The first of three days of hearings about the Boxer-Kerry climate change bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)) went the way opening days often do. The Senators kicked things off with what were essentially position papers, with Sen. Boxer highly favorable to the bill and ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R. Okla.) highly unfavorable. (Inhofe noted, “If we went full speed ahead, nuclear energy would supply 40% of our electricity,” with which we can but agree.)
Since all the speakers were Obama administration officials, the panel was highly favorable about the bill, too. Along with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff filled out the panel.
You can read about their invariably positive thoughts about the legislation in this New York Times story, but here’s Chu:
“When the starting gun sounded on the clean energy race, the United States stumbled, but I remain confident that we can make up the ground. When we gear up our research and production of clean energy technologies, we can still surpass any other country.”
The nuclear takeaway was somewhat muted, but so were most other energy sources (Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) really likes solar energy, though). The discussion stayed a bit more abstract and focused more on the efficacy of the bill.
None-the-less, there was an interesting exchange between Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who supports increased use of nuclear energy, and Chu:
Klobuchar: If we only relied on nuclear, what would be the time frame for that? I guess what I’m getting at, we might need a combination of things, things that move quicker.
Chu: We are pressing very, very hard on getting the first of the – we have authorized 18.5 billion dollars in nuclear loans. That is able to start three maybe four depending on foreign partners – four nuclear reactors at most. So we are working very, very hard. Hopefully, we can announce very soon the first of these and hopefully before the rest of the year the rest of them. This is the beginning of the start of the nuclear industry. Getting three or four going doesn’t really get it going, so I view that as the beginning.
K: So what’s the time frame for that, for when we’ll get that energy?
C: Those loans?
C; We’re trying to shoot for the end of this year.
K: But when will we get the energy from it?
C: Ideally, it could be between five to ten years – from the time you get the go-ahead to the time when you turn the electricity on.
K: Thank you very much.
Chu doubtless means loan guarantees, not loans – the government wouldn’t be issuing loans only backing up commercial loans.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D. Minn.)