Congressional negotiators in the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed tonight on a $789 billion stimulus bill but killed an attempt to squander $50 billion on new nuclear reactors.
The agreement, made in conference committee, axed a proposal from Sen. Bennett (R-UT) to include $50 billion in pork barrel federal loan guarantees for the nuclear industry. The Congressional Budget Office stated earlier this year that the industry would likely default on more than half the loans, leaving taxpayers and ratepayers to foot the bill.
“This is a big victory for common sense and the American taxpayer,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear who helped lead the campaign on Capitol Hill to cut the $50 billion from the bill. “This toxic nuclear pork had no place in a bill designed to put Americans back to work and salvage our economy. Our legislators are to be applauded for getting their priorities right and saying no to yet another blatant attempt to prop up an industry that has never stood on its own financial feet.
“The nuclear industry has received an estimated $500 billion dollars in public subsidies over the past half century,” Kamps added. “This monumental waste of money had to end. The nuclear energy industry cannot solve the climate crisis and fattening the nuclear calf has deprived real energy solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency programs from essential support for decades.”
Wind power has come of age (see here). Concentrated solar thermal power is next.
Southern California Edison has contracted with BrightSource Energy Inc. for seven projects totaling 1,300 megawatts of concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP). CSP is a core climate solution, probably the zero-carbon form of electricity with the most potential, since it can be easily integrated with thermal storage and provide power reliably throughout the day and evening.
The agreement, which now requires approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, calls for a series of totaling 1,300 megawatts. The first of these solar power plants, sized at 100 megawatts and located in Ivanpah, Calif., could be operating in early 2013 and is expected to produce 286,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year…. The full 1,300 megawatts of projects will produce 3.7 billion kilowatt-hours of clean energy and avoid more than two million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
These are air-cooled power plants, so they sacrifice some efficiency to dramatically reduce water consumption in the arid regions in which they operate.
For a discussion of current and projected near-term CSP deployment see “CSP update” and, more recently, “CSP outshines ‘clean coal’ — and it always will.” As of November, “some 60 plants are either under construction or under contract worldwide — with most in either Spain or the United States — for a total capacity just north of 5,700 megawatts.”
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation will
hear testimony from Dr. Jane Lubchenco, nominated to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the U.S. Department of Commerce – also known as the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — and Dr. John Holdren, nominated to be Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President.
It will be webcast here, following the completion of the Committee’s 10:00 a.m. Executive Session.
Tune in if you can, since these are two of the country’s leading experts on climate science — and two of the best explainers of climate science:
[I urge readers to stick their head in a vise before reading this.]
I have previously discussed the non-job-creating $50 billion in nuclear loan guarantees the Senate put into the stimulus (see “Can Obama stop the nuclear bomb in the Senate stimulus plan?” For the record it was Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT), which I point out merely because R-UT perfectly describes thinking behind this farce.
Not only won’t these loans generate any jobs in Obama’s first term, but as Peter Bradford, former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, explained to me, it could actually kill jobs. How?
The capital markets are not swimming in credit. If you have billions in taxpayer backed loans for your project, even for a project that will take years to finalize and see actual jobs, you may well suck up money that might be otherwise be available for, say, wind projects that are shovel ready now. Bradford called the nuke loans “straw ready.”
Worse, utilities that actually use these loans to build a nuclear plant would face an all but certain drop in their credit rating — see “Warning to taxpayers, investors — Part 2: Nukes may become troubled assets, ruin credit ratings.” That means we are setting ourselves up to take over more trouble assets, since the Congressional Budget Office estimates the likely default rate of these loans at over 50%. If you liked nationalizing banks and insurance companies, you’ll love nationalizing nuclear utilities!
But here is where it gets particularly farcical: The loans only got snuck into the bill by budget gimmickry that replicates the high-leverage, fraudulent risk analysis that got us into the subprime mortgage and credit default swap mess. Some leading nuclear energy experts explained this to me Tuesday, and I will do my best to explain it to you.
[I must warn you again that continuing to read this post puts you at great risk of uncontrolled cranial expansion.]
Hey there, I’m Carlton, the wealthy eco-hypocrite. I inherited my money and attended fancy schools. I own three homes and five cars, but always talk with my rich friends about saving the planet. And I want Congress to spend billions on programs in the name of global warming and green energy. Even if it causes massive unemployment, higher energy bills, and digs people like you even deeper into the recession. Who knows, maybe I’ll even make money off of it!
In reality, it is the backers of Americans for Prosperity who are wine-sipping, ballet-loving trust-fund elites, a thousand times more wealthy than the likes of “eco-hypocrite” Al Gore. Charles and David Koch are the scions of Koch Industries, founded as an oil refining business by their father Fred Koch. Fred Koch also helped found the John Birch Society, an ultraconservative organization that believed the U.S. government was controlled by a traitorous cabal of Communist sympathizers.
Mr. Koch’s home in Aspen, Colo., famous for its New Year’s Eve parties in his bachelor days, boasts trophies from big-game hunts with his father in Botswana and Mozambique. A pair of 130-pound Ugandan elephant tusks frames the dining room.
I’m just dumbfounded they’d think we’re this, well, dumb. Is this guy supposed to be a rich snob, a surfer dude, or some combination – Spicoli with a trust fund? And what’s he eating, cheese and crackers? That’s snobby rich people food? You’d think Americans for Prosperity, with millions rolling in every year, would be able to buy some better propaganda for its buddies in the dirty fossil fuel industry.
,CORRECTION: In their ads, AFP claims “global warming is a hoax.” But just this summer, they were telling reporters they weren’t deniers:
“Annie Patnaude, the organization’s communications director, said the group does not disagree with the science behind global warming, but that people should look at the policies behind bills such as the Lieberman-Warner bill.” [Kalamazoo Gazette, 8/15/08]
So I guess they are hypocrites.
UPDATE: Okay, final update. I contacted Phil Kerpin at Americans for Prosperity, who said that the view expressed in their ad that global warming is a hoax “is not our position.” After saying that Americans for Prosperity doesn’t “take a position on the science,” he admitted that they “do believe there is a scientific debate” as to whether man-made global warming exists.
UPDATE: Okay, final final update: Americans for Prosperity has taken down the blog post announcing the ads and removed them from YouTube.
UPDATE 2/12: Ads and the AFP blog post have been restored.
The latest from the conservatives-who-make-your-head-explode crowd [yes, that may be is redundant] is the attempt to label the stimulus bill, “The Generational Theft Act of 2009.” ThinkProgress has an excellent post on the right-wing message machine’s effort to turn Michelle Malkin’s label into a fatal brand.
Fortunately, the label is doomed to fail for two simple reasons — the message is not simple, and it lacks reason.
You’d have to look long and hard in the annals of advertising, politics, poetry, religion, and speechmaking to find a single memorable phrase with a five-syllable word in it. Go on. Try to find one. I dare ya!
As Churchill wrote in an unpublished essay, “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric,” at the age of 23 (!), “All the speeches of great English rhetoricians … display an uniform preference for short, homely words of common usage” (see “Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 1“).
Second, if any group of people are guilty of generational theft, that would be conservatives.
John Podesta, chief of the Obama Transition team, spoke frankly on Friday about the severity of the consequences we face due to the interconnected challenges of fossil fuel dependence, climate change, global recession, growing national debt, and lack of U.S. global leadership.
Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former Clinton chief of staff warned of a “climate crisis” in his speech:
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