Wednesday, November 18, 2009

After Cap-and-Trade

jim-webb Never say never, but the cap-and-trade provisions in the Kerry-Boxer climate change bill have made a number of Senators nervous about supporting it. A number of Republicans have termed it cap-and-tax and some Democrats are not inclined toward it either. For example, take this bit from the Times West Virginian:

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, (D-W.Va.), reportedly plans to vote against the resolution [the climate change bill] while Sen. Jay Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), has “serious concerns” with the House’s amendments to the original resolution.

Rockefeller, in other words, is still on the fence, but that’s an uncomfortable place to be. We have no opinion on the efficacy of cap-and-trade: it’s more market based than a direct carbon tax would be, but beyond that, we’ll take whatever gets the job of climate change mitigation done without destroying industries in the process.

That said, and given the skittishness about it, might it be possible to come up with a bill that bypasses the cap-and-trade issue while staying focused on climate change?

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jim Webb (D-VA) today introduced “The Clean Energy Act of 2009,” a bipartisan bill to promote further investment and development of the nation’s clean energy technologies, including nuclear power and other resources. The Alexander-Webb bill is designed to invigorate the economy, create jobs, and move the United States toward providing clean, carbon-free sources of energy.

Well, it is bipartisan insofar as the two sponsors are from the two parties. How far it gets depends on the traction it receives from Republicans and Democrats uncomfortable with cap-and-trade -– and that’s by no means a unanimous group. Such support may or may not be enough to carry it since, after all, Kerry-Boxer is far from dead.

But there’s a lot to like in Webb-Alexander, especially for nuclear nabobs:

  • Authorization of $100 billion in government backed loans for the development of clean, carbon-free energy to bring in investors and project developers to jump start efforts that are otherwise too capital-intensive up front.
  • $100 million per year for 10 years toward nuclear education and training. The nuclear revival cannot take place without a workforce and for that reason the bill provides much-needed support to educate and train craftsmen, engineers, operators and other workers.
  • $200 million per year for 5 years for a cost-sharing mechanism between government and industry to enable the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to review new nuclear reactor designs such as small and medium reactors and help bring those technologies from concept into the market place.
  • $50 million per year for 10 years for much needed research to extend the lifetime of our current nuclear fleet and maximize the production of low-cost nuclear power.
  • $750 million per year for 10 years for research and development of low-cost solar technology, battery technology, advanced bio-fuels, low-carbon coal, and technologies that will reduce nuclear waste.  Each of these will be funded at $150 million, annually.

Sense a certain theme at work there? Now, consider that the idea behind the Kerry-Boxer bill is that it was designed as a framework which would have provisions added to it via the Senate’s amendment process. That’s still going to happen now that the bill has moved on to the Finance Committee.

Further, consider Sen. Alexander’s decided taste for nuclear energy as a carbon emission reducer – we wrote about that and his energy blueprint here last July -  and you can see that the Webb-Alexander bill had a nuclear energy section that could dovetail with Alexander’s provisions from his blueprint. He had already worked these out. The rest of the titles may seem a little barren, but if the bill gains traction, that will change.

The nuclear industry responded enthusiastically:

“With this legislation, Sens. Alexander and Webb are offering a substantive package of incentives and programs that realistically addresses the requirements necessary for our nation to achieve the significant expansion of nuclear energy that can meet rising electricity demand with a proven source of clean energy. These two senators already have seen the tremendous economic development in their own states that will be generated by re-establishing the U.S. manufacturing base for commercial nuclear technology.

And that’s exactly right. The Senators introduced this at the American Nuclear Society’s annual meeting and have already submitted it to the senate. You can find it at Thomas as S.2776.

Sen. Jim Webb rounds the corner.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The best day for the Earth's environment will be the day Robert Byrd retires. We'll never break coal's stranglehold on the economy while he's throwing his seniority around.

Phil said...

$100 million per year for 10 years toward nuclear education and training.

My favorite part. Lots of grants for people going to college studying mathematics and nuclear physics I hope. And training programs for nuclear workers. Sweet.

DocForesight said...

Gentlemen: with this quote "...we’ll take whatever gets the job of climate change mitigation done..." are we to assume that NEI Nuke Notes takes the position that humans can exert an influence on global climate?

Considering the growing number of scientists who question the premise and the shifting public sentiment, it might be wiser to back off the cap-and-trade wagon until more evidence proves it's a necessary and workable mandate.

Also, why not include opening the OCS and more on-shore lands for exploration? This is an Energy Bill, right?

David Bradish said...

are we to assume that NEI Nuke Notes takes the position that humans can exert an influence on global climate?

No. Our position has to do with the cap and trade or carbon tax effects that are created to reduce CO2 emissions. If either of these (or others) are implemented, we will support the ones that are fair and treat nuclear fairly. That's all.

why not include opening the OCS and more on-shore lands for exploration?

If you're asking if we support OCS, then we remain neutral on the topic. We're focused on trying to promote our own technology, that's plenty enough to do. :)

DocForesight said...

Thank you, David. I appreciate the clarification.

If the latest information on the email scandal involving the Hadley CRU scientists and associated researchers holds up to scrutiny, and if the basis for much of the criticism of CO2 released from energy producing sources is shown to have been misplaced, at best, and part of a grand disinformation campaign, at worst, then will the need for any type of tax or scheme on CO2 be eliminated as unnecessary?

Full disclosure: I have been skeptical of AGW for some time as it assaults my common sense. I favor nuclear power because of its inherent efficiency in all respects and I oppose any form of pollution - physical and verbal - as it demonstrates disdain for my fellow human beings. Pardon my rant, please.

Brian Mays said...

Well, I wouldn't get too ahead of myself. Even if everything in the recent "Warmergate" scandal turns out to be accurate and true, too many people have too much invested emotionally, financially, politically, or all of the above, to let this issue go away that easily. As one person on the internet cynically put it, "hundreds of ... environmental editors need it to pay their mortgages."

Anyhow, the case for nuclear power does not depend on global warming, climate change, or whatever new name comes along in the future to rebrand the same issue.

Aaron Rizzio said...

Apropos of the above comments the Lancet has just published a study detailing a wide range of public health "co-benefits" to a carbon dioxide control regime apart from any supposed AGW mitigation: millions of lives saved worldwide, for example, according to one OECD study cited as CO2 can be seen as a "proxy pollutant" for the ancillary toxic particulate sulfur & nitrous oxide, VOC, & ozone emissions. This could prove useful should there be a scientific collapse widely discrediting AGW as a theory in and of itself.

We are indeed living amidst an anomalous period of "global warming" known as the Holocene interglacial, some 8°C warmer than "average" temperatures over some 90% of the past couple million years at least; in contrast the last 30-40 years (since the global cooling crisis of the '70s) of purported anomalous warming is all a matter of a decimal of one degree -- and if the duration of the last 3-4 interglacials are any guide we are in fact nearing the end of the Holocene.