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Sunday, July 6, 2008

German Nuclear Opposition Fades as Oil Price Rises, Poll Shows

German opposition to nuclear power is fading as energy prices rise, with a scant majority in favor of government plans to phase out nuclear plants, a poll showed.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they want Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government to press ahead with the planned closure of all 17 plants by the end of the next decade, according to the Infratest Dimap poll for ARD television released late yesterday. That's seven percentage points less than in December, ARD said. Forty-four percent said they were against the phase-out, a rise of eight points.

Merkel and Economy Minister Michael Glos have questioned whether Europe's biggest economy can afford to shut the plants as oil prices soar and countries such as France and the U.K. opt to build more reactors to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. Nuclear power accounts for about a quarter of Germany's power supply, according to Glos' ministry.

``I think it's wrong to shut down nuclear plants that are among the safest in the world,'' Merkel said in a speech to her Christian Democratic Union party June 18 in Berlin. ``Whenever it's possible, and I'm still hoping that some may realize this, this policy must be corrected.''

Germany is committed to closing its nuclear power plants by about 2021 under an agreement reached by the previous coalition government of then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats and the Green Party.

The current government of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats agreed to continue the policy in its coalition accord of 2005. Merkel has so far pushed off a decision on the phase- out until after the next national election in September 2009.

Crude oil rose for a second week to record levels in New York after the International Energy Agency said July 1 that spare OPEC capacity will shrink by 2013, keeping the market ``tight.'' Futures yesterday climbed to $145.85 a barrel, the highest since trading began in 1983. Prices have risen 3.6 percent this week and more than doubled in the past year.

Infratest polled 1,000 people between June 30 and July 1. The margin of error is between 1.3 and 3.1 percentage points.

(Source: Bloomberg)

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