With the historic passage of climate legislation through the House of Representatives, many concerns have trickled forth. Does the climate legislation do enough? Will it even work? Does it have the right aim? With the issuance of similar concerns have come proposed solutions and substitutions. The republicans have proposed that 100 nuclear power plants be built by 2030 in place of the proposed cap-and-trade climate bill. I’ve recently written two articles on the Republican “solution” to both the climate and economic crises. And today I’m writing more.
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced his own personal blueprint for the nation’s recovery. He began by re-stating the Senate Republicans’ plan that would replace the cap-and-trade legislation passed by the House, which includes building 100 nuclear power plants within 20 years, the encouragement of electric cars for conservation, offshore exploration for natural gas and oil and doubling energy research and development to make renewable energy cost-competitive.
He went on to mention that the Republican plan would not add to the federal budget because ratepayers would pay for the construction of nuclear plants, which would not place an added burden on taxpayers. Offshore exploration and drilling royalties would pay for the furthering of an electric car infrastructure. “Doubling energy research and development,” he said, “should cost about $8 billion more per year which is consistent with President Obama’s budget proposals for 2009 and 2010.”
He then proceeded to ask the question: “Just what is it we are trying to accomplish with this energy and climate change legislation? What kind of America should we hope to create during the next 20 years?”
His own answers included wanting “to see an America running on energy that is clean, cheap, reliable and abundant;” an America that produces its own energy, leading the world in technological and scientific progress; an American that produces less carbon and maintains cleaner air; an America “in which we create hundreds of thousands of “green jobs” but not at the expense of destroying tens of millions of red, white and blue jobs;” and an America that doesn’t destroy the environment in the name of saving the environment, maintaining the beautiful landscapes that stretch from sea to shining sea.
Supporting the implementation of wind and solar energy sources, he went on to say that these sources should supplement rather than be our source for energy. He pointed out that solar and wind farms (as we currently know them) consume vast amounts of space to produce the same amount of energy as a traditional coal plant – or even a nuclear plant, which require less space.
Use alternative energy sources, yes, he said, but don’t rely on them. Rather, we as an American people should “take another long, hard look at nuclear power,” calling it “our best source for large amounts of cheap, reliable clean energy.”
“[Nuclear] provides only 20 percent of our nation’s electricity but 70 percent of our carbon-free, pollution-free electricity. It is already far and away our best defense against global warming,” he said.
So why not build 100 new plants by 2030? He suggested that we follow the example of France, which receives 80 percent of its electricity from 50 reactors and has among the cheapest electricity rates and the lowest carbon emissions in Europe to show for it.
Nuclear, he went on to say, provides tremendous amounts of energy while making a very small environmental footprint: “A uranium fuel pellet the size of a thimble contains the energy equivalent of 1780 pounds of coal, 149 gallons of oil, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.”