Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Perils of Advocacy: Texas Edition

 logo-tsepaA group called Nuclear Energy for Texans (NET) is protesting the actions of another group, Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Alliance (TSEPA), who, according to NET, are up to mischief:

"It is outrageous that this small anti-nuclear activist group would travel across the country to try and derail a project that the vast majority of Victoria, Texas residents whole-heartedly support."

And though the story doesn't say what that mischief might be, Marketwatch has another press release to explain:

TSEPA spokesperson John Figer states: "Exelon's record in Illinois is clear. We don't want to be a Braidwood, Texas. Beyond safety, this project critically impacts our state's water future. The Guadalupe River has been listed as one of the 10 most threatened rivers in the U.S. and we don't have enough water to support a thirsty nuclear power plant. A lack of freshwater inflow will critically impact the San Antonio bay, wetlands, estuaries, fish and the endangered whooping cranes. Nuclear power plants should go in places with major sources of water... and that is not in Victoria, Texas."

And TSEPA headed up to Illinois to protest in front of Exelon's headquarters. Sounds very Chinatown, doesn't it?, although without the sister-daughter thing. It's all about the water.

However, most water that goes into a nuclear plant comes right back out and none the worse for wear. Environmental studies also have to be done to ensure no harm is done. (In fact, Exelon will build two ponds on the site and bypass the Guadalupe River completely. The company doesn't say if it'll stock those ponds with fish or other wildlife but it could. See here for more from Exelon.) For these reasons, TSEPA's pitch seems to us a non-starter. However, NET's response carries a certain chill:

The small anti-nuclear activists group TSEPA who is protesting the Victoria plant is financed almost entirely by people who do not even live in the Victoria area.

This sounds like the "outside agitators" argument you used to hear right before union meetings and civil rights marches got busted up. People inside and outside Victoria have an interest in the new plant.

We're on NET's side - no surprise there - but TSEPA does not appear to be doing anything grossly wrong - well, the "facts" on their web site are pretty fact free, but no law stops them from making an argument with bad facts. They'll just lose in the end. Calling TSEPA small and funded by visigoth outsiders is unproductive - just roll out the truth, NET! It's enough.

TSEPA's logo has a cowboy Bar-B-Bar brand kind of vibe to it, which might be intended to attract exceptionally green bullriders and rodeo clowns - well, at least it's different than that usual blue skies blue water thing these kinds of groups like to use.

8 comments:

Rod Adams said...

I agree that calling an anti-nuclear group small and funded by outsiders is not a particularly useful argument, but it would be very interesting to find out who is actually funding the organization.

If, for example, the funds come from an electrical power supply competitor, that might help people understand that the argument is not really about water, but about money.

There is quite a bit of history in Texas already about the activities of groups like the Chesapeake Energy (one of the country's largest natural gas producers) funded Texas Clean Sky Coalition. That "small outsider funded" group paid for the "Coal is Filthy" series of advertisements in opposition to TXU's plans for 11 new coal fired power plants. I see no reason to suspect that such activity is limited to anti-coal groups.

In my opinion, exposing the funding sources for opposition groups helps the public to understand the battles a bit better - we all know that businesses fight each other over market share and sometimes use lies to do it.

Recognition of the truth about energy supply choices can be aided by understanding the motives of the debate participants, even if the technology itself is a bit mysterious.

Anonymous said...

"In my opinion, exposing the funding sources for opposition groups helps the public to understand the battles a bit better - we all know that businesses fight each other over market share and sometimes use lies to do it."

You're aware, I assume, that the pro-nuclear group in Victoria County was founded and is primarily funded by Exelon?

Rod Adams said...

@anonymous - I was not aware of the funding for the pro-nuclear group. I hope that Exelon gives them plenty of support and resources and makes that support well known. Just out of curiosity - is the support from Exelon's corporate budget or is it from individual Exelon employees?

At least in the US, all enterprises have a right to tell their story and to convince people to purchase their product as long as they tell the truth. Commercial speech is protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.

Though many people in the anti-nuclear industry try to paint the NEI and other groups as rich and effective lobbyists, the reality is that the "nuclear industry" has been almost uniquely reluctant to advertise and advocate. Compare the amount of advertising and lobbying money from nuclear to that from coal, wind, solar, gas, or oil and you will see what I mean.

Gunter accused GE of an hour long advert for nuclear with its production of "Nuclear Option", but I watched the Olympics and saw GE's real "ecomagination" advertising budget at work for solar, wind, water, etc. without a single ESBWR mention at all.

One problem has always been that there really is no "nuclear industry" to speak of since all of the major participants have a balanced portfolio of energy related products.

Those companies do not really care to elevate their sales of nuclear related products - which are often a minor part of their overall portfolio - if those sales damage their fossil, solar, biomass, efficiency, and wind related products.

Chad said...

I’m sorry but I have to point out some problems with this entry.

“However, most water that goes into a nuclear plant comes right back…”

Yes and no. I believe the existing STP units are once through circ water systems with each unit requiring about 600,000 gpm which the vast majority of it is returned. The new plant will likely be a closed loop system with cooling towers and require 20,000 gpm and return maybe half of that. The link to the previous blog entry is really more topical to all steam electric plants with once through condensers.

Also, the water return will be of little value. STP is on the coast. The intake at STP is likely brackish water and the discharge is likely to go into the ocean. The intake water was fresh upstream thus still depleting the fresh water source.

“The small anti-nuclear activists group TSEPA who is protesting the Victoria plant is financed almost entirely by people who do not even live in the Victoria area.”

Texas has water issues. If you are on a river, what people do up and down stream of you does affect you. So people outside of Victoria do have legitimate reason to worry about how water is being used. But, these people probably live California—or maybe their financial backers do.

“In fact, Exelon will build two ponds on the site and bypass the Guadalupe River completely.”

These ponds are filled by a river, probably the Guadalupe River. During a drought, they will use the ponds as a reserve but will need to eventually refill them. That may eliminate the need to use the River during a drought thus not making the conditions worst but the River will be used.

Anonymous said...

“The small anti-nuclear activists group TSEPA who is protesting the Victoria plant is financed almost entirely by people who do not even live in the Victoria area.”

so is the local pro-nuclear group, founded and funded by Exelon

Mark Flanagan said...

Guys -

Bottom line, we don't care who funds a group. TSEPA and NET still have to send actual people to public meetings, write editorials and make their arguments. If Exelon wants to build support, they can; if Riverkeepers (or whoever) wants to take the other side of the argument, fine. Not all arguments are equal, but we can't determine which wins the debate unless all speech is free.

Man Overboard said...

Fear is what funds these groups. Without fear blinding them to the facts and science behind nuclear power their merry little band would quickly fall apart.

The industry needs to combat this issue at it's source. We need to stop hiding behind high walls and get the facts out there about what really happens at a Nuclear Station.

Anonymous said...

Here's a fact: Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Alliance is entirely funded by residents of Victoria County.

It's Executive Director, John Figer, is a resident of Paradise Ranch, adjacent to Victoria, TX.

Everyone that has supported this group so far will be directly affected by the plant. This plant will affect our water supply, and its not about contamination. Exelon's has stated exactly how much water the plant will need and the Guadalupe River simply cannot sustain that.

Here's another fact: the Guadalupe River sustains communities across Texas, and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority sold Exelon massive water rights without any water plan in place. That is like buying a house before you know your salary. Businesses need that water. Economies all across Texas need that water to grow.

TSEPA has not been anti-nuke. They simply ask for Victoria to take everything into consideration before wholeheartedly backing a decision that would change the economic landscape of Texas.

Shame on NET, which is itself a thinly veiled publicity stunt brought to you by Exelon and Elizabeth Christian PR, for trying to attack the credibility of people who are genuinely concerned for their community.

Pot, meet kettle.