Climate Bill : Morphing into a Monster?

“Acid Tar.” Image ©2009 ~Monster-Man-08.

A John Kerry/Lindsay Graham production:
Pro-nuke, pro-drilling, pro-coal ‘climate bill’

By Harvey Wasserman / The Rag Blog / October 15, 2009

Is the climate bill morphing into an excuse to promote fossil fuels and new nuclear power plants?

Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) recent promotion of a pro-nuke/pro-drilling/pro-coal agenda in the name of “climate protection” has been highlighted in a New York Times op ed co-authored with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC). The piece brands nuke power “our single largest contributor of emissions-free power.” It advocates abolishing “cumbersome regulations” so utilities can “secure financing for more plants.” And it wants “serious investment” to “find solutions to our nuclear waste problem.”

The Senate bill as now drafted also includes a “Clean Energy Development Administration” that could deliver virtually unlimited federal cash to build new reactors and fund other mega-polluters.

Also on the table are vastly expanded permits for off-shore drilling. And Kerry/Graham have talked of making the U.S. “the Saudi Arabia of clean coal” while bringing “new financial incentives for companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration technology.”

If you think pushing nukes, oil wells and coal mines to “prevent global warming” is counter-intuitive, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The give-aways are allegedly meant to attract GOP votes. The joint Kerry/Graham op ed is being billed as a “game changer.”

But even with provisions pushing a hundred new reactors in the U.S. alone, some GOP stalwarts hint they would NEVER vote for a bill that includes cap-and-trade clauses. So is the GOP set to play the same game with climate legislation as it has with health care: prolong negotiations, gut the substance of reform, demand — and GET — untold corporate giveaways, and then oppose the bill anyway?

What thin green substance survives could be limited to a few showpiece handouts for renewables and efficiency, with cap-and-trade as the centerpiece. But many environmentalists argue that cap-and-trade could create yet another costly bureaucracy with little real impact on the climate crisis.

To get real about solving this crisis, Congress should demand — and fund — a definitive national transition to energy efficiency and modernized mass transit. We still waste half the energy we consume. There’s no source of usable juice cheaper and quicker to install than increased efficiency.

Taxes on carbon and other forms of “ancillary” pollution would help if they assess radioactive emissions (from coal as well as nukes), destruction of our oceans,lakes and rivers, removal of mountain tops, creation of nuclear waste, and so on.

Merely axing the subsidies to King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas) and rendering a level playing field for true green energy sources to fairly compete with the old fossil/nukes would take us a long way up the road to Solartopia. A feed-in tariff that rewards renewables for the pollution they avoid would also help.

Without all that, the climate bill’s outright negatives could be huge. Atomic reactors can do little or nothing to bring down carbon emissions. Projected construction costs for new nukes have jumped from $2 billion to $13 billion and counting. Body-blows to the all-but-dead Yucca Mountain nuke waste dump have left the industry, after 50 years, with nothing tangible to do with some 50,000 tons of spent lethal radioactive fuel rods.

And after a half-century, the industry cannot command private construction financing or private liability insurance to cover a catastrophic melt-down or terror attack. Even if reactors could help with greenhouse gas emissions, it would take a trillion dollars or more to make a noticeable dent, and a decade or more for such reactors to begin to come on line.

But the reactor lifeline does not flow through licensing or waste. Because it has failed as a commercial technology, the industry must have massive infusions of cash and loan guarantees. The climate bill’s real damage will be measured by the size and scope of reactor subsidies, if any.

Kerry’s willingness to entertain “clean coal” and new offshore oil drilling as “solutions” for climate chaos staggers the imagination. It seems to signal that King CONG still owns Washington, and that any meaningful Congressional push for green power will demand serious redirection from the grassroots.

DC insiders generally doubt that any climate bill can pass this year. Afghanistan and health care still dominate the national agenda.

But Democrats are desperate for SOMETHING to show at December’s Copenhagen Climate Conference. The question is: how much will they give fossil/nuke Republicans to get a bill — ANY bill — with the world “climate” attached?

The anti-nuclear movement has three times defeated proposed $50 billion loan guarantees for new nuclear plants. The environmental community still understands that solving the climate crisis requires the ultimate phaseout of fossil fuels.

“A carbon-free, nuclear-free energy future is within the Senate’s reach,” says Michael Mariotte of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “The approach laid out by Kerry and Graham would lead to a climate bill in name only.” NIRS is organizing a national call-in this week. A nationwide series of demonstrations for the environment will take place October 24.

Preserving our ability to survive on this planet demands we phase out fossil fuels and nuclear power, and win a green-powered Earth based solely on renewables and efficiency. Ultimately, we cannot live with less.

[Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth is at He is senior advisor to the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and senior editor of, where this article also appears.]

The Rag Blog

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9 Responses to Climate Bill : Morphing into a Monster?

  1. Steve Russell says:

    The University of Texas has produced a hybrid reactor that vastly reduces waste. It would be good to see if that result will scale.

    In the meantime, may I suggest a law that requires waste to be stored within, say, 100 miles of the plant that produced it?

    Or just store it all in South Carolina.

  2. Bob Sam says:

    Until lobbying is made illegal, this is the form of Government by Corporate Cartel under which we will have to suffer.

    I realize what an undertaking this would be — making lobbying illegal and then making it stick. In order to be truly effective, it will probably take a Constitutional Amendment.

    But, the only way we can take back our government is to eliminate the free access which Lobbyists (as frontmen for Corporate Interest) have to the pockets of legislators and to the exact wording of any and all legislation.

    The logic is simple.

    Corporations are not human beings. Corporations are not citizens. Corporations cannot vote. Citizens, voters, human beings cannot compete with Corporations and their Lobbyists in the Monetary Arena. It follows that Corporate influence over legislation as a result of massive amounts of money directed through thinly-veiled lobbyist bribes should not be allowed…should be illegal.

    In order to avoid the inevitable erosion of any anti-lobbying legislation through the inevitable loopholes which would immediately be built into all legislation passed after any anti-lobbying legislation it probably will take a Constitutional Amendment.

    Who wants to set up the website and file the 501-c3 paperwork?

  3. I could support a bill that says only individuals may contact their legislators to discuss legislation or raise money, either in cash or in-kind, for candidates. Corporations, non-profits, unions, churches and any organization regardless of status would be prohibited from doing so. I would vote for that. That is truly government of the people and by the people.

    Corporate influence over legislation as a result of massive amounts of money directed through thinly-veiled lobbyist bribes should not be allowed If your goal is to prevent undue influence over legislation why stop at just corporations? Unions exert tremendous influence over legislation. Some community activist organizations are thinly-veiled attempts to get minority voters to vote for Democrats and influence legislation.

    Get rid of it all if you want, but don’t pick just on one side of the problem.

  4. Because it has failed as a commercial technology, the industry must have massive infusions of cash and loan guarantees. Reading that sentence in an article promoting Solar/Wind/Water power as our primary electrical source is a hoot.

    The whole purpose of cap and tax legislation is to provide massive amounts of “cash infusion” and assorted federal guarantees to prop up a green power technology industry that has proven to be nothing more than a commercial niche market.

  5. I miss Richard Jehn……..

  6. Anonymous says:

    What happened to Richard Jehn?

  7. Richard says:

    Hey, how about small nuclear reactors that just provide enough “safe clean” energy for your house. You could store the waste under your kids bed.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Check out; it indicates the level of concern that present levels of CO2 are too high to be safe. What are safe levels of spent nuclear fuel?

  9. To PMS: I'm hoping Richard Jehn is just too busy working on his new cook-book, and will return.

    I so liked the articles he shared………..

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