One of the bludgeons that the organized opposition uses to discourage new nuclear power plant construction is the charge that the if the effort was really worth it, “Wall Street” would be financing the plants. That charge presupposes the notion that only the bankers on Wall Street have the smarts to run numbers and make prudent investments.
As a life long resident of the South and a half Georgian by birth, I resent and reject that notion. Recent economic performance evidence should also suggest that the bankers’ business acumen leaves much to be desired in terms of recognizing risks, planning for the long term, and making prudent decisions. Though the below video from CleanSkies.com titled Financing a New Nuclear Reactor With the Government’s Help was produced in May 2010 and does not provide any “news”, it is worth watching.
Every once in a while it is important to recall that intelligent and dedicated investors have made choices about building new nuclear power plants that are markedly different from the dismissive reactions provided in a small segment of Manhattan inhabited by financiers who demand a quick return on their investments.
Perhaps part of the reason for the stark difference in decision outcomes between Georgia and Wall Street is that the people making the Vogtle decision realize that money is just a tool. They also recognize that financial performance is only one of many measures of the value of an activity.
The large organizations listed as investors listed in this video have a responsibility to provide reliable electricity; they know how important that commodity product is to the economy’s ability to function smoothly. They are also, unlike most Wall Street investors, spending money that is closer to being their own. It is not the “funny money” that Wall Street bankers use for their gambles. Of course, some observers realize that much of Wall Street’s money is really the accumulated savings of many small investors that have been packaged into the holdings of banks or mutual funds.
Though I tend towards the libertarian point of view and do not favor government giveaways to already wealthy corporations, I think that the only way that a country becomes strong is to work together to accomplish important tasks. This sometimes puts the government – as OUR representative – into the role of being an enabler that provides access to the capital resources required for large projects. It is time to fight back against those who use philosophical arguments for the “free market” as a weapon against the intelligent cooperation that will produce a resuscitation of the nuclear plant construction industry.
I have spent parts of the last several days thinking about the presentations given to the Reactor and Fuel Cycle subcommittee of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. One in particular led me to go back and find the above video documenting the nature of the cooperative effort at Vogtle and the example that it sets for many other projects that are waiting in the wings for additional loan guarantees to be granted.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an organization that has never been known as a free market proponent or a libertarian think tank, sent Dr. Tom Cochran to the subcommittee meeting with a presentation full of talking points that sounded just like those used by Jerry Taylor of the Koch brothers funded Cato Institute.
It is becoming increasingly clear to me that opposition to nuclear energy is not rooted in normal ideology; it is rooted in economics that recognizes that the disruptive nature of fission will change the alignment of the world’s power structures – both physical and political. Its massive potential for making clean energy the cheap alternative will eventually put those people whose wealth and power comes from selling dirty and/or expensive energy out of business. That prospect makes most of us happy, but it frightens the establishment folks – like the NRDC donors – who will be the economic losers.
Before you feel sorry for any of them, think about this statistic from an article from this morning’s Wall Street Journal titled Its Not Just the Jobs, It’s the Job Machine – the current recession has resulted in unemployment that has been greater than 9% for 16 months in a row. While that kind of recession is happening, organizations like the NRDC are fighting hard against government loan guarantees that could enable a number of new cooperative efforts that would generate tens of thousands of new, skilled jobs with wages high enough to support a middle class family in America.
Loan assistance is not a hand out. Just ask the veterans, students, small business owners, and farmers that have been given a hand up, not a hand out. Dig deeply into the statistics that show how valuable those lending programs have been in the development of the American economy. Think about where we would be today if FDR had allowed the fossil fuel interests to deter him from financing the massive hydro electric dams that took away some of their market share while providing clean, inexpensive electricity for people to put to work making planes, automobiles, and ships.