On June 19, I attended a John Edwards for President campaign event in Washington. I mentioned the event a couple of days ago and announced that I would post an Atomic Show podcast with the recorded speech and some comments about it. If you have any interest in American politics, you can find the show at Atomic Show 062 – Recording and discussing John Edwards.
During the speech, Senator Edwards talked about his energy plan and mentioned a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 through the use of wind, solar and biofuels. He said he wanted to spent at least a billion dollars on carbon capture and sequestration technology and while that research was in progress he thought it would be possible to avoid building a single new coal fired power plant. Then he tossed out the gauntlet and said:
“And, by the way, while we are at it, we do not need any new nuclear plants either.”
As they used to say when I was a youngster, them’s fighting words. There were other parts of the energy vision that disturbed me, so I made some extensive comments on the blog associated with The Atomic Show. Please have a listen and tell me what you think. Then, if you are really interested, and want to try to change the dialog in the run up to the November 2008 elections, write to the campaign committee. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I sent an email to that address and received an interesting response from a member of the committee within hours.
I would like to hear what you have to say about atomic fission as the primary means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Our plan does not focus on nuclear technology, but neither does it rule it out. Ideally, we would like to make solar/wind power more widely available and less expensive than they currently are – though we would clearly not be able to counter the fact that they are reliant on certain factors that we cannot control.
Please feel free to email me back with your insight regarding our energy proposal, so that we might be able to better understand the potential value of incorporating fission into the plan.
Of course, I have already sent back a response. I will let you know more as the dialog continues.
A couple of people have told me already that I am being too analytical and that the comment was just an applause line for the faithful, but there is more to it than that.
I clearly remember the 1976 campaign – it was the last one where I could do nothing but read and listen since I was 16 years old at the time. I remember how confused I got as I heard the dialog change from a message of hope with Ford’s energy plan to one of caution and fear about nuclear materials proliferation as Jimmy Carter came out of nowhere to win a couple of early primaries and became a media darling.
There is no doubt in my military mind that America’s shift away from building new nuclear power plants and new nuclear powered ships at that time has been one of the world’s greatest mistakes. Imagine about how much less CO2 would be in the atmosphere if we had continued building and operating nuclear plants while shutting down coal plants. Think about how much less oil we would have burned with all electric homes and if US shipyards had successfully continued building naval vessels and then translated their skills to the commercial market. (Yes, we did keep building aircraft carriers and submarines, but we stopped building any other surface ships and stopped modernizing the ones that we had, setting them up for early decommissioining.)
Think about how much different international relations would be if oil, coal and gas were less important in the world economy.
We would not be in a condition where people could dismiss nuclear power by saying that it takes too long to build a plant or by saying that there is no infrastructure for manufacturing the components.