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.