Thursday, June 11, 2009

The American Energy Act

The Republicans have released the full text of their American Energy Act. You can read the whole thing here. We’ll note that it includes some points the Republicans have stressed since the last election: drill here drill now, strong favoring of domestic energy sources, disdain of regulation. But we’ll focus on a couple of points and let you explore it yourself.

First, the bill has a decidedly different philosophy from the Waxman-Markey bill now in mark-up. While that legislation aims to reverse climate change by making carbon emission reduction the centerpiece of government action, the Republicans focus much more on energy security and tapping domestic forms of energy. They even go further than this:

(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 302(g) of the Clean Air Act is amended by adding the following at the end thereof: ‘‘The term ‘air pollutant’ shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.’’
(b) CLIMATE CHANGE NOT REGULATED BY CLEAN AIR ACT.—Nothing in the Clean Air Act shall be treated as authorizing or requiring the regulation of climate change or global warming.

It goes into the weeds more, as legislation will, but it’s hard to imagine a more thorough repudiation of the need for carbon emission reduction. This will likely become a highly contentious point.

Second, the legislation does go into more detail as to how it would spur industry to put up 100 new nuclear plants in 20 years – that is, to have them running instead of a mix of running plants, plants under construction and plant licenses under review. (This comes from the Summary; the bill’s language would make your head explode):

The bill reinforces a commitment to protect public health and safety while providing for an accelerated regulatory process for new nuclear applications where there is a design already certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); a site already licensed for operating reactors; an operator in good standing with the NRC; and a full and complete Combined Operations and Construction License application. This bill also lowers construction costs by suspending import tariffs and duties on imported nuclear components for five years if there is no domestic manufacturer.

That takes care of licensing, but we couldn’t find anything about loan guarantees – presumably, the tariff reduction would cover some of the plant cost. The government would make direct loans for coal-to-liquid projects and advanced battery technology for cars (actually a contest with a cash prize for the latter), but we didn’t see anything about nuclear in these sections.

Some other nuclear provisions:

  • streamline the NRC licensing process for new reactors
  • direct NRC to develop a certification schedule for innovative reactor designs
  • create a National Nuclear Energy Council to coordinate federal government policy
  • direct the NRC to review the Yucca Mountain repository license application
  • allow money from the Nuclear Waste Fund to be used to develop used nuclear fuel recycling technology
  • direct DOE to audit its stockpile of surplus uranium and create a uranium reserve to be used should traditional supplies be disrupted

The American Energy Act is a thoroughgoing attempt to create (at least) a framework of a bill that could be filled out with much more detail. We suspect the repudiation of climate change will invalidate it for many voters – there are some EPA provisions here that will cause problems, too – but it’s worth a read alongside the Waxman-Markey bill to see where compromises might be found.


Marcel F. Williams said...

The Republicans just don't get it when it comes to pumping-- excess carbon dioxide-- into the atmosphere.

We need to move aggressively in this country towards a nuclear and renewable energy economy if we going to mitigate global sea rise and the increasing acidification of the oceans.

Bryan Kelly said...

Quickly contact your US Representative in support of the American Energy Act here:


Cut. Paste. Send. Go. Pass it on.