Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What to Say and Who to Say It: A Lesson for Nuclear Advocates in Ohio

akronbj If you want to see where nuclear advocacy can get you, check out this editorial in the Akron (Ohio) Beacon-Journal:

Nuclear power accounts for 14 percent of the electricity used in the state. Lose, say, Davis-Besse, and the task of curbing carbon emissions becomes much harder. The situation differs little for the country, with carbon-free nuclear supplying 20 percent of electricity.

Ideally, the country would be adding further to its nuclear capacity, something that would become more financially feasible under a carbon tax. Yet even if nuclear is relatively expensive its use promises to be less costly than accelerating climate change. A carbon tax would enhance the competitiveness of wind, solar and other alternative energy sources, too. What distinguishes nuclear power is its capacity, running all day and night. It proved key when the polar vortex arrived last winter and other power sources faltered.

Less costly, polar vortex, carbon-free – why, did I write this editorial?

Well, no, but the editorial board is quite upfront as to how it came to these conclusions:

The country needs a strong fleet of nuclear power plants —for reliability and to address the carbon emissions fueling climate change. Thus, it was encouraging to see Carol Browner and Judd Gregg visiting Ohio last week, making the case for keeping open the 10 or so nuclear power plants in the country viewed as most vulnerable to closing.

The former EPA director under President Clinton and former U.S. senator from New Hampshire were part of a forum at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo. They represent Nuclear Matters, an organization that argues, in effect: Let the nuclear industry shrink, and Americans will come to regret it. This isn’t just some nuclear “front group,” as critics contend. Browner, especially, shouldn’t have to prove that she is “green” enough.

“Let the nuclear industry shrink, and Americans will come to regret it.” - the U.S. without nuclear, as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)talked about last week (see posts below for more on that excitement).

Nuclear Matters is obviously very much in favor of nuclear energy, but there are lots of groups that tout one thing or another and a fair few of them should be, at best, shown the door if they try to cross the threshold. Why does this group carry credibility?

Because of the people involved in it. Browner is frank that she came around on nuclear energy as an energy source after being (more-or-less) opposed to its use. Others represent a cross-section of political views – notably the co-chairs, former Senators Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). The membership represents interests not specifically nuclear-oriented: Edwin  Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Sean McGarvey, president of the North America's Building Trades Unions cover the unions (read: workforce); and Spencer Abraham, former Energy Secretary  (under President George W. Bush), and Bill Daley, former Commerce Secretary (under Bill Clinton, to keep the bipartisan theme going), have the federal executive branch experience. If you had a judge in there, you’d have the three branches of government represented.

The bottom line is: if you have a compelling message and if you have highly credible messengers, then you run the risk of getting listened to. It’s a lesson a lot of advocacy groups could learn.

Read the whole editorial – it’s a pip and very germane to Ohio’s specific situation.

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