Sixty percent favor increasing offshore drilling for oil (83 percent of Republicans, 40 percent of Democrats) while a whopping 83 percent say Congress should pass an energy bill that provides incentives for solar and other alternative energy as a top priority.
Actually, the public may have it right, given $4-a-gallon gasoline and possible oil disruptions in the Mideast. The fact is that, for the foreseeable future, the U.S. will primarily depend on fossil fuels for its energy, so domestic production should be increased.
But longer term, cleaner fuels make sense. Global warming is a fact — the polar ice caps are melting — though it’s debatable whether the consequences will be as dire as worst-casers like Al Gore maintain. A carbon tax would encourage new energy sources.
Clearly, expansion of nuclear power should be part of the solution. Utilities now find it cheaper to use natural gas as fuel, so government loan guarantees — not direct subsidies — are needed to get plants built. They cost, on average, $6 billion.
But once they are built — if they are built — they produce energy at a much cheaper long-run cost than any other fuel. It’s why nuclear accounts for 80 percent of France’s electricity generation and coal-rich China is building 27 new nuclear reactors.
As Alexander said in his Senate speech, “the United States invented nuclear power, but ... of the 65 reactors under construction around the world, only one is in the United States,” part of the Tennessee Valley Authority anchored in his state.
He pointed out that “no one has ever died from a nuclear accident at any of our commercial or naval reactors,” including the Three Mile Island incident, which led to vast upgrades in safety oversight.
And, he said, while nuclear energy has risks, “it is also important to remember that we do not abandon highway systems because bridges and overpasses collapse during earthquakes. ...
“We cannot stop drilling after a tragic oil spill unless we want to rely more on foreign oil, run up our prices, turn our oil drilling over to a few big companies and all our oil hauling to leaky tankers.”
That’s on the mark. America needs a do-it-all energy policy, and if nuclear isn’t part of it, we will be under-powered.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.