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Monday, October 11, 2010

My Disappointment in Green Jobs and Nuclear Power

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

Having promoted conservation and weatherization since 1980, I was delighted to support the Green Jobs Act of 2007.  Being the first environmentalist to publicly support nuclear power in the United States in 2000, I was delighted that legislation assisting the technology we supported in 2005 became law (Energy Policy Act).  I attended the signing in Albuquerque, New Mexico as a special guest of the White House.  Unfortunately, although billions have been poured into creating green jobs, such jobs are not readily identifiable and did not help in an American economic recovery.  Similarly, although the nuclear industry has almost every conceivable subsidy and support from the U.S. government, the nuclear renaissance I so enthusiastically promoted is not going to happen [notwithstanding its global warming mitigation benefits].

Now proponents of each area will disagree with me and that is fine.  But they know the reality of the situation just as I do.  So what are we to do?  If nuclear power plants are too expensive to build and wind and solar cannot meet our continuous bulk electricity needs, how can we meet new capacity?  Conservation and efficiency are fine too, but American economic health is based on growth.  And growth requires more energy, regardless of the amount of conservation and efficiency retrofits. 

It appears that natural gas will slip into the gap created by carbon dioxide concerns from coal, the expense of new nuclear plants and the inability of alternatives and efficiency to meet new growth demands.  We have been down this road before and the price fluctuations for natural gas should be a real concern, particularly when it will be used to produce base load electrical power.

I will continue to push a combination of green jobs and nuclear power.  Heck, nuclear jobs are green jobs too.  But I am not optimistic that they will have the huge impact that I  hoped and worked for during the past few decades.

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