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Nuclear Option!

6 August 2008

What’s wrong with the media? Mainly, they are lazy news readers, not journalists. However, I would like to give kudos to MSNBC and CNN for at least turning the conversation to the real issue of energy this week, and actually broadcasting whole candidate speeches along with sections thereof, instead of the silly sound bites that have dominated news coverage lately.

That said, I do feel it is high time that the 24-hour news networks started digging around and getting the facts out to the voters so we can make an informed choice on the real issues with which we are confronted.

Case in point: John McCain announced yesterday that he wants to build 45 nuclear power plants across the nation and that simple-minded Barack Obama doesn’t see the wisdom in this simple plan. Come on, John, there’s nothing simple about this plan. First of all, the cost of such an undertaking must be truly astronomical. Where’s the money coming from? Are your Republican buddies willing to raise taxes on the rich and corporate in order to accomplish this Herculean effort? I think not. But let’s assume in the spirit of bi-partisan discussion on the issue that they will.

Look, down here in Texas we pay some of the highest utility rates in the nation despite being a major producer of natural gas. So once every month – especially in the oppressive summer – I am willing to talk turkey about ways to save money on my electric bill. But, John, I’ve got a few concerns about this “safe” alternative to wind and solar power. I agree that the safety record at our existing nuclear facilities has been fairly good – forgetting for the moment Three Mile Island and that Michigan nuke plant that you toured yesterday. But – and it’s a huge BUT– what about storing that almost-forever-toxic nuclear waste that will be produced on an even greater scale by 45 additional plants?

Here’s the deal, John. I know that you and your minions feel that Senator Obama is the epitome of modern-day arrogance. But I submit another candidate for the height of arrogance: the idea that we are really capable of surviving as a country or empire that can outlast the toxicity of all that nuclear waste that we’re storing. I ask it this way. What if the good-old Romans had achieved nuclear capability back two thousand years ago at the height of their greatness? What do you suppose would have happened to their nuclear waste after their collapse as a great imperial power? Do you think the barbarians that swept down and overcame them were capable of managing such a dangerous cache of poisonous material? Just something to think about. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, no nation in the world can trace its uninterrupted self-governance back to earliest recorded history. Not even Egypt or China!

Now, before I further risk the ire of the neocon-driven right wing of the Republican Party, I think it is only fair to point out that I am not the only one extremely concerned about this oversight by those who wish to rush into the nuclear age of energy production. Senator McCain’s own neighbors in Nevada are putting up quite a fight to keep their state from becoming the nation’s nuclear dump. I’ve been to the Nevada desert, and I know it’s tempting to see it as a good place for such use, but I wouldn’t want to live in Las Vegas or Reno if such a thing came to pass. Perhaps the Senator from Arizona might ask his constituency in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff if they have some desert to spare for such an undertaking. I don’t want to speak for those good people, but I think I know the answer.

Before I go, I must give high praise and credit to Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC for her hard-hitting interview of Carly Fiorina, a favorite McCain spokeswoman: Ms. Mitchell refused to allow Ms. Fiorina to spin her way out of answering the questions she posed on McCain’s energy policy. Ms. Mitchell scored a particularly good punch about the subject of nuclear plant building when she pointed out that the US Congress appropriated money for nuclear plants in their most-recent energy bill, yet not one new plant has been started because no one has been able to comply with the safety requirements to get a permit. No response from Fiorina! Does this mean that Senator McCain is planning to dismantle recognized safety measures in order to push forward his nuclear program? Who knows? But the bigger question is: Can we trust John McCain? It’s a fair question, and I’ll have more to say on that topic at a later date.

So, for today, be of good cheer, fellow Liberals. We’re still winning on the issues!

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