On March 12-14, 2008, the Wall Street Journal sponsored an executive conference called ECO:nomics: Creating Environmental Capital. The conference took place at the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara, California one of the birthplaces of the modern environmental movement.
At the close of the conference, Kimberly Strassel, a Wall Street Journal editorial page writer interviewed California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governor talked about a number of actions that his administration initiated to try to address what he considers to be a huge challenge – halting global warming. He also shared a lot of thoughts about leadership, technology, and positive effects that come from addressing a problem head on. He talked about his partnerships with many businesses and his frustration with getting things done in a state capital where there is debate about every step of a journey, but he recognized that is a benefit of democracy as well as a obstacle to progress.
As he talked about a recent conversation with John Bryson, CEO of Edison International, he shared his opinion about nuclear power. In that context, and with that audience, I believe that this one minute comment will be remembered as an important milestone in the Second Atomic Age. Here is the direct quote:
Schwarzenegger: “We had an interesting conversation where I brought up the conversation about nuclear power. I think that’s a very important kind of a subject that we ought to debate over in the future because we’re talking about carbon free you know power and energy.”
Kimberly Strassel: “Are you a supporter?” (Aside: Ms. Strassel sounds a bit surprised in the audio version.)
Schwarzenegger: “I, myself think that nuclear power has a great future. I think that we should look at it seriously again. I know there are people that are scared about it. I know that there are certain environmentalists that put the scare tactics out there and they frighten everyone that we’re going to have another blowup and all of those things, but I think that knowledge has advanced so much, and also that we are now seeing that there is such an unbelievable reduction in waste, nuclear waste. So they’re really bringing it way down, so that now we can really, I think, relook at that issue again rather than just looking the other way and living in denial. Because it will be very beneficial, like in France where they get 82% of their energy through nuclear power, to look at that because there’s no greenhouse gas emissions. So we talked about that. We had an interesting discussion.”
You can listen to the entire interview here.
Keith Johnson, who writes for the Wall Street Journal Environmental Capital Blog, has an interesting post on the matter titled Schwarzenegger: Nukes Are Great. Go and get involved in that discussion as well as commenting here. What do you think? Will this comment have an impact? Why or why not?
(Historical Note: On Jan. 28, 1969, Union Oil’s Platform A blew out and spilled three million gallons of crude oil that contaminated the formerly beautiful beaches in Santa Barbara County. That event was the catalyst that inspired many to turn to environmentalism at a time when the movement had only rhetorical power. See, for example ‘69 Oil Spill Leaves Mark on SB Environmentalism)
Update: March 16, 2008 – State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a long time advocate of removing the legal restrictions on new nuclear power plants in California, noticed the Governor’s statement and made an entry on his blog titled Gov. Schwarzenegger supports nuclear power. Let’s hope that the governor’s leadership helps his persistent efforts to pass good legislation like AB 1776, a proposed bill that lifts the limits on new nuclear power plants and imposes some reasonable provisions designed to avoid the costs of trying to build on a seismically active site.