"Leave no fuel behind," says the Progressive Policy Institute. In her policy report, Finding Common Ground on Cap and Trade, Jan Maruzek, senior scholar at PPI, "advances three principles to help break the present impasse over how to price carbon emissions, how to allocate emissions permits, and how to weigh nuclear power's contribution to America's clean-energy portfolio."
PPI on nuclear's role,
When it comes to clean energy, silver bullets are few and far between. The business of making solar panels, particularly in China, relies on a slew of toxic chemicals. The economic and environmental downsides of biofuels made from food products are coming to light. Renewable sources, while extraordinarily promising, are simply not yet capable of supplying energy in remotely the same quantities as coal, which presently provides 50 percent of U.S. electricity.
Nuclear power generates electricity with no CO2 emissions, but any expansion of this industry begs the question of where to store spent fuel. The truth of the matter is that cutting greenhouse gases by more than one-half by mid-century will require us to harness all of these energy sources. The EPA’s recent economic analysis of the Lieberman-Warner bill assumes, for example, that electricity generated by nuclear power will grow 150 percent and that the nation will soon refine technologies to remove and store carbon from coal-fired electricity plants. Non-fossil energy sources such as biomass, solar, and wind will also provide a growing share of the mix.
In order to develop the most effective emission-reducing combination of energy technologies, we will need to redouble our federal energy-research efforts. For example, we should invest more heavily in such advances as carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems; next-generation nuclear pebble-bed reactors that consume uranium more efficiently and reduce the potential threat of proliferation; and spentfuel reprocessing methods of the kind that the French have safely harnessed for decades.
Finally, and most importantly, PPI supports measures to aggressively expand the use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal power. Previous iterations of the Lieberman legislative proposal, formerly co-sponsored by Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.), would have diverted some revenues from a partial auction to help fund vital research and development into clean energy sources. The current version of the bill still contains support for CCS and renewables, but fails to explicitly mention ways to support next-generation nuclear technologies.
This silence on nuclear energy prompted Sen. McCain to withdraw his support. Some Republicans in the Senate have vowed to add nuclear amendments—a move that led in part to Sen. Boxer’s threat to pull the bill from the floor. As the EPA’s recent economic analysis shows, however, we simply cannot meet our twin goals of climate stabilization and cost reduction without a concerted push into nuclear, CCS, and renewable energy. As it takes up the Lieberman-Warner proposal, the Senate must recognize that we presently are not in a position to take any promising energy source off the table.