Hendrik Hertzberg And Energy Policy – Seems pretty neutral to me

What struck me the most about the posts and the material the right wing columnists produced was how consistently it was industry biased and really right wing sentiment. What is striking about the left wingers is how balanced they appear. Of course as far as I am concerned Ted Rall is the biggest lefty around in print and he made NEITHER list that I have been using. Never actually heard of this guy but then I don’t get out much.


Some Nukes

by Hendrik Hertzberg March 22, 2010

(dot dot dot)

There has always been something intuitively disproportionate about nuclear power plants, which, like coal-fired ones, use steam turbines to generate electricity. Converting mass to energy by atomic fission in order to achieve temperatures normally found only on the surface of stars like the sun and then using that extraterrestrial heat to boil water—well, it smacks of (to borrow a term from the nuclear dark side) overkill. To be fair, boiling water by burning black rocks made of petrified vegetable matter from the age of the dinosaurs is a little strange, too. And nuclear power plants have one great advantage over the fossil-fuel kind: they do not emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is hastening the world toward climatic disruption and disaster.

President Obama, in his State of the Union address, after talking up innovations in battery technology and solar panels, said, “To create more of these clean-energy jobs we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” Last month, he backed that up with a federal loan guarantee of $8.3 billion to build two new reactors near Waynesboro, Georgia. And in his budget request for 2011 he has asked for $46 billion more. The applause

for his State of the Union line was louder on the Republican side of the aisle than on the Democratic, and his words and actions have prompted loud grumbling from environmental organizations. But global warming has punched some holes in the green wall. Such founding fathers of the environmental movement as Stewart Brand, the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, and Patrick Moore, an early stalwart of Greenpeace, now support nukes. James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a climate-change prophet, favors the so-called fourth-generation nuclear systems, which would substantially reduce the amount of nuclear waste. Hans Blix, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector, is another supporter. So, within limits, are liberal senators like John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. And so is President Obama.

“We were hopeful last year—he was saying all the right things,” Erich Pica, the president of Friends of the Earth, said after Obama’s loan-guarantee announcement. “But now he has become a full-blown nuclear-power proponent—a startling change over the past few months.” Actually, Obama has been a nuclear-power proponent ever since he was a state legislator, but in the context of an energy regime that underwrites conservation, promotes renewables like wind and solar, and, crucially, puts a price on carbon. Nuclear power plants are unbelievably expensive to build, but once they are up and running the electricity they generate is cheap to produce. In the United States, coal plants (there are six hundred of them, as against a hundred nuclear ones) get a kind of subsidy, too, and it’s huge: the right to dispose of their most dangerous waste by sending it up the chimney, free of charge.

Please see the rest of article for a great summary of the past and a largely noncommital ending. More tomorrow.


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