Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Candidates' Energy Plans

Energy Central has posted a new survey of the Presidential candidates' platform planks about energy issues. Many articles have tired of waiting for the Democrats to select a candidate and have settled for an extra paragraph to handle the extra weight. You'd hardly notice, especially since Obama and Clinton are not very far apart in their respective approaches to energy issues and Obama rarely if ever allows the word "nuclear" to cross his lips.

Here's McCain on nuclear:

He says that the obstacles that have kept a new nuclear power plant from being constructed for more than 25 years are political, not technological. He asks, rhetorically, whether the United States is less innovative or secure than France, which produces 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. He suggests providing for the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel by giving host states or localities a proprietary interest so when advanced recycling technologies turn used fuel into a valuable commodity, the public will share in its economic benefits.

In spite of his declaration for market-based solutions, McCain doesn't hesitate to suggest government intervention where necessary, noting that public-private partnerships may be necessary to build demonstration models of promising new technologies. That would include helping to move forward advanced nuclear power plants, coal gasification, carbon capture and storage and renewable power.

This is about the same mix as we've seen under President Bush. McCain stresses recycling over storage and tries to circumvent the NIMBY backlash Nevada has visited upon Yucca Mountain by giving communities that accept recycling centers a cut of the profits. How that might work without including state and local government in the recycling business is an open question; the startup costs would be enormous and more plausibly undertaken by private enterprise, with states and cities perhaps seeing an concomitant increase in tax and other revenues.

If this is what McCain means, the educative process has to be responsive to community concerns or it's Nevada again, with hundreds of Harry Reids demagogueing the issue instead of the one Harry Reid we now must endure.

Now, Clinton:

While Obama is strangely silent on the issue of nuclear energy, Clinton is not. She believes that energy efficiency and renewables are better options. As she sees it, there are significant unresolved issues about the cost of producing nuclear power, the safety of operating plants, waste disposal, and nuclear proliferation. So Clinton opposes new subsidies for nuclear power.

She would strengthen the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and direct it to improve safety and security at nuclear power plants. Furthermore, she would terminate work at the Yucca Mountain site while also convening a panel of scientific experts to explore alternatives for disposing of nuclear waste. But she would continue research, with a focus on lower costs and improving safety.

Somewhat amusingly, Clinton is pretty close to McCain, though she cuts the deck a little differently. She hits the sweet spot of the environmental crew - no nukes! - while not actually doing anything very drastic. After all, the NRC isn't playing computer solitaire all day and a President Clinton will probably not find much cause to "direct it to improve safety" beyond what it does now. She also might find that panel of scientific experts recommending something much like -- Yucca Mountain -- perhaps even that lonely mountain itself.

As for Clinton, or any President, precluding "new subsidies," that is likely to run up against an increasingly enthusiastic Congress. Since polls indicate Congress will stay in Democratic hands, it is untenable to assume that this will be the issue on which Clinton or Obama will expend much political capital.

Finally, Obama:

As president, Obama said he would establish a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade to help meet the 2030 goal. And he would create a competitive grant program to reward states and localities that implement new building codes prioritizing energy efficiency.

Well, take it for what it is. From the perspective of nuclear energy, Obama is clearly the wildest of wild cards in this deck.

It may point to a signal failure of the energy industry that Democrat=environmentalist does not include nuclear energy in the equation. While more Democrats in Congress have come to realize the net positive of nuclear, it is disappointing to see that it is, at best, behind heavy lead shields among the Democratic Presidential candidates.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been telling everybody that the Dem candidates for the White House are anti-nuke. They will appoint an anti-nuke DOE secretary and anti-nukes like Jackzo to the NRC. People here may like like Bush or the Republicans, but if nuke power is to succeed, everyone has got to vote Republican. That's simply the way it is. McCain is pro-nuke. The Dems are not. Mark my words: a Dem in the White House will kill GNEP and any hope of a nuke resurgence.

David Bradish said...

anon, maybe Senator Clinton could be a burden but I bet Senator Obama could do good things for the nuclear industry. One of the biggest supporters for Senator Obama is Exelon. I highly doubt he would turn against Exelon once he's in office.

If the nuclear industry is to survive and re-surge, nuclear energy needs to be a bipartisan issue. Now is the time for the nuclear industry to engage the Democrats and teach them the benefits of the atom.

Anonymous said...

If a politician is not 100% pro-nuclear I'm not voting for them.

They can come up with all the excuses they want, but I'm casting my vote for the pro-nuclear candidate.

Anonymous said...

David, I'm the first anon guy. I really hope you're right. I wrote the Obama campaign. I think he's an honest guy. But I don't trust his stance on nuclear energy, and I strongly oppose his pro-abortion policy (which has nothing to do with things nuclear). However, of all the candidates I wrote to, his was the only campaign that actually responded with a very nice letter - probably a standard form letter, but nice anyways. Obama won't change his ambivalence about nuclear power or his favor of abortions, but he does seem to be honest. I actually don't have bad things to say about him outside of the right to life. Normally, I just can't stand liberals of any sort. ;-) Now Hillary is a different matter altogether. Sadly, she's no Margaret Thatcher.

Ondrej said...

"Obama says it's unlikely that the world can meet climate goals without nuclear power. "

http://www.redorbit.com/news/business/1320459/democrats_offer_plans_for_climate_change/

Red Craig said...

This is what Sen. Obama's website says on his energy policy as it relates to nuclear energy:

"Nuclear power represents more than 70 percent of our non- Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy:
carbon generated electricity. It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we
eliminate nuclear power from the table. However, there is no future for expanded nuclear
without first addressing four key issues: public right-to-know, security of nuclear fuel and
waste, waste storage, and proliferation. Barack Obama introduced legislation in the U.S.
Senate to establish guidelines for tracking, controlling and accounting for spent fuel at nuclear
power plants.

"To prevent international nuclear material from falling into terrorist hands abroad, Obama
worked closely with Sen. Dick Lugar (R – IN) to strengthen international efforts to identify and
stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction. As president, Obama will make
safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti-terrorism priority.
Obama will also lead federal efforts to look for a safe, long-term disposal solution based on
objective, scientific analysis. In the meantime, Obama will develop requirements to ensure that
the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry-cask storage
technology available. Barack Obama believes that Yucca Mountain is not an option. Our
government has spent billions of dollars on Yucca Mountain, and yet there are still significant
questions about whether nuclear waste can be safely stored there."

Sen. Obama states a policy, something Sen. Clinton hasn't done. Since nuclear energy has already shown it can meet the conditions he sets, I believe any clear-thinking Obama administration will pursue nuclear energy as aggressively as possible.