I was once again reminded how many business and investment types are thinking quite practically and capitalistically about green, job-creating technologies. For us Hamiltonian conservatives who believe in internal improvements, energy and infrastructure are obviously the two big areas where we should be investing.
David Brooks is one of the few leading conservative intellectuals who hasn’t been knee-jerk anti-science on climate change. In a 2005 piece on conservative intellectual exhaustion, “Running Out of Steam” he even asserted:
Global warming is real (conservatives secretly know this).
Well, subsequent events have demonstrated that if conservatives (other than Sen. Lindsey Graham) know that global warming is real, it is the best kept secret since, well, that whole fake moon landing thing (see “Unscientific America, Part 1: From the moon-landing deniers to WattsUpWithThat” and Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 3: RNC Chair Steele withdraws support for Rep. Kirk over his vote on climate and clean energy bill).
Still, Brooks himself knows it, and in a pretty candid “New Year’s Resolutions” piece (with fellow NYT columnist Gail Collins), he spells out what he believes. I would not that Collins does not particularly distinguished herself in this piece:
Gail Collins: In 2009 I was very forthright about cases in which conservatives avoided speaking the truth because they knew it would offend their base…. Let me offer up a nominee from the other side of the aisle: nuclear power.
David Brooks: If you are going to come out for nuclear power, I suppose I should grapple with the cap-and-trade legislation now working its way in the Senate.
Gail Collins: Nuclear power should be a serious element in our energy policy. It does double duty in fighting global warming and reducing our reliance on imported oil. The practical challenges aren’t as great as in most of the new green energy sources that are all the rage.
Well, of course, nuclear power doesn’t do very much to reduce our reliance on imported oil — since exceedingly little oil is used to make electricity these days — unless we have a very aggressive effort to electrify transportation system, which Obama and progressives are certainly pushing but Collins never mentions.
Collins seems unaware that the 2005 energy bill had massive subsidies and other policies to promote nuclear power. She never actually mentions what other policies she’d like to see. She thinks the biggest problems with nuclear power our proliferation and spent fuel, whereas the three biggest reasons we haven’t seen the much-advertised nuclear renaissance are cost, cost, cost:
- Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost “” $10,800 per kilowatt! “” killed Ontario nuclear bid
- “Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns.”
- Turkey’s only bidder for first nuclear plant offers a price of 21 cents per kilowatt-hour
- What do you get when you buy a nuke? You get a lot of delays and rate increases”¦.
- Exclusive analysis, Part 1: The staggering cost of new nuclear power
- An introduction to nuclear power
Enviros ain’t the reasons we aren’t building nukes these days. Boards of Directors are.
What Brooks has to say is more interesting:
I have to confess, I am not at my best when dealing with environmental issues. On the one hand, I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade. On the other hand, I feel a frisson of pleasure when I come across evidence that contradicts the models. I don’t know if this is just because I distrust people who are so confident they can model complex systems or because I relish any fact that might make Al Gore look silly.I totally buy the argument that we need to set a cap on carbon emissions. But I feel myself sometimes rooting for people in coal states like Indiana who feel that they are fighting against a bunch of rich toffs from the Vineyard who are trying to take away their livelihood.
Maybe this year I should resolve to overcome my unworthy visceral reactions and follow the evidence. In that case, I’m off to a decent start.
Last night I was up in Boston moderating a panel discussion sponsored by the National Hockey League on environmental and global warming issues. (Hockey players like ice and want to preserve frozen ponds.) I could tell you that I flew up just so I could talk about carbon sequestration, but the real reason I did it was so I could do a panel in Fenway Park and meet Mike Richter.
To read more on that panel, see the NHL.com story, “Mike Richter goes green with NHL panel at Fenway.” Since McKibben was there, maybe he’ll blog on it. Back to Brooks.
During the course of the panel, my normal unworthy emotions on these issues were replaced by emotions I’m a bit prouder of. As the panelists (academics, business leaders, activists) spoke, I did get infected by their passion. It is a remarkably broad social movement. I learned from Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund, my favorite environmental group, that the cap-and-trade bill, which I thought was dead in the senate, actually is close to getting enough votes to pass. What’s more, I was once again reminded how many business and investment types are thinking quite practically and capitalistically about green, job-creating technologies. For us Hamiltonian conservatives who believe in internal improvements, energy and infrastructure are obviously the two big areas where we should be investing.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that if you’re willing to give me nuclear power, I’m willing to follow Lindsey Graham’s lead and do a little bit on the cap-and-trade bill, which is an imperfect piece of legislation, God knows, but still probably good for the country.
David, you can have nuclear power. I have no doubt there will be subsidies and streamlining of regulations for nukes in the final bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill. Now you just have to get your fellow conservatives to stop spreading disinformation and demagogueing the issue. Deal?