Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Nuclear Title and the Fourth Estate

26 The industry’s release of the nuclear title has multiple goals. One, of course, is to provide information to Congress as it considers the Kerry-Boxer climate change legislation, to indicate how the industry can help government achieve its goals.

But that information is fully public, so it has a role in the public discourse, too. As important as the other estates is the fourth estate, those outlets looking for useful data to add into their editorials and news stories, blog posts and tweets. The material is trustworthy enough to inform discussion.

Here’s Steve Mufson in the Washington Post:

The elements of a nuclear package under discussion include investment tax credits, a doubling or more of the existing $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for new plants, giving nuclear plants access to a new clean energy development bank, federally financed training for nuclear plant workers, a new look at reprocessing nuclear fuel, and a streamlining of the regulatory approval process, according to corporate, congressional and administration sources.

And what response does Mufson find?

Asked how many Republicans could be won over to a climate bill with a substantial nuclear power provision, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said: "At least half a dozen, depending on how this issue comes out. Maybe more." And, he added, "you're not going to get a bill without meaningful Republican participation."

Graham may become as essential to this legislation as Olympia Snowe was to the health reform bill, if bipartisanship becomes as large an issue this time. Interestingly, nuclear energy may be the – or at least a – key in achieving that bipartisanship – and that’s not to mention its usefulness in reducing greenhouse gasses.

In fairness, the story also takes in the downside, so do read the whole thing.

ClimateWire’s Katherine Ling references the industry effort directly:

The NEI proposal echoes nuclear energy language and provisions laid out over the past year by several key moderate Republicans -- including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona -- for whom a "robust" nuclear title is necessary, if not sufficient, to vote for a climate bill.

We’d say it’s a double echo, but okay.

Now, a news story by its nature will balance upside and downside and let you decide which is more compelling (the flaw is that this can make sides seem co-equal when they may actually be quite lopsided – see articles about global warming for a recent extreme example of this). Editorials, though, are a different beast.

This status quo is unacceptable. Nuclear energy is far and away one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal for cutting emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, constructing 180 new reactors would cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

This comes from the Harvard Crimson. Maybe we’d advise a different word choice, but the editorial makes a lot of sense.

A statue in Brookgreen Gardens, S.C. The first estate, in case you’re curious, is the Church, the second the upper chamber of government and the third the lower chamber. If that sounds somewhat non-American, it is – the French coined the first three and English writer and political philosopher Edmund Burke the fourth (“the estate of Able Editors”), as reported by Thomas Carlyle in 1837. That’s a lot of history for a simple phrase.

1 comment:

uvdiv said...

You should mention in your blog that the Crimson's statistic is quite wrong. 180 new reactors is around 250 GWe, is about half of the 473 GWe average electric generation of the US - and this respectively causes around 2/5th of US CO2 emissions (most the rest being transport fuel), so the benefit is on the order of 1/5th of CO2 emissions displaced (neglecting future rise in demand).

It seems the authors misunderstood a line in the Seattle Times article they cited:

"An analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency assumes 180 new reactors by 2050 for an 80 percent decline in greenhouse-gas emissions."

What's wrong with schools these days, that Harvard students do not grasp simple reading comprehension, and simple arithmetic.