Friday, January 30, 2009

Ahh, That Heritage Foundation: Nuclear Ideas & Partisan Hectoring

480x230_AskHeritage_VER2 The Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler offered up some nuclear prescriptions to the new administration in yesterday’s Washington Times:

First, Washington should create a level playing field for energy ideas. That means no longer artificially favoring one new energy source over another and instead creating a strong, market-oriented approach to energy so that the best sources can expand. It's time to say no to lobbyist-driven subsidies and phase out existing ones.

Second, Congress and the administration must commit to respecting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s authority to review the permit application to construct the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in Nevada.

Third, we need to cut the red tape now slowing plant construction. The arduous, four-year nuclear-plant permitting process should be replaced with a new two-year fast-track process for experienced applicants who meet reasonable siting and investment requirements.

We don’t disagree with any of it specifically, though we’re reasonably sure Butler knows that banning lobbyist-driven subsidies needs 536 members of Congress to sign on to it – and since all of them would deny being thus influenced, they see no need to stop it. (It’s a wee bit of a red herring anyway; lobbyist activity flows from many sides of an issue, though admittedly, some lobbyists are much more effective than others.)

You may have noticed the call for a “strong, market-oriented approach” and thought to yourself, Ahh, that Heritage Foundation. But Heritage has in the past been more likely to throw government under a bus and back up over it, so this represents something new – a recognition that government and industry are in the energy business together. Heritage favors the industry side, the Center for American Progress the government side. That’s just how it goes in the wide world of partisan big thinkers.

We can’t let Butler go – but do read his whole article; it’s pretty good – without tweaking him a bit:

Anyone old enough to remember the 1979 movie "China Syndrome," about the deadly cover-up of a nuclear accident, knows Jane Fonda and other liberals would have a fit at the idea of more nuclear energy.

Ahh, that Heritage Foundation. The red meat’s getting a little gray and mealy there. Even kids of my generation remember Miss Fonda more as an exercise guru. We think Heritage would do itself a big favor by recognizing that nuclear energy isn’t quite the liberal danger flag it used to be. Even anti-nuclear environmental activists are beginning to look like dead-enders. Heritage’s ideas are good enough that there’s really no need to throw slop to the hard core.

One of the Heritage Foundation’s initiatives. We have a feeling if you ask Heritage a question, Jane Fonda might well be part of the answer.


Jason Ribeiro said...

Though I agree with the general spirit of not picking any energy winners or losers as a matter of government policy and leveling the playing field, each energy source is different and to make things fair there might need to be some kind of "affirmative action" type plan for energy. For example, wind turbines and solar panels don't bear the burden of a 4 million dollar per year license fee that a nuclear plant does. In addition, they get their sprinkle of subsidies from federal, state and local sources.

Polluters should have to pay for their pollution and clean sources should be rewarded, but nuclear can't compete in the low cost clean energy arena -- yet. While the cost per KWh might be the lowest for nuclear, the upstart costs are another story.

As to exactly what policy apparatus could be constructed to make the playing field more level, I'm not exactly sure, but for starters I'd like to see some research money and policy changes made to create a new small reactor market, however the recent paper from the NRC in regards to small reactors isn't encouraging, bordering on adversarial.

As the gov't. seems to be very willing to throw more research money toward wind and solar, it's doing a good job of picking some favorites unfortunately.

Joseph Somsel said...

for a bit of perspective about the TMI accident, it took place 28 years after the first nuclear-generated electricity (1951) from Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I).

But TMI happened 30 years ago.

Hence we're further down the development path today from TMI than TMI was from the first nuclear generator.