Mark Cooper’s academic and professional background shows little evidence of formal training or experience in economics or cost analysis. Though his recent report indicating that nuclear power plants in the United States are suffering from competitive cost pressures contains some accurate information, it does a poor job of identifying the cost drivers and makes no attempt to prescribe any solutions. It makes the illogical assumption that energy prices will will continue following their present trend, even with a substantial reduction in production.
As a news consumer, I like to think that journalists have been trained to dig deep and ask hard questions, but I am often disappointed when I find little evidence of any serious investigation. Too often, time-constrained reporters will take sources at face value or simply transcribe what they have been told, even if the original source material is simply a press release by an organization with a modestly concealed agenda.
Here are some questions I would love to have heard reporters ask during the recent press conference that Cooper and his colleague, Peter Bradford held to introduce the report.
- Why should we pay attention to a report from a private law school about the economics of important components of our national electricity infrastructure authored by a man with degrees in English and Sociology and no professional experience that reflects proven expertise in economics in either business or academia?
- Who is funding the Vermont Law School to produce and market reports that discourage the use of nuclear energy?
- Why would a self proclaimed “consumer advocate” take a position that reduces energy supply alternatives? Isn’t one of the most basic principles in economic theory the law of supply and demand, in which a constrained supply of any needed commodity eventually leads to increased prices for that commodity?
- Why would someone who believes in the danger of climate change and frequently accuses others of being a climate change denier take a position in opposition to the continued use of proven, ultra low emission power generation like existing nuclear power plants?
- Why do you claim that modern technology makes the concept of baseload electricity irrelevant? Do you have any idea how vulnerable computer systems are to minor variations in power or how costly outages can be?
- What action have you taken during your career to make nuclear energy safer or more cost effective?
In debate, it is considered to be bad form to engage in ad hominem attacks, but when my opponents rely on an “appeal to authority”, hastily produced reports marketed by press releases and press conferences, and inaccurate titles to establish their credibility, I get motivated to aim my arrows at the archer. Instead of finding evidence of journalists who ask hard questions similar to the ones above, all I have found is examples of reporters who take Cooper at face value and do not question the history of opposition to the use of nuclear energy from both Cooper and his funders at the Vermont Law School.
Here are examples of the blurbs used to describe Cooper in various sources:
Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal “senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law School”
BusinessWeek “a scholar at the University of Vermont”