Building a nuclear power plant for less than one coffee a day?

The European branch of Politico is suggesting a new way of presenting the cost of EU membership: “The Cappuccino Index“.

The Cappuccino Index

Politico ranked the countries according to how much citizens pay for the EU and came to the conclusion that the contribution of the EU countries to the EU is less than the price of a daily cup of coffee by its citizens during one year. The highest value came from Luxembourg with a contribution to the EU of €1.47 per capita per day, closely followed by Belgium with €1.46.

This index seem to be inspired by the new EU campaign, stating that the EU costs its citizens less than a cup of coffee a day. This probably in the context of their intention to increase the EU budget and looking for ways of making it a bit more acceptable to the public, but that aside.

How the calculation is done is not really clear. The price of that cup of coffee was not mentioned. Also, no distinction was made between a “cup of coffee” (12 mentions), a “coffee with milk” (1 mention) and a “cappuccino” (4 mentions). Those three seem to be used interchangeably, also in the title (“cappuccino” index) and the url slug (“coffee” index). Belgium gets a score of €1.46 and, according to the “cappuccino index” graph, this was 55% of a “coffee (with milk)”. If I calculate that back to 100%, then the total price for the coffee/coffee with milk/cappuccino is €2.65. That seems to somewhat correspond with the price for a cappuccino in most places (confirming the title), unless they refer to the price of a coffee in a large city (confirming most references in the article).

I think it is part of the framing. A coffee will cost less than a cappuccino. Telling something costs less than a coffee when one means less than the cost of a cappuccino is misleading. Also, I am not sure whether the Italians would be amused knowing that people conflate a cappuccino with a a “cup of coffee” or a “cup of coffee with milk”. 😉

Apparently they took the “local price”, which means that the pricing was different for the different countries. Where do these prices come from? A coffee/coffee with milk/cappuccino in a local café in small village? In a tea room in a medium city? In a three-star restaurant in big city? Was this comparable in all those countries?

Just €1.46 per day seems not that much, but together it will be quite a load of money. There are 365 days in a year and there are about 11,3 million Belgians, so we are talking about 11.3 million times 365 times €1.46, meaning a contribution of roughly 6 billion euros by Belgium.

By the way, the yearly EU budget from all member countries amounts €136,416,400,000 in 2016 (that much is “just a coffee per day”). If they want to raise their budget, then it would be a smart move to present the cost of the EU as less than the cost of a coffee per person than to say that they want 30 billion or so extra.

If that 6 billion per year for Belgium is true, then yes, the Belgians contribute (on average) less than the price of a cappuccino per day. But this way one can prove about anything. To come to the price of one local cup of cappuccino of €2.65 per day for one year, our country has to spend at least 11 billion euros. Anything below that will be “less than one cappuccino per day per citizen”.

That gave me an idea. A couple days ago, I read an article on the VRT news site about the current heated discussion on whether to continue with nuclear power in Belgium or not. The VRT journalist claims in that article that nuclear power is not an option because it is too expensive. He gives the examples of new turbines under construction in France and Finland. The turbines in Finland were estimated to cost 3.5 billion euros, but this has increased to 9 billion euros in the meanwhile. The same with the turbines in France that were expected to cost 3.3 billion, but now very close to delivery, the budget has increased to 10 billion euros.

9 to 10 billion euros?

Hey, from what we have seen above, that is just peanuts…

That is even less than 1 lousy cappuccino a day!

I guess pro nuclear politicians are thrilled with this new cappuccino index. They now have the tool to present the cost of nuclear power in a different way. For just 1 cappuccino a day during 1 year, we can secure the construction of 2+ GW capacity, able to produce reliable power for the next 40 to 60 years…

With the complements of the EU, showing how huge costs can be successfully framed…

4 thoughts on “Building a nuclear power plant for less than one coffee a day?

  1. manicbeancounter

    The overall costs really should not matter. It is whether spending the money provides a net positive outcome. When someone purchases a cappuccino they do make the choice, so one assumes that they prefer the drink to the €2.65. The vendor prefers the €2.65 to the cappuccino, so both win. Whether the EU provides net benefits for its budgets is a contentious issue. I would claim that many things it does at the margin are hugely net harmful.
    But at the level of energy provision, the question is more like for providing coffee. At the margin, is providing wind turbines of greater net-benefit than providing the alternatives? In this case, the only other option appears to be nuclear power. Nuclear power is very good for reliable baseload power. Much would be wasted if there were no other sources of energy. But wind energy is highly intermittent and certainly does not provide electricity when required. Both would require ways of storing power if no other sources of electricity were available, but wind power storage would have to make up for the random nature of the supply. It would be many days of storage, rather than a few hours for nuclear power.
    Of course, if political appearances are more important than the substance of serving real needs, then wind turbines will be the way to go.

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    1. trustyetverify Post author

      There are many ways of looking at it. They used it to show that the contribution to the EU is very small (on average “less than one coffee per day”), with the additional advantage that in case of a 10% or 20% raise of the budget, they can still claim that the contribution is “less than one coffee a day”…

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