Jan. 18, 2007 – Senators introduced a bill last week that, while attempting to tackle climate change, also offers subsidies to the nuclear industry.
Senators Joe Lieberman (Iâ€“Connecticut) and John McCain (Râ€“Arizona) reintroduced the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act last Friday. The Act would mandate a gradual reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, until 2050. Greenhouse gases are a major cause of global warming.
The bill was first introduced in 2003 and again in 2005 but failed to pass both years.
Along with allowing companies to trade, save and borrow their emissions credits, the Act would promote the development of technologies and practices that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The Senators are touting the legislation as a "market-driven" solution to climate change.
Environmentalists have applauded the legislation for taking steps to fight global warming pollution. But John Coequyt, Greenpeace energy policy analyst, said in a press statement that target reductions in the bill "fall very short" of what is "necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change."
Greenpeace is also critical of a provision in the bill that aims to bolster nuclear-energy development. The Act would provide funding and loan guarantees for new technologies, including three new nuclear power plant design projects.
"Regrettably, the senators have also included subsidies for nuclear energy, which is inherently dangerous and provides no real solution to global warming," Coequyt said.
Proponents of nuclear power note that it involves far less greenhouse-gas emissions than fossil-fuel-based generation methods, and thus contributes less to climate change.
But nuclear plants contribute to other environmental dangers: non-disposable radioactive waste and the potential for catastrophic nuclear accidents.
Additionally, Coequyt said, the high cost to build and operate nuclear plants makes them impractical. In 2003, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that building a new nuclear plant would cost between $2.1 billion and $3 billion. The CBO also warned that energy companies default on more than half of their guaranteed loans.
Giving loans to an industry that has a high chance of defaulting is "not only ineffectual, but foolish and wasteful," Coequyt said.
Environmental groups also opposed the Act in previous years because of its nuclear development.
Emily Rusch of the New Jersey Public Research Interest Group chastised the legislation in 2005. "There is no need to jeopardize our health, safety, and economy with increased nuclear power when we have cleaner, cheaper, and safer solutions to reduce global warming pollution," Rusch told Environment News Service.
Greenpeace is calling on Congress to "strip nuclear subsidies not only from this bill but any piece of legislation to address climate change that comes before Congress."