Because Democrats abandoned a plan to use a Senate squelch-the-minority maneuver to pass a disastrous cap-and-trade carbon tax, the idea may be done for this year. But don’t give thanks too quickly.
It’s far from dead and buried and other disastrous energy policies are being readied for public infliction. Before the Obama administration and its congressional allies are done, we could be reeling from one of the most extraordinary spectacles in American political history — a wholly misguided war against our own self-interests as a people.
Start with the aversion to carbon dioxide, which happens to be essential to human life and which is emitted from the mouths of every person every day by the simple act of breathing. Industrial and auto emissions of the gas may or may not be contributing to significant, potentially catastrophic, global warming. But science simply does not know, no matter what you read.
Freeman Dyson, one of America’s foremost physicists, is a skeptic about serious carbon-caused warming, but thinks we can answer the problem with bioengineered plants if it proves to be real. Economists such as William Nordhaus of Yale think carbon-caused warming is a serious problem while also believing cap-and-trade could end up costing the world trillions more than it would save in alleviated warming damages.
The sure thing is that a trip down this road would be a major financial hit on industry and consumers, and here is another sure thing: Wind power won’t save us.
Ballyhooed on something close to a daily basis by the Obama administration, wind power is as expensive as nuclear power, is a bird killer, requires costly, environmentally destructive new transmission lines, monstrously consumes hundreds of square miles of terrain to do what one nuclear plant would do and then produces electricity that is intermittent and requires supplemental sources.
Wind power will and should play a role in our energy future, just as solar power will, but for massive help we need nuclear, which is reliable, non-polluting, carbon free and, thanks to techno-wizards, very, very safe. It now provides about 20 percent of our electricity and could easily provide 80 percent, as in France, if it weren’t for what the administration just did in taking initial steps to scrap Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a national depository for nuclear waste.
It was a foolish act, considering that billions had been spent over a quarter of a century demonstrating that Yucca would be about as sound a place as could be found to keep the waste, considering that the waste will now continue to be scattered across the nation in 100 far less secure sites, considering that the waste could be retrieved from Yucca for up to 300 years if anything went awry and considering that much of this waste could be recycled in technologically advanced nuclear facilities as they came on line.
Without Yucca, it’s far more problematic that new facilities will come on line, presenting us with wholly unnecessary electricity issues. By the same token, an aversion to off-shore drilling, a desperate fear of coal that extends to liquefaction, dogmatic objections to even harmless techniques of proceeding with oil-shale production and other highly arguable stances worsen oil issues. One solution that’s not a solution is steps taken to hand auto emissions policies over to California and a handful of other states.
Instead of relying on the Constitution’s commerce clause to facilitate interstate transactions, the Obama administration will in effect allow these states to dictate a national policy of unaffordable, hybrid cars that few may want to buy, thereby quite possibly wrecking the auto industry if current rescue policies save it. A more carefully considered, congressionally enacted national policy would have made better sense, but the Obama administration is the wrong place to look for sense on energy policy.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)