Friday, December 21, 2007

President Bush's Nuclear Power Panacea


President Bush's Nuclear Power Panacea

Ethanol made from switchgrass would be excellent, and clean coal very cool. But if you want a power source that makes jobs and energy without all that pesky pollution, nuclear is the answer.

That's President Bush's view, which he discussed Thursday at a press conference after being asked why the Environmental Protection Agency rejected California's greenhouse gas emissions vehicle law, even though it would have done more to reduce carbon emissions, according to environmental advocates, than the new fuel economy and renewable fuel standards in the energy bill Bush signed Wednesday.

Mostly, Bush reiterated the words of the EPA administrator, Stephen Johnson, repeating that a national approach is more "effective" than a state-by-state regulation. He also reiterated his conditions for joining international agreements designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: only if developing countries like China join up, too.

"I told Vice President Gore that I take the issue seriously, and we’re developing a strategy that will deal with it. When you replace as much gasoline on a mandatory basis, as we’re suggesting, it will do a lot to improve greenhouse gases," Bush said, adding: "This is a real, national plan."

But he reserved his highest praise for nuclear power, a power source that has been controversial in and out of the environmental community, particularly since the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island plant in 1979. Environmentalists have long criticized nuclear power because the dangerous radioactive waste lasts for thousands of years, and there's nothing to do with it but reprocess it into nuclear weaponry. But there's a renaissance of nuclear power, based in part on a fresh look some environmentalists are giving to nuclear power since, as Bush put it, nuclear power "generates electricity without one unit of greenhouse gases." (That's only true if you don't consider the mining and processing of uranium, however.)

"It is by far the best solution to make sure we have economic growth and at the same time make sure we are being good stewards of the environment," Bush said.

Bush has always tied together economic development and environmental concerns (usually to argue that economic development trumps environmental concerns). Here's how he put it Thursday, when talking about global warming:

"I want to make sure we’re effective in what we do, and secondly that we don’t wreck our economy in whatever we do. If you don’t have any money it’s really hard to develop new technology."

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