Friday, August 28, 2020

Five decades late to the ballgame: After 48 years, Democrats endorse nuclear energy in platform

It took five decades, but the Democratic Party has finally changed its stance on nuclear energy. In its recently released party platform, the Democrats say they favor a “technology-neutral” approach that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.”

That statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy. The change in policy is good — and long overdue — news for the American nuclear-energy sector and for everyone concerned about climate change. The Democrats’ new position  means that for the first time since Richard Nixon was in the White House, both the Republican and Democratic parties are officially on record in support of nuclear energy. That’s the good news.

The less-than-good news is that the Democratic Party platform pledges to deploy outlandish quantities of new solar and wind capacity and do so in just five years. Further, the platform ignores the amount of land needed for that effort and how it would end up driving up the cost of electricity for low- and middle-income consumers. (More on that in a moment.)

About a decade ago, a high-ranking official at the Department of Energy told me that a big problem with nuclear energy is that it needs bipartisan support in Congress. That wasn’t happening, he said, because “Democrats are pro-government and anti-nuclear. Republicans are pro-nuclear and anti-government.” That partisan divide is apparent in the polling data. A 2019 Gallup poll found that 65 percent of Republicans strongly favored nuclear energy but only 42 percent of Democrats did so.

The last time the Democratic Party’s platform contained a positive statement about nuclear energy was in 1972, when the party said it supported “greater research and development” into “unconventional energy sources” including solar, geothermal, and “a variety of nuclear power possibilities to design clean breeder fission and fusion techniques.”

Since then, the Democratic Party has either ignored or professed outright opposition to nuclear energy. In 2016, the party’s platform said climate change “poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures.” The platform contained 31 uses of the word “nuclear” including “nuclear proliferation,” “nuclear weapon,” and “nuclear annihilation.” It did not contain a single mention of “nuclear energy.”

That stance reflected the orthodoxy of the climate activists and environmental groups who have dominated the Democratic Party’s discussion on energy for decades. For instance, in 2005, about 300 environmental groups – including Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Public Citizen – signed a manifesto which said “we flatly reject the argument that increased investment in nuclear capacity is an acceptable or necessary solution….[N]uclear power should not be a part of any solution to address global warming.” (The Sierra Club, the biggest environmental group in America, says it remains “unequivocally opposed to nuclear energy.”)

What changed the Democrats’ stance on nuclear? I cannot claim any special knowledge about the drafting of the platform, but it appears that science and basic math finally won out. While vying for their party’s nomination, two prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls — Cory Booker and Andrew Yang – both endorsed nuclear energy. In addition, Joe Biden’s energy plan included a shout-out to nuclear.

While the pro-nuclear stance is a welcome change to the Democratic Party’s view on energy, the new platform also says that “Within five years, we will install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems, and 60,000 wind turbines.”

To call that a stretch goal would be charitable. The Democrats say that there is an “urgent need to decarbonize the power sector.” But attempting to do so with such massive quantities of solar and wind simply isn’t feasible, particularly in just five years. To put those numbers in perspective, the Solar Star project is one of the largest solar facilities in the country. It has about 1.7 million solar panels and at full capacity, can generate 579 megawatts of power. Thus, deploying 500 million solar panels (which would have a capacity of roughly 173,700 megawatts) would require building nearly 300 projects the size of Solar Star.

The wind numbers are equally daunting. The United States currently has about 60,000 wind turbines with a capacity of about 104,000 megawatts. Where are the Democrats planning to put those forests of turbines? In New York, a state dominated by Democrats, the backlash against the siting of large renewable projects has been so widespread that earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a measure that allows the state to override the regulations implemented by local governments when siting energy projects. In California, where Democrats have controlled the state government for decades, wind capacity has been essentially unchanged since 2013. Meanwhile,only 73 megawatts of new wind capacity is being built in New England. No new wind capacity is under construction in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Nor do the Democrats mention what building all that capacity will mean for ratepayers. But some basic estimates show how expensive it will be. Let’s assume each megawatt of solar and wind costs $1 million. At that price, adding 277,000 megawatts for new wind and solar capacity will cost about $277 billion. That figure is far too low as it ignores the cost of high-voltage transmission lines, substations, and the batteries needed to offset the incurable intermittency of the sun and the wind. But even at that price, it works out to more than $800 for each American. (Last year, energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimated that “full decarbonization of the US power grid” would cost about $4.5 trillion.) Whatever the actual tally, there’s no doubt that overhauling the power grid will cost hundreds of billions of dollars and that cost will ultimately be passed on to low- and middle-income consumers, either through higher taxes or higher electricity rates.

The essential point here is that talking about changing our energy and power systems is easy. Making real change happen takes decades and is staggeringly expensive.

Over the past two years or so, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill has led to new laws, including the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act and the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act that will help stimulate the development and deployment of new nuclear fuels, materials, and advanced reactors. So yes, the Democratic Party’s new support for nuclear energy is welcome and overdue. The hard work will be in turning that support into new reactors.


Biden's Low-Energy Jobs Plan

Listening to Joe Biden talk about his energy plans is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s ill-conceived 2008 “green jobs” promise, which proved to be nothing more than a costly boondoggle. The only difference is that Biden is making even greater pie-in-the-sky claims. He says his climate agenda will make the country a “100% clean energy economy” by 2050.

Like Obama, Biden wants to eliminate coal, but he’s also expanding that to all fossil fuels. Biden would ban all drilling and fracking on public land, while also creating an “enforcement mechanism” to limit carbon production on private land. That would likely happen via a carbon tax meant to make the extraction of fossil fuels prohibitively expensive.

But don’t worry, Biden assures those currently employed in the American energy structure. He claims his plan would create “10 million good-paying, middle-class, union jobs.” American taxpayers would contribute $1.7 trillion to help “train all of America’s workforce to tap into the growing clean-energy economy.” And what would these newly trained clean-energy workers be trained to do? Why, they’d be installing “millions of new solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines,” of course.

However, like Obama’s boondoggle, Biden’s clean-energy jobs would not come close to providing the type of good-paying consistent employment that the current oil and natural gas industry does today. Even the unions know this reality, as they have come out against Biden’s plan.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the oil and gas industry provides an average annual salary of $108,000, nearly twice the private economy average,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board notes. “A Journal analysis last year found even higher average wages at large companies like Exxon Mobil, where median worker pay is about $170,000 a year. Renewable medians are harder to measure, but NABTU president Sean McGarvey estimates that many union members would ‘take a 50% or 75% pay cut.’” That’s a steep price to pay for Biden’s Green New Deal fairy tale.


The Racism of Climate Change Alarmists

Climate alarmists now proclaim that climate change is racist. What hypocrisy. By this theory, the sun, our galaxy, and their creator are racist, since they have driven climate change throughout history.

Racism has certainly been a factor in many decisions about land use, zoning, education and many other aspects of our lives. But this began long before Europeans “discovered” America. Tribalism, the most fundamental form of racism historically, has been around at least since the dawn of the Iron Age.

The new racism is a prime domain of environmental alarmists, and a direct outgrowth of centuries of patronizing colonialism. Many still believe today’s poor and indigenous people must be “guided” into a “green” tomorrow and not allowed to use the tools that Western and other countries employed to grow, create wealth, improve living standards, and remain free.

Many even seem OK that their “solutions” to “climate change” yield highly negative results for billions of people worldwide whose lifestyles are far removed from the privileges of eco-elites – who don’t even enjoy the blessings of electricity, 24/7/365 or even at all.

Instead of recognizing their own role in sustaining energy poverty (and its resultant misery, disease, and death), the alarmists berate the West for escaping generational poverty through technology. Penn State meteorologist Gregory Jenkins (who works for Dr. Michael Mann, co-creator of dangerous Mann-made climate change) has linked racism to climate change “because it dictates who benefits from activities that produce planet-warming gases and who suffers most from the consequences.”

But their “solutions” always deny African and other poor families access to fossil fuel “activities” – and blessings – while burdening their own societies with heavy taxes and mandates that would curtail affordable energy and living standards for billions.

Fifteen years ago, Cameroonian journalist Jean-Claude Shanda Tomme said environmentalists “still believe us to be like children that they must save, as if we don’t realize ourselves what the source of our problems is.” Incredibly, this remains a prevailing attitude.

Nearly two decades ago, in his seminal book Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death, Paul Driessen exposed the eco-colonialism (and racism) of European and American nongovernmental organizations, banking institutions, and governments.

In its introduction, Congress Of Racial Equality national spokesman Niger Innis said the green elites’ policies “prevent needy nations from using the very technologies that developed countries employed to become rich, comfortable and free of disease. And they send millions of infants, children, men and women to early graves every year.”

They insist that Africans not be allowed to combat malaria with DDT, which eradicated malaria throughout the developed world. Nor may Africans rely on their abundant oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear or hydroelectric resources, the same technologies and resources that built Western and Eastern societies.

Multiple voices have demanded that the West stop smothering Africans with money that fuels massive corruption. A decade ago, in reviewing Dambisa Moyo’s brilliant 2009 book, Dead Aid, I recalled her litany of “sins of aid with strings.” It fuels corruption, encourages inflation, increases debt loads, kills exports, causes civil unrest, frustrates entrepreneurship, and disenfranchises citizens.  In effect, foreign aid is also racist.

My colleagues and I pointed out that $500 billion in foreign aid had done little to improve the lives of ordinary Africans, who still had few highways, no real electric grid, little sanitation or clean water, few hospitals, and millions dying annually from diseases almost entirely wiped out elsewhere in the world.

At that time, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo pleaded with Western leaders that “energy is fundamental for economic development and social progress. While the use of all forms of energy is welcome, it is clear that fossil fuels will continue to satisfy the lion’s share of the world’s growing energy needs for decades to come.” But Africans are still routinely denied financing to develop those resources for their own citizens. This is racism at its worst.

I also reviewed a World Bank Development Research Group proposal for building a 100,000-kilometer African highway system to connect all major African capitals and large cities. It would cost just $30 billion, plus $2 billion a year in maintenance, but could generate $750 billion a year in overland trade among African nations. But it quickly hit the environmentalist/development bank dustbin. Pure racism.

The racism even extended to higher education, as European and American universities recruited Africa’s brightest and best African students and faculty, leaving their own fledgling institutions of higher learning in shambles. Lydia Polgreen said this academic flight “depriv[ed] dozens of nations of the homegrown expertise that could lift millions out of poverty.” More racism.

And so it continues. African Energy Chamber Executive Chairman N.J. Ayuk recently criticized the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and International Energy Agency (IEA) for describing low oil prices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as “golden opportunity” for governments to phase out fossil fuels support– and thus better living standards.

He put it bluntly: “The OECD and IEA don’t necessarily know what’s best for the people who live on this planet. Pressuring governments to stop supporting fossil fuels certainly would not be good for the African oil and gas companies or entrepreneurs striving to build a better future. And it could be downright harmful to communities looking at gas-to-power initiatives to bring them reliable electricity.”

“Too often,” Ayuk added, “the discussion about climate change – and the call to leave fossil fuels in the ground – is largely a Western narrative. It does not factor in the needs of low-income Africans who could reap the many benefits of a strategic approach to oil and gas operations in Africa: Reduced energy poverty, job creation, and entrepreneurship opportunities, to name a few.”

On the global stage, he concluded, the OECD and the IEA are “dismissing the voices of many Africans who want and need the continent’s oil and gas industry to thrive.” African energy entrepreneurs and Africans who care about energy poverty are struggling. But their voices are ignored by these power brokers, and the world.

Journalist Geoff Hill highlighted how many Africans still rely on increasingly scarce firewood to cook and heat their homes on cold nights, despite the environmental damage caused by stripping forest habitats to oblivion. Of the world’s 50 countries with the least access to electricity, 41 are in Africa – despite abundant rivers, sunlight, and oil, gas, coal, and uranium reserves.

The chief reason, Hill explained, is corruption – traced back to the foreign aid Dambisa Moyo criticized. Climate alarmists naturally say it’s someone else’s fault. Thankfully, finally, says Hill, some Africans are admitting their own role in allowing corrupt cultures to rule them.

Nigerian neurosurgeon Dr. Sylvanus Ayeni’s 2017 book Rescue Thyself details the failure of African governments to serve their people. He is saddened that, despite over a trillion dollars in aid to Africa from the U.S. alone, so much has been blown on palaces, private jets, and outright theft.

But who empowered these greedy leaders, who sought to do what donors wanted? Will the West finally recognize that it was their paternalistic racism that empowered this corruption? Will it change its ways? Or will it just continue the eugenic practices that dehumanized Africans as “unfit” to reproduce?


Australian state to make landowners clear fire hazards

Since landowners have been prosecuted in the past for doing that, this is a great leap forward

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's most populous state said on Tuesday it will compel owners to clear their land of flammable material as it endorsed 76 recommendations from an enquiry into deadly bushfires.

Fires razed more than 11 million hectares (37 million acres) of bushland across Australia's southeast early this year, killing at least 33 people and billions of native animals, a disaster that Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Australia's "black summer".

Amid public anger, the federal and state governments commissioned independent enquiries.

New South Wales (NSW), which recorded the highest death toll from the fires at 25, on Tuesday became the first to release findings. Its Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the state government had accepted all recommendations.

Among recommendations, the state will require landowners to clear or burn flammable material - usually dried brush and dead leaves - for firefighters to be trained in treating wild animals and the creation of a fund to develop technology to detect fires.

"These 76 recommendations are wide-ranging but what they also show is that there is no silver bullet. The last summer was caused by a crippling drought," Elliott told reporters in Canberra.

The issue of hazard reduction, however, is the most contentious as questions arise about the cause of the fires.

Morrison, a supporter of the fossil fuel industry, this year said removing flammable material was as "important as emissions reduction and I think many would argue even more so", a stance rejected by several former firefighting chiefs.

Environmental groups said Australia - one of the world's biggest carbon emitters on a per capital basis - must reduce its greenhouse emissions, amid forecasts for more frequent and severe droughts as the climate changes.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


No comments: