By Russell J. Lowes, June 8, 2008
The Senators from Connecticut and Virginia thought they could pull a fast one. They thought they could play the game the Bush Administration is so into, the mis-naming game. Heathy Forests runs down our forests. No Child Left Behind leaves an underfunded ill-conceived program putting our public school system at risk. So why not call this the Climate Security Act?
Security is the opposite of what this act was intended to bolster. This Senate bill was intended to instead increase the profit of the few at the expense of the many. The names of the authors/sponsors of the bill could have been a warning clue. The Lieberman-Warner bill had numerous problems in it.
However, there were two problems of epic proportions. One was promotion of a massive nuclear energy system for the U.S. This bill would have had the effect of promoting the nationalization of financing for nuclear energy.
The other was the promotion of an inherently unaccountable cap & trade pollution-“rights” trading system. This proposal is so non-transparent and complex that headlines of the future would have been declaring fraud after fraud, corruption after corruption.
Funny thing is, there was no mention of “nuclear energy” in the bill. The bill just mentioned that there would be funding for low-carbon technologies and then it defined low carbon in such a way that didn’t include life cycle. It defined it so that nuclear energy would be an easy recipient, without counting the life cycle energy inputs.
On a life cycle basis, nuclear energy produces massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. On a standalone reactor basis, nuclear energy does not produce very much. Even while a reactor is running, it sometimes requires grid electricity or backup diesel generators to be assisting while power calibration between the reactor and the grid is occurring, for example.
However, this minimal on-site power requirement is dwarfed by the twenty steps of the nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to enrichment, from milling to construction of waste facilities, from fuel fabrication to environmental cleanup of nuclear energy and waste accidents, nuclear energy is a CO2 hog, just like coal.
The authors of this bill knew that nuclear energy would be the recipient of the endowment. Karl Grossman pointed this out in his article, “Half-Trillion Dollars for Nukes!” (See http://www.counterpunch.org/grossman05312008.html ).
Let’s just run some simple numbers about how the vast nuclear program of this bill would hurt America and you, the taxpayer. This program is just the beginning of what some would like to see become of a beefed-up nuclear energy “solution.” In the early days of this decade, Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that in order for nuclear energy to have a significant impact on our energy strategy, it would take 1,000 reactors. Another major study since then put a range at 1,000 to 2,500 reactors. Our average size reactor in the U.S. is, coincidently, 1000 megawatts, or 1,000,000 kilowatts. Here’s the scoop on costs for such a program.
– Number of reactors: 1,000
– Size per reactor average: 1,000,000 kilowatts of capacity
– Cost per kilowatt, approx. $9,000
– Multiplying the above figures: $9,000,000,000,000 (9 trillion dollars)
Simple enough? Well the payback on that $9 trillion is about 15% per year for a thirty-year loan schedule in a free enterprise system. That would equate to $1.35 trillion per year. If citizens in the U.S. average 350 million over that 30-year period, the amount paid per year in the U.S. would average $3857 per person! This is just simple math. This $1.35 trillion for loan repayment compares with the total $900 billion or so that the U.S. spent in 2007 on ALL energy costs (electricity, gas for vehicles, heating oil, etc.). There is no getting around it – nuclear energy is a 20th Century technology that keeps rearing its ugly head.
The renowned Rocky Mountain Institute shows how nuclear energy is about 7 times the price of energy efficiency. Energy efficiency combined with a solid renewable energy program is the centerpiece of any sound energy policy. Nuclear energy is now about 3 times the cost of wind energy, and a little higher than what concentrated solar power is going for.
On the issue of cap & trade/pollution-rights trading, and the much more effective program called “carbon tax.” there is a great website called www.carbontax.org
Quoting from this website:
Why revenue-neutral carbon taxes are essential,
The next Administration and Congress will be called upon to address 21st Century climate realities. In a carbon-constrained world, a permanent, essential feature of U.S. policy must be a carbon tax that reduces the emissions that are driving global warming.
* A carbon tax is a tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas).
* A carbon tax is the most economically efficient means to convey crucial price
signals and spur carbon-reducing investment and low-carbon behavior.
* Carbon taxes should be phased in so businesses and households have time to
* A carbon tax should be revenue-neutral: government can soften the impacts of
added costs through rebates or by reducing other taxes ("tax-shifting").
* Support for a carbon tax is growing steadily among public officials; economists;
scientists; policy experts; leading business, religious, and environmental
figures; and on the opinion pages of leading publications.
The next climate act should be a real climate security act. Let’s make it well-known that nuclear and fossil energies need to be phased out, and that energy efficiencies and renewables need to be the centerpiece of any effective legislation.