Marc Gunther at Climatebiz.com has a good piece on the counter productive hostility towards nuclear within the environmental movement and among Democratic congressional leaders.
The politics of nuclear are complicated. Chu, who’s probably the smartest guy in the Obama cabinet, supports nuclear energy but Carol Browner, who’s an experienced Washington power player (no pun intended) is said to be a strong opponent. Liberal Democrats on Capital Hill — Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid — also oppose nuclear power. Given a choice between nuclear and coal as a source of baseload power, they’re likely to favor coal.
Crane said: “Right now the dominant wing of the Democratic Party knows they need to accommodate the coal wing of the Democratic Party in order to get energy and environmental policy passed.” That leaves nuclear out of the deal-making.
We really should pause to consider this. The political posturing of those listed above is undoubtedly going to increase our near-term reliance on coal. While the Obama administration supports “clean coal” capture technology, no technical solution currently exists. Complicating this further is the strident opposition to even investing in clean coal by the same environmental organizations that are hostile to nuclear.
From a political standpoint, I can understand the Democratic leaderships need to placate its coal wing and we should aggressively support clean coal research. But this can be accomplished without undermining our only industrial scale source of CO2 free energy — nuclear power.
There is one point of clarification I would offer Gunther in response to his last paragraph:
President Obama hasn’t said much about nuclear. It may well be that technology breakthroughs in solar, geothermal, wind or battery storage will mean that we don’t need nuclear energy as a source of low-carbon power. But until those breakthroughs come along, shouldn’t we keep the nuclear option open?
It is not what President Obama has said about nuclear that is the problem, it is the direct action his administration has taken to give Harry Reid a political payback and gut what was supposed to be the country’s long-term nuclear waste storage solution.
Crossposted at Conservatives for Science