Nuke Texas, Please

Yesterday, San Antonio's City-owned CPS Energy, local automotive mongrel Red McCombs, and Illinois polluter Excelon Energy established "Nuclear Energy for Texans," a private-public partnership built to lobby taxpayers, voters, and lawmakers for a nuclear-powered future.

The collection of business interests (and former Guv Lite Bill Ratliffe) along with San Antonio's recently spanked utility, fresh from a requested rate hike denial and green energy lectures from our very own city council, are pledging to fight hard to nuke this state.

It's as if the utility has gone to TxDOT finishing school. One has to wonder just what percent of each utility bill goes to CPS' advertising and lobbying budget.

Here's what they say about themselves:

Committed to raising awareness of nuclear energy in Texas, NET's steering committee is composed of elected officials at the state and local level, representatives from business and industry, health organizations and the scientific and engineering community. Their involvement ensures a high level of leadership and support in NET's efforts to educate Texans about the benefits of nuclear energy.

Although their backgrounds vary, one common denominator of NET's steering committee is the knowledge and belief that nuclear energy needs to be part of our state's energy mix.

Initial funding for NET comes from Exelon Nuclear, the largest nuclear operator in the United States, with other NET members contributing financial support as well.

Meanwhile, up in Washington, the debate has begun on a climate bill opposed by the Bush Administration for its negative economic impact on Old Industry (coal), while a raft of planetary-systems advocates push for the creation of a new greenhouse-gas-free economy.

However, the bill, an example of the deafening power of underreporting still promises billions (over 500 of 'em) in nuclear earmarks and incentives.

Writes watchdog Karl Grossman:

With Wall Street unwilling to finance new nuclear plants, U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and John Warner of Virginia have cooked up a scheme to provide $544 billion –­ yes, with a "b" ­ in subsidies for new nuclear power plant development…

A Lieberman aide describes the plan as "the most historic incentive for nuclear in the history of the United States."

The Lieberman-Warner scheme is cloaked in a climate change bill ­ the claim being that nuclear power plants don't emit greenhouse gases and thus don't contribute to global warming. However, the overall "nuclear cycle" ­– which includes mining, milling, fuel enrichment and fabrication, and reprocessing ­ has significant greenhouse gas emissions that do contribute to global warming.

Moreover, nuclear power is enormously dangerous. Accidents like the Chernobyl explosion of 1986 stand to kill and leave many people with cancer. Nuclear plants routinely emit life-threatening radioactivity. Safeguarding nuclear waste for millions of years is an insoluble problem.

Nevertheless, there have long been powerful forces in government and the nuclear industry promoting atomic energy.

Wall Street is uneasy ­ rightfully regarding nuclear power as terribly risky. Six of the nation's largest investment banks including CitiGroup, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley last year told the U.S. Department of Energy that the risks "make lenders unwilling…to extend long-term credit."

Enter Senators Lieberman and Warner.

Safe energy advocates are outraged by their scheme. Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, says: "It's time to focus on real global warming solutions like solar, wind and energy efficiency, not to further fatten the moribund nuclear calf."

Oblivious on the subsidy angle, the crowd reports:

Climate change debate began yesterday in the U.S. Senate and in Bonn, Germany, where a new round of negotiations began among 162 nations seeking to create a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

On Capitol Hill, Senators voted 74-14 to bring debate on the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill to the Senate floor. The bill calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by roughly 66% below current levels by 2050.

The bill is not likely to pass the Senate this year. Opponents say the bill would severely damage the U.S. economy, while proponents say it will create new markets and jobs and only slightly decrease the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Reuters reported that as many as 20 Senators are uncommitted on the bill.

President Bush criticized the bill before the Senate vote, saying it would cost the U.S. economy $6 trillion dollars. He vowed to veto it, should it pass through Congress in its current form.

In a statement that is laughable in context of U.S. war debt accrued under the current administration, Bush said, "I urge the Congress to be very careful about running up enormous costs for future generations of Americans."

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, responded to the president's statement.

"Just when we finally have a chance to get off of Big Oil and foreign oil, you can count on the Bush Administration to fight us every step of the way," Boxer said.

A climate change bill is not likely to pass until a new administration enters the White House.

So the honor of forging a sane energy plan in a world wrought by climate change will fall to the next administration, most likely. Here's a newsflash for them: uranium is not a renewable resource.

A lot of attention has been fixed on how carbon credit notions and cap-and-trades will work. But before this goliath moves forward, we need a better working definition of sustainable energy. And the American people deserve a clear picture of this subsidy issue.

In the growing chorus for "energy independence," we would be wise to remember the U.S. only has a fraction of the estimated 3 million tons of uranium on this planet.

Back to Grossman:

Among the subsidies nuclear power already gets is $20 billion approved by Congress and President Bush only last year. And there's a law Congress passed, called the Price-Anderson Act, that limits liability to $10 billion for a catastrophic accident ­ although, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, this is a small fraction of what a nuclear plant disaster could cause in property damage, not to mention birth defects, cancers and deaths.

While you are brewing over all this inanity, surely you can find time to send a note of thanks to the steering committee members of the Nuke Texas campaign:

The Honorable Clyde Alexander
Member, State Parks Advisory Committee

Grant Billingsley
Wagner & Brown, Ltd.
Midland, Texas

William Blanchard
CEO, DeTar Hospital
Victoria, Texas

Consumer Energy Alliance

CPS Energy
San Antonio

Donald Day
Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas

Exelon Generation

Dale Fowler
Victoria Economic Development Corporation

Hector Gutierrez
El Paso Electric, Co.

The Honorable Glenn Hegar, Jr.
Texas State Senator

Becky Armendariz Klein
President, RA Klein & Co.

Sheldon Landsberger, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Nuclear and Radiation Engineering Program
The University of Texas at Austin


Red McCombs
CEO, McCombs Enterprises

The Honorable Geanie Morrison
Texas State Representative

Lee Peddicord, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor of Nuclear Engineering
Texas A&M University

Wilbur (Skip) Porter, Ph.D.
Founding President
HoustonAdvanced Research Center

John W. Poston, Sr., Ph.D.
Past-President, Health Physics Society

The Honorable Donald Pozzi
Victoria County Judge

The Honorable Bill Ratliff
Former Lt. Governor of Texas

Maria Teran
Board Member, Public Service Board of El Paso

Texas State Association of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

The Honorable Bruce Todd
Former Mayor of Austin

The Honorable Jim Wyatt
African AmericanChamber of Commerce of Victoria


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