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Let’s All Laugh at Lamar

June 11, 2010

Chait, Drum, and Yglesias all roundly criticize Lamar Alexander’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal dealing with energy.  There are, of course, some pretty good reasons to criticize the piece.  Asserting that wind power can’t contribute to our future in energy because it only produces electricity rather than fuel while simultaneously contending that we need to “electrify half our cars and trucks” doesn’t really, uh, work.  Likewise, you can’t really say that we should “Find a way for utilities to make money from the CO2 produced by their coal plants” if you don’t really have any idea how to do it, and you can’t exactly omit the fact that oil is not used strictly for transportation.  There is, however, at least one good idea in the piece that all three fail to acknowledge:

If we need more green electricity, build nuclear plants. The 100 commercial nuclear plants we already have produce 70% of our pollution-free, carbon-free electricity. Yet the U.S. has just broken ground on our first new reactor in 30 years, while China starts one every three months and France is 80% nuclear. We wouldn’t mothball our nuclear Navy if we were going to war. We shouldn’t mothball our nuclear plants if we want low-cost, reliable green energy.

From what I gather, liberals have largely ignored this idea for… whatever reason.  Lamar! has actually been on this schtick for quite a while—he wrote a piece for NR last November detailing exactly why nuclear energy is a better idea than other, renewable sources.  Nuclear plants take up less space than wind and solar farms and are much better at storing energy.  And, as Lamar! explains, we wouldn’t even have to let the market determine (and liberals are vociferous in claiming that we can’t) when the nuclear revolution comes around—we could build 100 new reactors in the next 20 years:

Reactors are the answer. The same people who built them in the past — the utility companies — would build the new ones, with ratepayers’ money. What is needed for this is a limited number of government loan guarantees, to relieve the uncertainty of whether the new proposals are ever going to make it through the regulatory maze. Congress this year appropriated $18.5 billion, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu has suggested $40 billion, but we probably need closer to $100 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this would cost the government very little money because the energy companies would pay back the loans.

So why does this always fly under the radar, especially from liberals who claim that we need a clean energy solution now?  I, personally, have absolutely no idea.

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