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Commentaries and editorials

Democrats are Overlooking
Best Green Option: Nuclear

by Rep. Mike Simpson
Idaho Statesman, May 31, 2009

I read with great interest Rocky Barker's article (Statesman, May 3) on salmon, dams, climate change and the energy cap-and-trade debate now emerging in Washington, D.C. I would like to take this opportunity to add one additional element to the discussion Rocky started - nuclear energy.

As I write this column, congressional Democrats are engaged in yet another round of discussions aimed at producing an energy cap-and-trade bill, which they claim is critical to the future of our world and the fight against climate change.

The most recent version of their bill would require 20 percent of our nation's baseload energy sources to come from renewable fuels and energy efficiencies by 2020. Further, the bill would require a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 and would establish some sort of auction whereby emitters would purchase credits. The billions derived from the auctions would go back into research on renewable fuel technologies.

Conspicuously absent from the list of Democrat-approved greenhouse gas reducing technologies is the one baseload source that actually has the potential to address this problem on a large scale - nuclear energy.

The failure to include nuclear energy as an approved technology for meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals isn't just a politically motivated mistake; it is an indication that congressional Democrats aren't really serious about protecting our economy while instituting their climate-change agenda.

In fact, the American people are well ahead of congressional Democrats in their support for nuclear energy. In a recent survey, fully 74 percent of Americans expressed support for nuclear energy, and with good reason.

Over the past 13 years, U.S. nuclear energy plants were responsible for avoiding emissions of almost 50 million short tons of sulfur dioxide, nearly 20 million short tons of nitrogen oxides, and over 9,400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The French know well these statistics, and their reliance on nuclear energy for more than 80 percent of their electricity needs means they will have little or no need to subject their economy to the pain congressional Democrats intend to inflict upon ours.

France learned long ago that nuclear energy is safe, abundant and cheap. When President Jimmy Carter ended reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in the United States because of concerns about the proliferation of nuclear materials, France chose its own course. Using our technology and the political will we lacked, France created a nuclear energy system that keeps the French people reliant upon only themselves for electricity and that ensures stability in their energy sector for decades to come.

If Democrats were truly serious about combating a climate change problem they swear will ruin us all sooner rather than later, they would embrace nuclear energy, aggressively build new plants, and admit that their opposition to nuclear energy for too long has been based solely on politics, not science.

Republicans support renewable energy. Heck, we all do. But who wants their grandmother's kidney dialysis machine to rely on wind energy on a calm day or solar energy when the sun is not shining? Not me.

It is time for congressional Democrats to get serious about combating greenhouse gas emissions. It is time they finally commit themselves to supporting nuclear energy.

Republican Rep. Mike Simpson represents Idaho's 2nd Congressional District.
Democrats are Overlooking Best Green Option: Nuclear
Idaho Statesman, May 31, 2009

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