Thursday, July 30, 2009

Environmentalists Among the Ruffians

2845573228_b130aa61ce Senate's Clean Energy Deployment Plan: A Nuclear Slush Fund in the Making?

That’s the title of an article on Solve Climate.com. It makes the somewhat juvenile mistake of imagining that something that works against their narrow band of interests is malignant, in this case further metastasized by evil lobbyists. Here’s a bit:

U.S. lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a new independent federal agency to promote government investment in clean energy.

But watchdogs are raising questions about the way the proposed agency is structured, and whether it would be unfair to taxpayers and bad for the environment. Among their concerns are its bias toward nuclear power — a critical issue for the South, which is at the center of the nuclear industry's planned revival.

They’re talking about the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) and of course nuclear energy is there – it is a clean energy. Not renewable, but that’s not CEDA’s brief – carbon emission reduction is and that means nuclear as well as all the renewable energy sources. (We suspect those “watchdogs,” or some of them, call Solve Climate home. Two can play at that game and “watchdogs” in the nuclear industry don’t see a problem.)

Here’s a bullet point from the article:

The Senate version allows one technology to hog all the money. The House caps at 30% the amount of total dollars available that can be given to any one technology. However, the Senate version has no caps, which means one technology [guess which?]could enjoy the lion's share of the available subsidies.

And the conclusion it draws:

Given those provisions — coupled with the Senate climate legislation's general friendliness toward nuclear power, which it calls a "clean and secure domestic energy" whose use should be expanded — energy policy expert Michele Boyd of Physicians for Social Responsibility said during a recent discussion of the bill that CEDA could essentially act as a "slush fund" for nuclear power.

Well, no, just because there is no cap doesn’t mean nuclear energy concerns will be slopping in the trough. If anything, wind has the, er, wind at its back, and farm states want biofuels way up the list. Nuclear really will be one among many industries looking to CEDA, not first among equals. Saying otherwise is disingenuous.

Here’s the thing: if you advocate for something, let’s say renewable energy sources, then you recognize, we think realistically, that Congress has many competing priorities and you’re likely to get some but not all of what you want while other priorities you consider loathsome are likely to win and lose some battles too.

However, if you advocate against something, let’s say nuclear energy, then the loathsomeness becomes a disease, overtaking and ruining all your own success for its own rapacious, illegitimate ends. It’s like stumbling innocently into a saloon full of ruffians.

The article also gets into campaign contributions and lobbying, but we don’t think that part’s very good either. Current law allows contributions and lobbying across the ideological spectrum on all issues.

[Former Sen. Jeff] Bingaman [D.N.M.] has gotten more from NEI than just money: In 2006, he also won NEI's William S. Lee Award for Leadership. In accepting the award, he asked the lobbying group to "do your part to use those tools that Congress has put in place to ensure that nuclear power achieves its potential as part of our future energy mix." It now appears the industry is doing just that — with Bingaman's help.

In other words, Bingaman supports nuclear energy and appreciates NEI’s efforts to expand its use. Thinking that NEI lines pockets and sandbags politicians with lies while, say, Greenpeace sprinkles stardust and says only kind things in a kind way is, once again, a little juvenile.

Lobbyists really can’t do wholesale lying on a topic, because it kills credibility at best and locks the lobby out of the conversation at worst.

We like environmentalists and their activities a lot – we’ve been know to support their efforts – but the pose of superior innocence is very trying – and not very honest.

No comments: