advantage of the slight confusion that was reported also in the Japanese press on Wednesday last week (for example Asahi). But they don’t get to decide what the Cabinet adopts or not. I would assume that the statement of the Prime Minister is the decisive authority on that.

    The other facts you mention are interesting. Thank you. However, they would seem to be not directly related to the points of this post. I will try to address them later in a separate post.


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