A friend shared a link to an EBay auction for a vintage advertisement from General Electric describing its efforts to help the world move past its dependence on burning coal. This ad appeared in 1972, just a couple of years before Ralph Nader successfully gathered a large group of organizations that had been individually fighting against nuclear energy projects. The gathering took place in Washington, DC in 1974 under the banner of the Critical Mass Energy Project. I have purchased the ad and am anxiously looking forward to adding it to my collection of smoking gun memorabilia. Normally, I tag posts with the smoking gun label when they provide evidence that a fossil fuel related entity has taken a shot at nuclear energy. In this case, the smoking gun shows that there was a time when the nuclear energy developers were taking shots at fossil fuel with some real success.
I have often been accused of being a conspiracy theorist when I point to the fact that the people with the greatest means, motive and opportunity for wounding, suppressing and attempting to kill nuclear technology are the people who sell fossil fuel. My response is that there is a difference between a conspiracy and a marketing strategy that takes aim at a competitor that might very well put you out of business if not addressed. A conspiracy is a criminal act done in secret; implementing a successful marketing strategy is often celebrated and rewarded, even when it involves some hidden messages and concealed alliances.
If you are a businessman or have ever been involved in selling a product, put yourself in the shoes of a coal merchant and try to transport yourself to 1972. What would you do if you read this ad declaring your product to be moving towards extinction? How would you feel if you were a politically powerful and active member of your community and realized that some of your tax money was supporting the Atomic Energy Commission and its efforts to develop the fast breeder reactor? What might you and your industrial friends do if you realized that the agency charged with promoting and developing the technology that might soon put you out of business was also the agency that was responsible for regulating that newer technology?
One of the parts of my theory about the coalition of varied interests who have worked hard to erect as many barriers as possible in front of nuclear energy development is that many established pressure groups with “environmental” credentials have been the frontline troops in the struggle, but their resources have often come from fossil fuel related enterprises. There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Washington Post about the magnitude of the cooperation between the pragmatic arm of the environmental movement and major international fossil fuel corporations.
Please go and read that article. I am looking forward to continuing the discussion, but now it is time to head off to my day job.