Friday, April 10, 2009

When Newspapers Attack

TWTlogo We generally respect the work done at newspapers – pits of liberal iniquity that they are – because the effort at that first draft of history is important and nothing else has come along to fill that role. Plus, we scurry to add, bias in writing comes out more through detail selection than actual ideological mischief – journalistic writing has a lot of rules to tamp down overt editorializing – but sometimes, you just have to wonder.

Nuclear energy advocates quietly slipped an extra $50 billion for an Energy Department program into the Senate's budget blueprint last week, giving new life to a provision that had been rejected as "nuclear pork" in February's economic stimulus bill.

Well, no, we don’t remember it being rejected on that basis. Pork, as commonly defined, is a budget item inserted by a Congress person to benefit his or her district. Loan guarantees benefit an industry, true enough, but DOE, which will award them, hasn’t specified which projects might receive them, so no one knows which district will benefit.

Second, pork implies a cash pay-out and that’s not the case here. Loan guarantees make banks more likely to loan money, but the debt still lies with the loanee, not the government. The one argument that could gain some traction is that the government will be on the hook in case of default, but Exelon, Constellation, etc., aren’t what one would call bad risks.

It gets worse:

Without debate, explanation or a recorded vote, senators accepted an amendment by Sen. Michael D. Crapo, Idaho Republican, to boost the department's "low-carbon" energy loan construction guarantee program by $50 billion over five years.

This just isn’t very shocking in this kind of action. There’s still a long way to go and a bunch of elements – including true pork – are getting into the budget bill. The only reason to present it this way is to gin up opposition. Loan guarantees could have been accurately described if the Washington Times had talked to someone in the nuclear industry or even to NEI. So who did writer Edward Felker talk to?

Friends of the Earth plans to lobby against the plan again. It says the measure's reappearance, even in its current nonbinding form in the Senate-passed budget resolution, is proof that its sponsors are determined to win the money this year.

"There is no question the nuclear industry is not giving up," said Nick Berning, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth. The industry's backers in the Senate, he said, are "trying again and we're going to fight it."

Oh no, them again. FOE certainly has as much right as NEI to take a stand on this provision and (nuclear) power to them to do it. But they’re not a notably honest group – they don’t want nuclear energy, fine, but their characterization of the loan guarantees tries to present it as a taxpayer soak, and it’s just not.

And aside from a bland quote from Sen. Crapo’s office, that’s it. The Washington Times really blew it with this one.

(Incidentally, we’d prefer to see loan guarantees in the upcoming energy bill. That’s the more appropriate place for them and ropes them into the larger arguments that will coalesce around that bill. That’s the better place even for FOE to go at it, when you think about it – less static from all the other stuff in the budget bill.)

You pronounce Crapo with a long “a,” by the way, as we’re sure Idahoans know.


Marcel F. Williams said...

Since greenhouse gas polluting fossil fuel power plants are required to supplement both wind and solar when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, 'Friends of the Earth' doesn't seem to care much about global warming and global sea rise which threatens our environment.

If Friends of the Earth really cared about the Earth's environment, then they'd agree with environmentalist like James Lovelock who strongly supports the rapid expansion of nuclear power.

Anonymous said...

You didn't notice that "nuclear pork" was A QUOTE cited by the Times before launching this lengthy exercise in grammatical micromanagement?

Ioannes said...


I truly liked your phrase, "We generally respect the work done at newspapers – pits of liberal iniquity that they are..."

Everyone agrees that the government must never control the press. But no one questions when the press controls the government.

Let's hope that that isn't the case here. let's hope that the Obama Administration is really serious about reducing green house gas emissions and promoting low cost, pollution free electricity. I would prefer this done by the free market and a level regulatory playing field. But failing that, loan guarantees aren't a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said, "You didn't notice that "nuclear pork" was A QUOTE cited by the Times before launching this lengthy exercise in grammatical micromanagement?"

Well, yes, it was in quotation marks, but I didn't see it attributed to anyone. Maybe I missed it. The article is full of phrases and words in quotation marks without attribution, what kind of 'journalism' is that? See how easy 'it' is.?

another anon

Man Overboard said...

The government is hurling un-godly amounts of money at social engineering projects with no economic benefit under the guise of a "stimulus." They even gave Hamas $900,000,000.00 to rebuild Gaza (i.e. buy rockets from Iran).

Why then is it so hard for some to realize that a loan gaurantee actually has zero cost and emense benefit to the tax payer? The money simply sits in escrow until private investors see a return and then the government get's it back.

Or we could just chuck another trillion into windmills and solar panels that don't produce didly-squat-megawatt.