Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shumlin Overstates Himself

Peter Shumlin usually overstates himself. He is President Pro Tempore of the Vermont Senate, and he forced the vote on Vermont Yankee, despite misgivings by many of his colleagues. Most of the time, I think of him as dedicated (to his own election as Governor) and dangerous (to the state of Vermont). Today, though, I gotta giggle.

A few days ago, he went on Fox News to justify his vote. And boy, did he justify it. Vermont Yankee may provide 30% of Vermont's power, but....Germany gets 30% of its power from solar! Yes, my friends, he said this howler on national TV. To quote ABC news on the subject
"Germany right now is producing 30% of their juice from solar," said Shumlin during the FOX Business interview.
The host of the show later pointed out Germany gets 1%, not 30%, of its power from solar. Our call to Shumlin for comment was not returned.

The local blog Vermont Tiger had a very funny post on this, including a shot from Casablanca. Humphrey Bogart explains himself to Claude Rains: "I was misinformed."

The link in the Vermont Tiger post seems to be broken, so I decided to include some links on German electricity. The best diagram I have found is here. It is IEA/OECD data at a website (GENI) devoted to renewable energy. Similarly, the European Nuclear Society website has the same data presented in a slightly different format. Despite different philosophies, the two websites agree on the facts. Shumlin should have checked.

Rod Adams checked Germany's solar figures today, and did a careful explanation in his post. We're all citing our sources because during the video clip, Shumlin is informed that Wikipedia says that Germany gets one percent of its electricity from solar. He dismisses it as "well, that's Wikipedia." Mr. Shumlin, Wikipedia was right.

Sadly, I think Shumlin actually believed what he was saying. He has no idea about where electricity comes from. He believed that Germany gets lots and lots of electricity from solar, and Vermont can do the same, no problem.

It's been several days since this incident, and Shumlin still hasn't explained how he thought Germany got 30% of its electricity from solar when it gets less than 1%. I think it would hurt his bid for governor to own up to a mistake, and he won't do it.

Prove me wrong, Mr. Shumlin. Explain yourself.

Image of a solar panel on the Autobahn, from Wikimedia.


Rod Adams said...


Actually, it is being generous to give Germany credit for producing 1% of its electricity from solar - that is only close to being true because 0.6% rounds up to 1%.

Here is a quote from a recent article by George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist who has been documenting the reasons for his strong opposition to the proposed feed in tariff law in the UK. The folks in support of that law have been pointing to the German experience in ways similar to the way that Shumlin uses it - they claim far greater success than what has actually occurred and they ignore the enormous costs that are being paid to make even that small amount of progress happen.

Here is a quote from Monbiot's latest piece titled The German Disease.

"By 2008 solar PV was producing a grand total of 0.6% of Germany’s electricity. 0.6% for E35bn." (That is 35 billion euros, roughly 45 billion dollars!)

That is a sad truth about solar panels in countries that are located in high latitudes and have rather consistent cloud cover - solar energy is expensive and unreliable. It does nothing to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels or the production of dangerous fossil fuel emissions.

Just out of curiosity - do people think that Shumlin is mistaken or just flat out lying?

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

Meredith Angwin said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Rod!
Alas, there is very little follow-up on this statement. Googling away at it, I find little. Fox News posted a followup where they interviewed TVA Chairman McCullough. I watched the video, and here's the link, but I think they took it down because it doesn't load anymore. The video just talked about him being mistaken.

Was he mistaken or lying? I believed he thought it was true when he said it. On the other hand, I also think he says what he thinks his supporters want to hear. If they want to hear "Germany can do it and so can we," well, that is what he will say.

So, if he believes it, he doesn't check it, and he gives the crowd what he thinks they want...that is just par for the course, in my opinion. I guess I weaseled a little on whether he was lying. I can't really answer the question. On the other hand, he hasn't exactly said "I was wrong." I think he feels if he ignores it, it will go away. Maybe it will.


timberstone said...

Great post Meredith! Perhaps we should ask the AG to look into this one too!

Sheldon said...


I will go so far as to say he was lying. If you watch the original fox new video he first states that he read it himself (6:45). He is asked are you sure, and he says "that happens to be a fact, a fact that I have read..." Later on when the host and staff did some fact checking he says "thats what I have been told." (8:37 on video) I believe he tried to lie and then got caught and then blamed it on being told bad information.

What bothers me is no one has challenged him on his Cobalt lie. He states multiple times during the same interview that VY is leaking tritium & COBALT into the groundwater. VY, to my knowledge, has never leaked cobalt into the groundwater..or to the ground for that matter. They found Cobalt 60 in a piping tunnel not the ground. This piping tunnel is designed to drain to a contaminated sump.

Just my take on it.

sheldon said...

Oh here is a link to the origial video in which he mistates things.

Howard Shaffer said...

Mr. Shumlin is joining two events. Years ago the plant apparently got a little Cobalt 60 on the ground or roof and it got into the river. It is still there and still being detected in the mud. State Radiological Health officer Bill Irwin mentioned this in a legislative briefing when I was present. The press picked it up and made it sound like it just happened.

DunnJH4 said...

When I watched that video I ran to your blog to see what you could so with this (spread it like wildfire). Looks like you were ahead of me, and links are showing up all over the reformer and other websites. I even posted it on Shumlin's website! I agree that he is flat out lying, he says "that happens to be a fact!" Shumlin brings up the cobalt/tritium about 10 times, and gets completely destroyed by the Fox Business guy. I hope (not holding my breath) that he takes up the invite to return to Fox Business.

Meredith Angwin said...

Thanks for the compliment, Ian! I just added the Shumlin video to my post. Honest, most of the time I have to do careful research on this and that before I post. But.. once in a while...Comedy Hour!

T-Squared said...

My hats off to the FOX Business News interviewer, He did a fantastic job exploding the solar myth.