Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Scott Brown on Nuclear Energy

4163375103_5229f4c214 Congratulations to Scott Brown (R-Mass.) on his election to the Senate yesterday. We were, as always, interested to know where he stands on nuclear energy. Answer: in a good place.

I support common-sense environment policy that will help to reduce pollution and preserve our precious open spaces. I realize that without action now, future generations will be left to clean up the mess we leave. In order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, I support reasonable and appropriate development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal and improved hydroelectric facilities. I oppose a national cap and trade program because of the higher costs that families and businesses would incur.

We poked around a bit, but didn’t find anything in his stump speeches about nuclear energy. But he supports carbon emission-free energy sources in lieu of a mechanism (like cap-and-trade) to force their use.

You can reduce by conservation, wind, solar, hydroelectric, nuclear,” Brown told me [reporter Fred Thys]. “You can provide a total package and let people have different avenues and different ways to heat and light their businesses. How does government enforce that? They have their hands in pretty much everything. I’m sure there’ll be a role for government — and at some point, government needs to get out of the way, as well.”

We guess cap-and-trade or another approach would be how “government enforce[s] that,” but Brown sees such an effort as a tax. There was this exchange at the last debate.

“You’re in favor of cap and trade, which is a national energy tax,” Brown said to [Martha] Coakley.

“It’s not a tax,” Coakley replied.

“It’s a tax,” Brown insisted.

Well, technically, it’s not a tax – a direct tax on carbon emissions is a tax. Cap-and-trade creates a marketplace for carbon emission credits. The government realizes revenue only if the credits are auctioned by it to get the ball rolling – and perhaps by taxing capital gains on the credits as they increase in value.

But Brown is not the only Congress person to define it this way and he’s right that industry (and the states) have moved in the direction of renewable and nuclear energy sources. So the argument that cap-and-trade or direct government action is not necessary is certainly a defensible position.

That’s what makes elections.

And remember – this is not a partisan blog – here or in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Might we be in a chicken-egg situation? Emissions legislation won't go through without nuclear provisions, but congress won't support nuclear until it's clear emissions control will require it?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, lip service about support for alternative energy sources in general (nuclear merely included in a comprehensive list), but a specific statement saying that he opposes any policies (i.e., carbon pricing) that would actually cause a shift away from fossil fuels to occur.

Loan guarantees and tax credits may result in construction of a few plants, but w/o a price on CO2, nuclear is not going to go anywhere. Fossil fuels (mainly coal) are, and will remain, at least somewhat cheaper. Most utility interest in nuclear is due to one thing alone, the expectation of hard CO2 limits (or taxes).

For us, CO2 limits are far more important than any subsidies. Besides, subsidies make us look bad. W/o cap-and-trade or a CO2 tax, all that will be left in our energy policies are massive renewables subsidies and govt. fiat requirements for renewables use (RPS). That along with bogus carbon offsets. No non-emitting energy market. Not a good environmment for nuclear to compete in.

Like health care, this election dramatically reduces the likelihood of meaningful climate change policy happening, for several years at least. This is pretty much disasterous.

Jim Hopf

Georgfelis said...

Sulfur Dioxides, particulates, and ash are pollutants.
CO2 is plant food.
Water Vapor is just water vapor, and a larger indicator of the greenhouse effect than CO2. Over the course of human history we have pumped into the atmosphere billions of tons of water vapor. Somehow the AGW crowd does not run around screaming "Look at all that water up in the air! Somebody should do something! Expensive! Now!"

It's nice that we have at least one Senator in DC who has a bit of common sense. Hope he can Change the Chicken Littles.

gmax137 said...

george, the oceans evaporate about 4x10^14 tons of water every year. That's 400,000 billion tons every year. So, I don't think your manmade "billions of tons over the course of history" amounts to a hill of beans. Innumeracy, and lack of appreciation for magnitudes, are leading us inexorably to unnecessarily destructive outcomes. We are doomed.

Anonymous said...

so, is the "logic" here that, if we can't completely eliminate every source of every greenhouse gas, we shouldn't do anything? I'd rather be Chicken Little than an ostrich.

Second, whether water vapor is a big variable in climate is not the point. The question is whether previous large warming or cooling trends correlate with correspondingly large changes in water vapor emissions, in a way that might suggest these emissions control climate variability. THAT'S not evidence you've provided.