Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The China Syndrome: not in my back yard!

I got an e-mail yesterday from someone asking me what I thought about nuclear power. He said that wind and solar can only amount to a "tiny fraction of the energy needed to keep the economy going" and that we should consider nuclear power. Being a good journalist, I made stuff up about the dangers of nuclear power in my response, while trying to sound like I had all sorts of facts and figures at my disposal. Now for what I'm not making up: I saw the "China Syndrome" when I was, like, seven years old and it scared the crap out of me. In fact, I think I'm still scarred by it. I also saw "The Day After," which, granted, was about nuclear war and not nuclear power, but all nuclear's created equal, right? Now, I'm no scientist, but Hollywood has been telling me for a very long time to stay away from that stuff, so I can't help but listen. Movies are always right.

By the way, it's not true that solar and wind can only provide a "tiny fraction" of the energy we need. Take the example of Colorado. They recently set a standard that the electric utilities have to generate 20 percent of their power from renewables by the year 2020. Xcel, the big power company there is set to reach that mark five years early. In fact, the company announced yesterday that they're being overwhelmed with competitive project proposals from wind farm and solar developers. Last time I checked, this rapid transformation to renewables didn't hurt the Colorado economy at all. In fact, it has created jobs. What's on the verge of wrecking the economy in Colorado has been the long era of banking deregulation. (And let's just say that pro-environment folks weren't exactly the ones behind that brilliant policy.)