I have always tried to be clear when I talk about how fossil fuel interests have been responsible for much of the success of the organized anti-nuclear movement. Many people in various discussion forums have misinterpreted my words “fossil fuel interests” as meaning just major oil companies, but I am trying to encompass a larger group that that. It includes coal and “natural” gas companies, pipeline companies, fossil fuel burning utility companies, railroads, many bankers, lawyers, and a large number of powerful unions whose members are often quite militant about protecting their dangerous, dirty, debilitating, but reasonably well paying jobs.
Many of the very large anti-nuclear demonstrations that some people may remember or have seen on video have been led by unions of miners or freight railroad employees.
A good friend sent me a link to one of the most direct smoking guns I have been able to post in quite some time. It is a YouTube video of an August 2008 BBC interview with Arthur Scargill, the former President of the British National Union of Miners. The occasion for the interview was Scargill’s attendance at Climate Camp 2008. Please watch this brief interview to help you understand just what I am trying to say about the confluence of interest groups that might otherwise be considered to be very strange bedfellows that come together to oppose nuclear power plants.
Scargill has made the smoking gun series here before. One thing you have to admire about the man is that he is not devious about promoting coal while bashing nuclear. If you listen closely, you will find that he is very specific about the kind of coal he likes – it is deep underground, not from open pits and it is British, not imported. (Coal from open pits, South Africa or the US does not represent any employment for British coal miners.) Scargill is not a fan of imported oil and gas and emphasizes that British oil and gas are rapidly depleting.
If you spend much time studying the energy business and listening closely to the internal debates between oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biofuels, and even more exotic forms like fusion, you will hear a lot of bickering. Gas people talk about how they produce just 60% of the CO2 of coal, wind advocates claim that they are cheaper than solar, geothermal guys point out that they can be available round the clock, and fusion folks point to a point in the distant future where they will be able to power everything from nothing.
Like many large families, however, non nuclear energy interests unite when they confront a common enemy – fission – with the potential to make them all lose power, wealth and influence. Sometimes when I point out all of the people who have a vested interest in fighting nuclear, my fission fellow fission fans get discouraged. After all, there are some powerful forces at work.
My answer to that potential discouragement is to remind them that the energy consumers in the world are far more numerous than the establishment energy producers. When we open our pro-fission tent to all of the people who own lungs and have a vested interest in clean air, we can find a lot of friends to help in the fight.