A Free-Market Energy Blog

Environmental Conflict Goes Nuclear (civil war erupts over CO2 reduction strategy)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 22, 2016

Finally, the energy literate on the Left understand that politically correct energies for electricity (wind and solar–not nuclear and hydro) are little recipe for anthropogenic greenhouse-gas mitigation. Embedded energy awaiting a payback, small scale, and intermittency/fossil-fuel fill-in leaves a very skinny contribution.

And to the extent that the climate movement is more successful at closing nuclear plants than erecting wind farms and installing solar panels, the alleged problem of climate change is worsened.

James Hansen led the charge on this very issue, and now an organization and movement is mobilizing at this very late date to save a handful of running nuclear dinosaurs from extinction.

Are the climate alarmists bluffing about their cause? Because if they really believed, they would have embraced, before now, the one major emission-free source of central-station electricity: nuclear power. But even Joe Romm said ‘no’ to nuclear because it was too expensive, as if he cared about consumers, much less taxpayers. Something rings wrong.

Nuclear is the only non-fossil-fuel way to mass produce electricity to still have modern industrial life–and this was exactly what many deep ecologists and others evidently did not (and do not) want. Add some postmodernism–that we can have a renewables world if we all want and think it (a ‘shared narrative’), what James Hansen likened to “almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

The New Challenge

Michael Shellenberger will have none of it.

His new organization, Environmental Progress, released a manifesto of fight yesterday, Why Diablo Canyon Will Live — And the Corrupt NRDC-PG&E-IBEW Proposal Will Fail. A subtitle might have been, “Crony environmentalism + crony capitalism = increased emissions.”

The piece below is emphatic, heartfelt, and strategically written as a ‘last chance’ with the anti-nuclear supertanker going in the opposite direction. Can a quarter-century of mainstream environmental opposition, with the end almost in sight, complete its mission? Probably so.

Having seen the ugly alliance between anti-energy environmentalists and crony business, I hope that Shellenberger and Environmental Progress can take the next step by questioning the whole global warming scare given the ecological goodness of carbon dioxide emissions and higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations–and the positives of a moderately warmer and wetter world. It will take courage for some to widen the environmental split, but a case for green fossil fuels is intellectually grounded.

Understanding government failure and private-side corruption in the quest to correct global ‘market failure’ is also part of a Come to Jesus moment for open-minded, real environmentalists.

Here is yesterday’s press release, which represents an eruption moment within modern environmentalism regarding energy policy. The statement below about the ‘back-room Diablo Canyon deal’ concerns a new agreement to close California’s last nuclear power plant (see the “General Provisions of Joint Proposal” here).

Statement by Environmental Progress and Mothers for Nuclear (June 21, 2016)

The back-room Diablo Canyon deal — negotiated by corrupt institutions behaving unethically and perhaps illegally — will fail.

It will fail because it will would put our children and grandchildren at risk. It will be rejected by the people of California, policymakers and the courts because of the human suffering and environmental harm it would cause. It will fail because everyone now knows — and Sierra Club and NRDC have admitted — that closing nuclear plants will increase fossil fuels and carbon emissions.

It will fail because when people understand that the proposal is based on a big lie — that Diablo can be closed without increasing fossil fuel use, methane emissions and carbon emissions — they will reject it, and the leadership of the institutions who negotiated it. It will be rejected because the evidence is overwhelming that moving from nuclear to natural gas would increase:

  • Deaths from methane gas pipeline explosions, greater air pollution, and power outages affecting the sick and elderly.

  • Electricity rates for all Californians, especially the poor.

  • Global warming and ocean acidification from higher carbon emissions and methane emissions.

  • Unemployment and poverty state-wide by replacing high-paying in-state nuclear jobs with low-paying out-of-state fracking jobs.

The timing could not be better for efforts to save not just Diablo Canyon but nuclear plants around the United States and the world.

The proposal exposes the corruption of IBEW 1245 leadership and IBEW 1245’s failure to represent its members. IBEW 1245 lied to its workers when it claimed to be fighting to keep the plant open; has violated its moral duty to represent its workers interests; and may be in violation of state and federal laws. 

The proposal, if enacted, would harm PG&E shareholders, ratepayers and workers. It would expose the company to more natural gas risk at a time that its executives are in a criminal trial over eight deaths caused by a natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno. 

The proposal would increase electricity rates. And it will increase unemployment but destroying 1,500 good jobs, and sending those jobs to out of state natural gas fracking operations. 

The proposal exposes the deep rot and hypocrisy within anti-nuclear groups NRDC and FOE. Organizations seeking to increase carbon emissions by moving from low-carbon energy to natural gas from fracking must be called what they are: anti-environmental organizations. By moving from nuclear to natural gas, these organizations are putting our children and grandchildren at risk of worsened global warming, ocean acidification and air pollution. They are acting on unscientific dogma as dangerous as that espoused by anti-vaxxers. 

Already 100 people had signed up to attend our Friday 3:45 pm protest of NRDC and PG&E headquarters in San Francisco. We expect those numbers to increase significantly between now and then. On Saturday we will protest IBEW 1245 at its headquarters in Vacaville. 

Already 100 people had signed up for our March for Environmental Hope! We expect those numbers to increase significantly. The March will go on. 

The clarity provided by this corrupt deal allows us to focus on what matters: using the March as a strategic retreat to develop our political, legal and organizing strategy to achieve victory — not just for Diablo Canyon, but all nuclear plants threatened by anti-nuclear organizations, corrupt unions, craven policymakers and short-term corporate executives. 

We will win because the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. We will win because the Californian people will defend their children and grandchildren against the suffering and danger this proposal would create. We will win because we have five years to expose the truth, grow our movement and move the state and nation.

We will win because Californians, the American people and all humans love our children and grandchildren more than we believe superstitions and tolerate corruption. We will win because people who love and care deeply about nature will come to see the environmental disaster this proposal would create.

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