Energy issues are at the center of political news this summer. Invited Thursday in La Matinale, the French engineer Jean-Marc Jancovici, a specialist in climate change, regrets, however, that these reflections only intervene in a context of crisis.
“Sobriety is something you do willingly, deliberately, voluntarily and planned. It’s something you organize yourself. If after a while oil and coal, you’re not dealing with sobriety: you’re dealing with poverty. “
A true French-speaking star in the debates around the energy transition, Jean-Marc Jancovici takes a critical look at the emergency measures taken in Europe on the sidelines of the conflict with Russia, which brutally affects the supply of fossil fuels. And he observes the evolution of consciousness with a cynicism tinged with irony.
We may not be completely at ease when we see the height of the obstacle to be crossed and the relaxation we have in the moment.
“The evolution of consciousness depends on the day and time. There are days when I tell myself that things are going in the right direction and others when I tell myself that nothing will be achieved except under the duress of external events”, regrets.
“For the last 20 years in Europe, we’ve been more in the second category. The domestic coal, oil and gas savings that we’ve done, we’ve done them when there wasn’t enough to burn rather than ‘become reasonable’.” continues the man who was at the origin, between 2000 and 2003, of the carbon footprint principle. “Therefore, we may not be entirely reassured when we compare the height of the barrier to be crossed with the relaxation we have at the moment.”
All energy production has a cost
Co-founder of the consultancy Carbone 4 and president of the ideas lab”“, Jean-Marc Jancovici prioritizes hydroelectricity – which is already the world’s first renewable energy – and nuclear energy to achieve an energy transition.
The specialist, on the other hand, is more skeptical about solar and wind energy: “Energies are renewable, but the capture devices are not”, he recalls. However, if we have managed to produce this type of device, in large quantities and at low cost, in a world that has been consuming more and more fossil fuels, we must ask ourselves if it is possible to maintain this production and the maintenance of existing devices, in a world without these fossil fuels. “There are no serious studies on the subject, so everyone has their opinion, including me”, laments the expert.
Globalization is oil. So, in an economy that is decarbonizing, let’s de-globalize.
Furthermore, devices such as solar panels depend on a globalized economy. In particular, they require rare metals and earths that are not accessible in countries like Switzerland. “But globalization is oil”, recalls Jean-Marc Jancovici. “It’s commercial ships, trucks and small planes. So in an economy that is decarbonizing, let’s deglobalize.” It is, therefore, in this context that we have to think about what the ramp passes in terms of energy devices.
At 60 years old, the engineer and lecturer also stands out for his position on nuclear energy. “We must have them in the range, because if we do without them, we complicate our lives and increase the risks”, he says, remembering in passing that all energy production has its equivalents. “Activities without risks and without waste, that doesn’t exist!”
Switzerland, privileged but not very economical
According to Jean-Marc Jancovici, Switzerland is therefore in a privileged position in terms of energy, as its indigenous electricity production is already composed almost exclusively of hydroelectricity and nuclear energy.
However, it doesn’t look particularly good in terms of consumption. “The few times I come to Switzerland for a drive, I’m not particularly impressed by the modest size of the cars,” he says wryly, while highlighting the country’s efforts to make buildings more efficient in terms of heating.
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He also reminds us that the places that can be equipped with dams are not infinite. “Once you have abstracted water from an entire basin, you cannot add a dam to capture the same water. For example, you could not add a dam in the Val d’Anniviers, because the water is already captured to go to the Grande Dixence ” on the other side, in the Val d’Hérens.
“So Switzerland already has the two essential elements of carbon-free electricity. But that won’t be enough. Even with these two energy sources, we won’t do as much as we are doing today. So the issue of sobriety is absolutely central,” he recalls. .
Interview by David Berger
Web text: Pierrik Jordan