Seattle's Faux-Green City Council Rejects Both
by James Conca
They also did this knowing that the Obama Administration, their own leading Democrats and leading climate scientists support nuclear energy and support the Columbia Generating Station.
President Obama has called for an increase in nuclear power worldwide in order to fight climate change and replace coal, and even issued an Executive Order that defined energy from new small nuclear reactors as an alternative energy source alongside biomass, solar and geothermal.
Obama's own EPA Chief Gina McCarthy flatly stated that the primary aim of the Clean Energy Plan's power plant carbon-emission rules is to kick-start the U.S. nuclear power industry since it provides most of our low-carbon electricity (Buzzflash) and that the goal of the Plan cannot be met without existing and new nuclear power.
This desire for nuclear was echoed by Carol Browner, who served as Director of President Obama's Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and as President Clinton's EPA Chief (EPAs Carbon Rules).
Washington State's own Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation in Washington last year that said ". . .nuclear energy in our state and nation is helping to reduce carbon emissions and plays a vital part in the state's diverse mix of environmentally responsible energy generating resources. . ."
At an Energy Summit in Washington, D.C. last month, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) stated that the country needs to keep our existing nuclear fleet going. "Nuclear energy provides critical baseload power [and] more than 60 percent of our nation's carbon-free electric generation. Most Americans don't realize that and I was one of them. When it comes to carbon-free, baseload power, nuclear is it," Booker said.
Even Washington State's Congressional Delegation all support nuclear power. At a recent hearing of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in the U.S. Senate, Ranking Member Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) stated that "nuclear energy must be a national priority -- remaining as part of the energy mix -- and research into advanced nuclear technologies must not only continue, but is critical for the U.S. to remain the go-to country for nuclear knowledge."
Leading Democrat, former Secretary of Commerce and former WA State Governor Gary Locke is a strong proponent of nuclear energy, even creating a nuclear energy czar position in the Obama White House.
Even more persuasive, four of the world's top climate scientists, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Tom Wigley, Dr. Ken Caldeira and Dr. Kerry Emanuel, issued a stark challenge about nuclear energy to world leaders and environmental campaigners at a press conference on December 3 during the Paris COP21 climate conference, stressing that a major expansion of nuclear power is essential to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system in this century.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that without a tripling of nuclear energy worldwide, we will not be able to address the effects of global warming.
But Seattle City Council members think they know more about the climate and energy than the leading climate scientists and their own Democratic leaders. That's why City Council Member Kshama Sawant wouldn't let any scientists in the room to give testimony on nuclear or energy. The Council only let in non-scientist anti-nuke activists like the disingenuous Physicians for Social Responsibility and Heart of America Northwest, subverting the very democratic process they espouse to believe in.
These two professional anti-nuclear groups actually wrote the Seattle City Council's anti-nuclear resolution that passed this week, just like what Dick Cheney let Big Oil do.
But many in the Democratic Party are deeply divided on nuclear energy, often because of the confusion between the issues of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, and because of the long-history of misrepresentations of nuclear from anti-nuke activists.
Columbia Generating Station is owned and operated by Energy Northwest. All of its power is sold at-cost to the Bonneville Power Administration – no profit. Energy Northwest also operates the White Bluffs Solar Station, the Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project, and the Nine Canyon Wind Project. The combined output of these non-fossil fuel systems exceeds 10 billion kWhrs/year with no carbon emissions, enough energy to power Seattle itself, having a total capacity of 1,300 MW with an average combined capacity factor greater than 90%.
Ironically, if Seattle used only the electricity from Energy Northwest, its fuel mix would be cleaner than it currently is.
Energy Northwest was formed as a public not-for-profit Washington State joint action operating agency in 1957. The nuclear plant is the third-largest producer of electricity in the State of Washington, behind the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph hydroelectric dams. CGS generates cheaper electricity than subsidized wind in the state. Columbia Generating Station employs over 1,000 people and provides more than $400 million to the local economy each year.
John Dobken, an Energy Northwest spokesperson, pointed to an assessment by The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition that concluded Washington would lose 9% of the state's emission-free electricity without the nuclear plant.
The Seattle City Council is ignorant (or just incredibly dismissive) of the fact that the only reason carbon emissions have decreased so much in the United States in the last few years is that we've replaced dirty coal plants with cleaner natural gas. Washington State's remaining coal plant will be retired soon, replaced by two gas turbines. That's great, but the fact that gas saves maybe a third of coal's carbon emissions only takes you so far (Union of Concerned Scientists).
The Seattle City Council doesn't seem to understand what's happening in America, or even in its own backyard. Wind energy in Washington State does not reduce carbon emissions since it replaces only hydroelectric energy which, by law, has to ramp down to let wind-generated electricity onto the grid.
Closing our only nuclear plant would make our hydro dams work even harder. And with more droughts in our future, that may not even be an option.
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