We had a little fun with the Heritage Foundation earlier today, but at least it was in the context of some good ideas they’re putting forward. We thought we’d try a little balance and see what’s up in the environmental activist sphere – an inexact match, since environmentalism is hardly the sole province of liberals.
But while the Heritage Foundation couches their arguments in a comfy cocoon of ideological certainty, Friends of the Earth charges across the room blasting a shotgun in all directions. But that doesn’t mean they hit the target:
Senate appropriators voted yesterday to add a preemptive, up-to-$50-billion bailout for the nuclear industry to economic stimulus legislation.
The move was strongly criticized by Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder.
“The nuclear industry has given millions of dollars to politicians, an investment that appears to be paying off,” Blackwelder said. "Senators are supposed to be fixing the economy but instead they’re offering the nuclear industry a $50 billion gift that will create virtually no near-term jobs. It's unconscionable. Lobbyists are probably popping champagne corks as we speak.”
Oof! If lobbyists are popping champagne corks, it’s because they like champagne. So we yield that point to Blackwelder. But the rest is ludicrously off-target.
That $50 billion “bail-out” went to: renewable energy systems, advanced fossil energy technology, hydrogen fuel cells, advanced nuclear energy facilities, energy efficiency programs, transmission technologies, hybrid or diesel vehicles, and carbon capture and storage technology.
That should put bubbles into the noses of a lot of champagne drinkers and not just lobbyists – there are a lot of jobs in those industries and a whole lot of construction in the pipeline.
Why would Friends of the Earth say something transparently untrue? CNN offers a possible explanation (talking about the loan guarantee provisions in the bill):
Although the legislative language leaves open the types of technology eligible for a government loan guarantee (as long as they substantially reduce greenhouse gases), some environmentalist organizations opposed to nuclear power are concerned that the measure could be used to fund new generation.
In other words, anti-drinking advocates are incensed the champagne business may get a boost. Well, that’s logical – we’d be pretty unhappy if the bill included funds to convert puppies to food (we’re against that), so if you don’t like nuclear energy, you’d be against this. But, in the words of President Obama, we won. Misrepresenting the win as a ghastly effort by drunken lobbyists to line congressional pockets to lock other energy sources out of the stimulus doesn’t change that. It’s children who spin outlandish stories when they get mad; an advocacy group behaving childishly risks losing credibility with its membership.
Let’s fill out the story a little bit. Senate appropriators approved an additional $95 billion in loan guarantee authority for commercially proven renewable energy projects (and the transmission lines necessary to bring it to market.) The stimulus legislation approved by the House on Wednesday also provides an $80-billion increase in loan guarantees earmarked solely for renewables and transmission. Loan guarantees give banks a nudge to lend money for expensive capital projects by putting the force of government behind the loans – barring default, the government outlay is minimal. Nuclear projects can apply for these projects, but there’ll be a lot of competition.
And no “near-term jobs?” Wrong again, FOE. At the end of 2008, private investment in new nuclear power plants – and in manufacturing facilities to support new nuclear plant construction – has created an estimated 14,000 to 15,000 jobs. That’s the tip of an iceberg: as construction ramps up, so will the hiring.
And that’s just the nuclear industry. Look at the rest of the list above and you can see how these mature and nascent industries will be a significant stimulative agent.
Friends of the Earth says it “Champions a Clean and Just world.” We’ll grant them clean. It needs to work on just.