Markey: GOP picks risky nukes instead of safe, clean renewable energy that never runs out

The nuclear disaster in Japan continues to deepen the sense of devastation from one of the worst tsunamis in history.  Brad Johnson has the story.

Despite a long history of concern over the safety of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, nuclear power boosters like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) now claim the ongoing meltdown is something “no one has ever really anticipated outside of science fiction movies.”

Fueled by intense lobbying from the nuclear industry, Republicans in the House of Representatives are ignoring the meltdown, pushing full steam ahead with billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for new nuclear plants, even as they zero out programs for renewable energy. The Department of Energy’s successful clean energy loan guarantee program is on the chopping block “” except for nuclear power. On Face the Nation, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) criticized the choice to put public money on risky nuclear companies instead of clean wind, solar, and geothermal power:

Unbelievably, the nuclear industry was able, just three weeks ago, to convince the Republican House of Representatives to zero out the loan guarantee money for wind and solar and geothermal, and to put in $18 billion in taxpayer-guaranteed loan guarantees for the nuclear industry. Well, that’s ancient history, already, because it’s pretty clear that the nuclear industry as an electrical-generating part of our mix for the future is now going to meet its maker in the marketplace. It won’t be protesters. It will be Wall Street investors that are going to be raising real questions about its viability going forward.

Markey correctly points out that the largest barrier to new nuclear power isn’t environmental protesters but investors skeptical of investing in an increasingly expensive technology that isn’t even necessary to solve global warming.

President Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget includes about $2 billion for renewable loan guarantees and $54 billion for the nuclear industry. The $6 billion appropriated for renewable loan guarantees in the Recovery Act has been whittled down in recent years to $2.5 billion, with considerable money not yet fully committed. Republicans are trying to go even farther than Obama, eliminating the Recovery Act funds (Section 3001 of HR 1) as well as the ongoing renewable loan guarantee program (Section 1425), while agreeing with Obama’s risky nuclear push.

— Brad Johnson in a Think Progress cross-post.

25 Responses to Markey: GOP picks risky nukes instead of safe, clean renewable energy that never runs out

  1. Andy says:

    I read a very enlightening letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle this morning. The writer was parroting Paul Ryan and Rand Paul. BTW, despite commentators proclaiming these two as being shrewd and smart, I believe they are neither. The letters to the editor comment was short and to the point. Government has given us toilets that don’t flush, lightbulbs that don’t light and wind farms that don’t work and the writer looks forward to the day that representative Ryan brings government down.

    Everything the writer stated is false and is actually opposite of reality. Amazing.

    My low flush toilet and the many low flush toilets I encounter in hotels or at work function much better than any of the 1950’s to 1980’s toilets I have the misfortune of having to clean. Lots of poopy still sticking to the sides of those old buggers and often the paper doesn’t make it all the way down. Likewise I love how little juice my new compact florescent bulbs use and the ample light they put out. I used to use 40w bulbs all over the house and they put out a meager light. My new 60w equivelent bulbs use just 9w and put out way more light. Last of all during Texas’ two-week cold snap this past winter, only the wind farms continued to work reliably and now after what John McCain proclaimed was an earthquake and tsunami that only could have been imagined in a sci fi film, the windfarms on Japan’s coast worked just fine through it all.

    But the writer, I believe, is the perfect reflection of where the U.S. Republican Party and Tea Party-Independent Voters are in their thinking.

  2. Pretty clever, will there be a vote to remove radiation from nuclear fuel?

    Will all those pesky government regulations be pulled?

    If Uber-Republican John McCain said we could not possibly have foreseen this accident, then what other disasters will the regular Republicanists not foresee?

  3. Joy Hughes says:

    Fukushima Solar Plant – No additional crisis after earthquake:

    The Japanese prefecture of Fukushima hosts power plants other than the one we know so much about. Rengo’s corrugated board plant in Yabuki, in normal times, receives all its daytime power needs from the Sun.

    See a photo of the 1.5 Megawatt photovoltaic (PV) rooftop and ground-mount array.

    I don’t know the extent of the damage to the array or factory, which was away from the coast. I hope the workers and their families were safe, and can get back to work soon. The following can, however, be easily surmised:

    – Damage to the Fukushima solar PV plant did not result in an explosion

    – No one was required to evacuate due to damage to the Fukushima solar PV plant

    – No radioactive or chemical contamination resulted from damage to the Fukushima solar PV plant

    – The Fukushima solar PV plant may still be operational or can be restarted after repairs

    – The Fukushima solar PV plant will not have to be entombed in concrete for centuries

    – Damage to the Fukushima solar PV plant did not cause any health risk to humans or wildlife

    – No heroes in radiation suits will have to risk their lives to make sure the Fukushima solar PV plant is safe

    – The rescue and recovery effort for the earthquake and tsunami was not complicated by the Fukushima solar PV plant

    As the nuclear crisis progresses, we will likely find more bad things that did not happen at the solar plant.

    Let’s take a look at forms of energy that explode:

    Coal – Upper Big Branch mine explosion, West Virginia, 2009

    Oil – Deepwater Horizon explosion, Gulf of Mexico, 2010

    Natural Gas – San Bruno Explosion, 2010

    Nuclear – Pripyat, Ukraine, 1986

    Geothermal – Explosion at Innamincka, South Australia, 2009

    Concentrated Solar Power – Daggett California explosion and fire, 1999

    Wind – Denmark, 2008 and many others

    Hydroelectric – Teton Dam Collapse, Idaho, 1976

    For ordinary solar panels? The only thing exploding is the jobs!

    Solar PV – Solar Jobs Explosion, Ontario, Canada, 2010

    The nuclear energy debate is over, and fossils are running out. Solar PV panels involve no fuel, moving parts, or high temperatures. It’s time for Obama to make that speech and for America to follow the lead of Germany and Ontario with consistent support for solar on every roof.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Markey’s observation that it won’t be protesters, it will be Wall Street, who will stop the nuclear juggernaut really says it all about your system, and ours. ‘Capitalist democracy’ is really a plutocracy. No matter how many of the ‘little people’ protest, it’s the big boys who call all the shots.
    We have similar creatures here in the Land of Oz, legions of them in fact. The Fukushima ‘incident’ has already gone down Orwell’s ‘Memory Hole’. We have two Rightwing Ministers in the slightly less Rightwing ruling party in South Australia braying for nuclear power and an enrichment industry, because, well it will enrich their business masters, and, who knows, perhaps a little will trickle down their way in years to come. I believe that the obituary for our species, whether written by our last descendants or by some alien historian of short-lived civilizations, will put our demise down to the inability to ever tame greed or bring those most effected by it under control.

  5. paulm says:

    In America’s Capital, a Fierce Fight over Oil Sands
    Today begins The Tyee’s major series reported from Washington on the intense, high stakes political struggle fueled by Alberta crude.

  6. Jim Groom says:

    Follow the money. I believe that much of the luster of the nuclear energy debate will subside very soon. However, the cost associated with licensing, construction and location have doomed nuclear for the foreseeable future.

  7. Bullwinkle says:

    Spot on, Mulga. Freedom… Not so much.

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    EU Climate Chief Claims Wind Power Cheaper Than Nuclear

    The debate over nuclear power is sure to continue raging on after the recent tragic events in Japan. However, the question of economics should play an important role in that. Yes, nuclear power is a largely clean source of power that will minimize contributions to climate change. However, it’s dangerous, and according to Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, offshore wind energy is actually a much cheaper source of clean energy. te-chief-claims-wind-power-cheaper-than-nuclear

  9. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Nuclear energy has its own place in the energy mix. Now that there is widespread discussion on the future of Nuclear reactors,what is needed is renewed safety measures . The extent of Tsunami was not predicted. Nature has its own force be it earthquakes,tsunamis etc.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  10. Prokaryotes says:

    Earthquakes and climate change

    I don’t understand why people view the science behind climate change modeling differently than they view earthquake modeling. Pollution isn’t good, and excessive greenhouse gases don’t have an upside any more than weak bridges and inadequate housing standards have an upside. Yes, taking preventive measures will cost money and impact the economy. But that can be positive. New products and new services are just as much a part of pollution control as they are of infrastructure improvements. Of course, some proposed regulations may be ill-advised or too costly (both for safety and pollution control), but the time to debate these issues is when science has provided us with the necessary data. What makes no sense is refusing to gather that scientific data.

    Even if people don’t want to examine the causes of climate change, they cannot ignore its effects. Earth now supports a population of nearly seven billion people. People will pay the price of our lack of knowledge and preparation.

    I may be a space guy, motivated by exploring new worlds, but it is my view that the chief benefit of exploration is to understand ourselves, our planet, and the processes that shape our lives. That we do this by exploring other worlds is a joy. But that we would choose to ignore our home planet would be tragic. All of us in the space community should argue in favor of science and against the cuts to Earth science and monitoring missions now being proposed in Congress.

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    The banks are pushing nuclear because they love those multibillion dollar loan guarantees, especially since they get to collect interest for ten years. The gas and coal companies push nuclear because they know it’s weak competition whether there are meltdowns or not. Even with an aggressive nuclear program, limited uranium supply, inadequate engineering infrastructure, and siting issues would have resulted in replacement of retiring nuclear plants at best.

    When politicians like McConnell and Barbour push nuclear, they are actually pushing coal and gas. Bank and fossil fuel lobbies working in tandem can roll over the public interest anytime they feel like it.

    This is all pretty obvious. The passive acceptance of it by the American people and the larceny and fraud of our Congressmen and media are disgracing our nation.

  12. paulm says:

    #12 you said it mike.

  13. Mark S says:

    The inherent irony of the republican support for nuclear power always amazes me. Supporting nuclear power is a tacit admission that we need alternate sources (ie, green or non-fossil fuel) of power. However, they wont go with true clean sources but focus on the one that has *by far* the most negatives associated with it. When I talk to my republican-handicapped friends who love nuclear power I always say “You must love geothermal then.”

    Big blank stare.

    It’s obvious that rational discussion is not driving the right wing in our country. They are blinded by partisan politics and can’t get away from the company line. Facts have nothing to do with their arguments.

  14. paulm says:

    wind energy is helping to keep the lights on during the Fukushima crisis, and no radiation is being expelled.

    BC should look to wind

  15. CW says:

    Yes, we Republicans believe in small government that doesn’t pick winners. It’s up to the free market to sort out what companies or technologies will come out on top. We also believe that there is no discernible human influence on the climate.

    That’s why we want to give multiple billions more to an old technology that would have decades ago died a free market death had it not been for government support. It’s a necessary part of the solution to the problem we have no control over.

    So to clarify: Government handouts are very bad and Obama is giving out enormous ones to nuclear power. We think they’re not enough.

    We Republicans also think that there are no subsidies to big oil. That’s why we all stood up and voted to not eliminate them like that pinko Obama wanted to do.

  16. Barry says:

    I want to second with Joy (#3) said. The future will be solar.

    No moving parts chopping up ecosystems. No high temps and explosions. No radiation or pollution.

    I’ve had grid tie solar for a couple years now and had to do absolutely nothing at all to the panels. They just silently crank out power. No muss, no fuss, no tinkering, no problem.

    But everyone wants a walMart deal on their energy so we gotta go for piles of messy disasters along the way. If the world jumped into solar PV in a big way the price would quickly fall to cheap enough and from then on we have energy sanity.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    As Japan’s nuclear crisis unfolds, Europe takes a fresh look at wind

    In the search for ways of changing how the French obtain their electricity, Mr Sarkozy has turned to a source of energy that is free and in plentiful supply: wind.

    Turning wind into power is not free, of course, and Mr Sarkozy’s government has committed itself to a €20 billion (Dh103bn) plan to build giant offshore wind farms along the French coast from the English Channel to the Mediterranean.

    These will be France’s first maritime wind farms, and their development reflects Mr Sarkozy’s determination to catch up with the UK and Germany, where similar projects are much more advanced.

    In most areas where the turbines will be constructed, local authorities will welcome the boost to their economies and employment.

    “The Japanese tragedy has given us all a bit of a wake-up call,” says Ed Slater, 86, the chairman of Britain’s Normandy Veterans Association. “I had thought of writing to Mr Sarkozy but had a change of heart because we are having to look seriously at non-nuclear ways of producing our power.

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    BREAKINGVIEWS-Europe will pay for shifting nuclear mood

    When talking of “serious stress tests” these days, EU governments aren’t thinking about banks but nuclear power plants. The immediate response to the Fukushima accident was to promise that all reactors in Europe would be tested for their ability to withstand serious physical shocks, of all kinds. Safety procedures are also being reviewed. But these are only the first consequences. A cloud of nuclear mistrust is descending over Europe. It could lead to a costly rethink of the continent’s energy mix.

    The Japanese accident occurred just as Europe was embarking on a major push to boost nuclear power. Now Germany is “freezing” — Angela Merkel has shut down seven of the country’s 17 nuclear plants. Italy, which closed its last nuclear power reactor in 1990, is “reassessing” its two-year old commitment to invest in the industry again. The UK is “reviewing” its plans. And even France, the second-largest nuclear electricity producer in the world, says it will “study” the situation. The brake is on.

    Though it is hard to quantify the costs of the nuclear rethink, they may be substantial. At the corporate level, nuclear electricity producers, together with miners and equipment makers that supply the industry, have seen their market values suffer. The S&P index of nuclear industry has lost 11 percent since the quake. Another sizeable cost will come from Germany’s closure decision, which could end up amounting to more than 500 million euros, mostly as energy production is lost.

    If governments shrink existing programmes, losses for the industry’s suppliers will run into billions — a reactor today is priced between $5 billion and $7.5 billion. For electricity producers, the costs of operating existing plants will increase as additional safety measures are put in place. If hydrocarbon is used more widely the direct and indirect costs — including pollution — will rise. And if green renewables are to play a greater role, their greater cost must be factored in.

    True, costs for some will translate into revenue for others. Demand for gas is expected to rise sharply, so companies like France’s GDF Suez or Germany’s RWE may benefit. But transparency about risk and security will have to be taken a notch higher. Only democracies can build the trust that makes nuclear palatable — but only in democracies is public opinion strong enough to derail the building of new plants.

  19. adelady says:

    It really is about what we want to leave to our children. Do we want to leave them umpteen tons of stuff they can’t use and have to spend money to keep themselves safe from? ….

    “And to my children and all my heirs and successors in perpetuity I give, bequeath and assign my share of all those drums of radioactive junk and the costs of keeping them safe.”

    Or do we leave them assets which will help power and maintain the cleanliness of whatever environment they choose to live in. The blades of the wind turbines might get a bit tatty and ugly, the solar roofs might need touching up from time to time, but all day every day those assets can contribute to a better life for the descendants we’ll never meet.

  20. Zetetic says:

    I guess that in Republican-speak Sen. John McCain’s claim of a nuclear disaster that “no one has ever really anticipated outside of science fiction movies.” is true. This is because as far as they are concerned, the environmentalists and much of the scientific community are “no one” since they don’t count compared to the corporate interests of their masters.

  21. Zetetic says:

    @ Joy Hughes #3:
    About the geothermal explosion at Innamincka, South Australia in 2009. It should be noted that the “explosion” was a burst of steam from a “demonstration plant” and that (fortunately) no one was injured in the steam release.

    Geothermal Explosion Highlights a Downside of a Leading Alt-Energy Source

  22. Mark says:

    Get ready….

    Even if we assume California’s nuclear plants are undamaged, the same “arkstorm” that hit CA in 1861-62 would still cause more damage than the expected “big one”. The nuclear reactors in CA were not factored into the recent “arkstorm” disaster scenario organized by CA and USGS, because the operators of those facilities chose to not participate.

    Original USGS report
    (click the link on the right to see the full report)

    From pg 42

    “Damage to power system components from landslides is not accounted for, nor
    is any special consideration made of shutdown of nuclear power plants or of
    other generating facilities not in the flooded areas…. These limitations
    argue for a more thorough assessment by PG&E and other utilities.”

  23. Brad Pierce says:

    According to

    Japan is sitting on enough untapped geothermal power to replace all its planned nuclear stations over the next decade. But with plans to build 13 more nuclear power stations, it has yet to consider harnessing its estimated 23.5 gigawatts in geothermal potential — other than to develop hot springs.

    With the nuclear crisis in its Fukushima reactors, however, this may change. Geothermal energy has struggled in Asia, with limited government and funding support, but it is now likely to attract interest as investors rethink the outlook for nuclear power.

    Straddled along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of seismic activity, Asia’s geothermal reservoirs are among the world’s largest. Indonesia alone holds about 40% of the world’s total reserves, but less than 4% is being developed, leaving the sector wide open for growth.