by Jarret Adams
After the unveiling of the proposed Boxer-Kerry climate legislation last week, it was politics as usual in Washington, with each side criticizing what it saw as deficiencies in the other side’s position. While the bill includes some excellent measures for helping to combat climate change, its contents do little to recognize the critical role that nuclear energy plays in this effort.
Many Republicans have been vocal about the need to expand nuclear power in the U.S., including leaders such as Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.). Some commentators say that including nuclear provisions in the climate bill would be the best way to gain Republican support necessary for passage in the Senate.
As the fight rages on over health care reform, it appears that bipartisan cooperation on a climate package in the near future could be wishful thinking. In fact, Carol Browner, the White House’s energy advisor, told conference attendees in Washington on Friday that completing a climate bill by December was “not going to happen.”
But finding some common ground on energy and climate issues could be exactly the sort of bipartisan victory the administration needs. There are many issues that remain to be worked out, such as whether a cap-and-trade scheme would be better than a straight up carbon tax, before such an achievement is possible. And differing opinions on the climate bill have lead to some high-profile disputes among some leading companies and organizations in Washington.
As Marc Gunther very incisively observed yesterday on the Energy Collective:
Politically, Obama and the Republicans have a lot to gain by demonstrating that they can work together on climate, even at the risk of losing the far left and the far right. After all, the goal here is not merely a piece of legislation. It’s the transformation of the energy economy. That’s too big a job for any one party to take on alone.
What is clear is that, as the largest CO2-free energy source by far, nuclear energy remains a critical component of addressing U.S. climate issues. In addition, an expansion of nuclear power generation would add to the nation’s energy security and provide many thousands of new jobs.
There also have been some positive signs. As we reported here recently, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has called for an expansion of the nuclear energy loan guarantee program to spur investment in nuclear projects “to avoid the worst of climate change.” We hope others in the Obama Administration are listening.
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