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Italian Referendum Limits Berlusconi, Swells Antinuclear Tide

Italy's referendum result creates two distinct camps within Europe on the nuclear power issue.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 6/13/2011, 10:08 PM / Last Update: 6/14/2011, 8:45 AM

Anybody who had invested in solar energy and wind power stocks is doing well. Following the German government's U-turn on nuclear energy as a result of the disaster in Japan, comes the Italian referendum, slamming the door on Italian Prime Minister's Silvio Berlusconi idea of relying more on nuclear energy.

Aside from his meeting with Israel's Prime Minister, it was a bad day for Berlusconi, as voters rejected his position in four separate referendums and more importantly secured a quorum for carrying them. This is the first time this was accomplished since 1996 when the idea of referenda had become tiresome.

The Italian prime minister now looks to be on shakier grounds as the rumblings are being heard from the leadership of the Northern League, a key coalition partner, whereas after the local government debacle the recriminations were coming from the rank-and-file.

The nuclear issue eclipsed all the other issues. Silvio Berlusconi was laconic about the other referendum results, saying that one would have to take account of them, but on the nuclear issue he said addio - goodbye to nuclear energy and hello to renewable energy.

For the Italians who live in a country afflicted by earthquakes, the Japanese precedent could not be ignored. As opposed to Germany that has coal and had made an earlier investments in solar and wind energy, the decision leaves Italy further dependent on fossil fuel imports. Silvio Berlusconi realized this dependence when he supported Russia within the European Union.

The results of the Italian referendum have now created 2 distinct camps within Europe: Italy and Germany have turned their backs on nuclear energy while France and Britain are persisting. This has already created the paradoxical result that Germany, until it can replace the power output furnished by nuclear reactors, is importing energy from France - energy generated by nuclear reactors.

One of the German solutions is to create giant solar farms in North Africa. Given the current instability in that region, Germany may have reason to fear a different type of earthquake in that region. Perhaps it was with the hope of restoring stability that Germany finally recognized the insurgent Libyan regime in Benghazi after falling out with her allies and abstaining on the UN Security Council Resolution facilitating humanitarian intervention in Libya.