Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Heritage Foundation on Lieberman-Warner

heritagelogo In general, we find Heritage Foundation documents to be well researched with a heavy overlay of conservative ideology, a combination that can be sometimes be useful for providing a philosophical framework but sometimes toxic to a full appreciation of a topic.

(We hasten to add that it is not the conservative basis that creates problems but the ideological determinism - any ideology can warp an argument if excessively depended upon. Practical realities tend to decay in the face of ideological calcification. Heritage has been guiltier of this than some.)

However, allowing for some free-market-trumps-all talk, Heritage's Jack Spencer has a good rundown of the issues facing Lieberman-Warner and tries to inject a bit of a counterweight into the conversation, particularly around the issue of nuclear energy and its potential role in mitigating greenhouse gas emission.

The article starts off with that end-of-days meme that we noted the other day:

The reality is that the United States has not ordered a new reactor since the mid-1970s and it does not have the industrial infrastructure to build even one reactor today. Its industrial and intellectual base atrophied as the nuclear industry declined over the past three decades. Large forging production, heavy manufacturing, specialized piping, mining, fuel services, and skilled labor all must be reconstituted in massive quantities.

Don't worry - they have little hope for globalization, either:

Global supply is no more promising, especially when one considers that the rest of the world is coming to similar conclusions about the emerging role of nuclear power in meeting CO2 reductions. The global nuclear industrial base currently supports 33 reactors under construction (mostly in Asia and Russia) and the normal operation and maintenance of the world's existing 439 reactors (including those in the U.S.).

Frankly, we find all this a touch (even way) too pessimistic; Heritage, of all places, should see this potential for the revival or creation of new industry as a boon. We've seen through our glances at the world nuclear renaissance that where's there's a will (backed by a few dollars or euros, of course), there's a way.

But the article means to demonstrate that many nuclear plants could be built relatively quickly and provides a proscriptive 10-point list to achieve it. Here are the bullet points; you can see the explanations at the link.

1.  Let the market work.

2. Limit government support to that provided by EPACT 2005.

3. Hold accountable those leading the charge to cap CO2.

4. Put industry in control of fuel cycle management.

5. Open America's doors to legal immigration of skilled labor.

6. Remove commodity tariffs.

7. Liberalize the global commercial nuclear market.

8. Increase supply.The United States needs to increase energy supplies.

9. Take the lead in developing a new international framework for managing the global growth of nuclear power.

10. Reengage Nevada on Yucca Mountain.

Do we agree with all of this? Not really: nuclear energy is a non-starter in a deregulated environment and the United States in particular and the world in general have a vested interest in keeping their eyeballs on the flow of uranium. Heritage is closing in on a libertarian approach here that would make many policymakers nervous. But there are good ideas here, too, certainly worth further conversation.

As always, see what you think.

1 comment:

Joseph Somsel said...

Mr. Flanagan,

"{Nuclear is] a non-starter in a de-regulated environment" - not so. Just ask NRG about their South Texas Project Units 3 and 4. Merchant nukes are feasible, or at least are viewed practical enough to justify multi-hundred million dollar ventures.

I think you would be on firmer ground if you stuck to the issues under discussion rather than over-generalizing about the Heritage Foundation. What you call "ideology" might be termed "principles" by many. I'll agree that they sometimes, as we all do, presume a perfect world without compromises to pragmatism. For example, open door immigration has nothing that I can see to do with expanding our fleet of nuclear plants.

I will claim they have added more constructive criticsm than, say, Ralph Nader. The reason they presumably "would make so many policymakers nervous" is that many of their views are shared by so many voters.