Monday, March 22, 2010

Gallup: Nuclear’s Popularity Hits New High

me_nuke7 We’ve wondered whether all the attention given nuclear energy in the wake of the loan guarantee announcement would move polling numbers a bit. Whatever else may be true, President Obama remains a popular figure when he gets in front of an issue and he was front and center on this one.

Gallup begins to answer the question:

A majority of Americans have typically favored using nuclear power to provide electricity for the United States since Gallup began asking about this topic in 1994. Support has edged up in the last two years, eclipsing 60% this year for the first time. In addition, 28% of Americans now say they "strongly favor" nuclear power, also the highest Gallup has measured since the question was first asked in 1994.

We love polls and their “strongly favored” construction. If you don’t care for nuclear energy, it allows you to say that 72% do not strongly favor it. (To be fair, no one we’re aware of really tries out such a tactic – at least, not on this issue.)

The chart on the page is interesting, showing nuclear slowly losing favor from 1994 to 2001 (Clinton-Gore) and rising thereafter (Bush-Cheney, Obama-Biden). We can’t really say that the Presidents (or veeps, in the case of Gore) were determinative in forming opinion – and Gallup doesn’t - but it’s an interesting coincidence. (Another possibility: Chernobyl was still a fairly fresh memory in 1994.)

But where Obama has not been effective on this issue is with his base, Democrats, which has remained at 51% favorable for over a decade. This is an issue that resonates with Republicans and may point to the play Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gave the issue during the 2008 Presidential campaign and perhaps also to the frequent mention of it in Congress during the energy bill debates. Republican support rose from 61% in 2007 to 74% now.

Still, both groups are over the magic 50% mark, which allows us to continue asserting that this has become (and has been, for quite awhile) a bipartisan issue. Gallup shows it, Congress and the President show that they know it.

USAToday and Reuters have picked up the story, although they don’t really expand it much from the Gallup release.

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Here’s a new way to look at nuclear energy, via our friends at the Guardian:

Like the banks, new nuclear is too big to fail. And like the banks, new nuclear depends on a more or less explicit taxpayer guarantee. Once a nuclear power station is running we will have it for the next 40 years, come what may. No responsible government could ever let a nuclear power generator go bankrupt.

Yes, it’s the old argument in a new bottle and very trendy, too. We’ve never quite heard nuclear’s capacity for running for a generation (or as it’s turning out, two generations) put as a negative. But that’s the Guardian all over.

Calvert Cliffs will run for 60 years – it was the first to get a license extension - and with new reactors, even longer. The horror!

4 comments:

Sterling Mallory Archer said...

No responsible government could ever let a nuclear power generator go bankrupt.

"Responsible Government" -- aye, there's the rub.

Joffan said...

"Too big to fail" doesn't really apply to nuclear power concerns, since the actual infrastructure is generally still available for use even if the operator goes bankrupt. With banks, the confidence and creditworthiness are intangible assets that can be destroyed by a crisis and the chaos that would ensue if they were allowed to completely fold.

Although the automobile industry was regarded as too big to fail, I think the truth is that it can be shrunk until it can indeed fail without employment catastrophe - but getting it to shrink first is the trick. Again there are some concrete assets there, both in the factories and the local infrastructure, that could be used after a bankruptcy.

Sterling Mallory Archer said...

The "intangible"-ness of bank assets is a good point!

Phil said...

The whole web of electricity generation is "too big to fail". Any single technology that contributes a large percentage of generation is "too big to fail". Hydro is "too big to fail" if you live near Las Vegas. Coal is "too big to fail" in most of the USA. The statement by the Guardian says nothing.