In last night's Democratic debate, John Edwards distinguished himself from the other two candidates with his strong position in opposition to nuclear power as the answer to global climate change and/or energy independence. Yes, there are those who think this is the way to go but John Edwards and millions of other Americans don't agree.
EDWARDS: Well, I’m opposed to Yucca Mountain. I will end it for all the reasons that have already been discussed, because of the science that’s been discovered, because apparently some forgery of documents that’s also been discovered — all of which has happened in recent years.
EDWARDS: But I want to go to one other subject on which the three of us differ. And that is the issue of nuclear power.
I’ve heard Senator Obama say he’s open to the possibility of additional nuclear power plants. Senator Clinton said at a debate earlier, standing beside me, that she was agnostic on the subject.
I am not for it or agnostic. I am against building more nuclear power plants, because I do not think we have a safe way to dispose of the waste. I think they’re dangerous, they’re great terrorist targets and they’re extraordinarily expensive.
They are not, in my judgment, the way to green this — to get us off our dependence on oil.
WILLIAMS: Tim Russert?
CLINTON: Well, John, you did vote for Yucca Mountain twice, and you didn’t respond to that part of the question.
EDWARDS: I did respond to it. I said the science that has been revealed since that time and the forged documents that have been revealed since that time have made it very — this has been for years, Hillary. This didn’t start last year or three years ago. I’ve said this for years now — have revealed that this thing does not make sense, is not good for the people of Nevada, and it’s not good for America.
Which, by the way, is also why I am opposed to building more nuclear power plants.
RUSSERT: I want to pick up on that.
Senator Obama, a difference in this campaign: You voted for the energy bill in July of 2005; Senator Clinton voted against it.
That energy bill was described by numerous publications, quote, "The big winner: nuclear power." The secretary of energy said this would begin a nuclear renaissance.
We haven’t built a nuclear power plant in this country for 30 years. There are now 17 companies that are planning to build 29 plants based on many of the protections that were provided in that bill, and incentives for licensee construction operating cost.
Did you realize, when you were voting for that energy bill, that it was going to create such a renaissance of nuclear power?
OBAMA: Well, the reason I voted for it was because it was the single largest investment in clean energy — solar, wind, biodiesel — that we had ever seen. And I think it is — we talked about this earlier — if we are going to deal with our dependence on foreign oil, then we’re going to have to ramp up how we’re producing energy here in the United States.
Now, with respect to nuclear energy, what I have said is that if we could figure out a way to provide a cost-efficient, safe way to produce nuclear energy, and we knew how to store it effectively, then we should pursue it because what we don’t want is to produce more greenhouse gases. And I believe that climate change is one of the top priorities that the next president has to pursue.
Now, if we cannot solve those problem, then absolutely, John, we shouldn’t build more plants. But part of what I want to do is to create a menu of energy options, and let’s see where the science and the technology and the entrepreneurship of the American people take us.
That’s why I want to set up a cap and trade system. We’re going to cap greenhouse gases. We’re going to say to every polluter that’s sending greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, "We’re going to charge you a dollar — we’re going to charge you money for every unit of greenhouse gas that you send out there." That will create a market. It will generate billions of dollars that we can invest in clean technology.
And if nuclear energy can’t meet the rigors of the marketplace — if it’s not efficient and if we don’t solve those problems — then that’s off the table. And I hope that we can find an energy mix that’s going to deliver us from the kinds of problems that we have right now.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, Tim, I think it’s well accepted that the 2005 energy bill was the Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill. It was written by lobbyists. It was championed by Dick Cheney. It wasn’t just the green light that it gave to more nuclear power. It had enormous giveaways to the oil and gas industries.
It was the wrong policy for America. It was so heavily tilted toward the special interests that many of us, at the time, said, you know, that’s not going to move us on the path we need, which is toward clean, renewable green energy.
I think that we have to, you know, break the lock of the special interests. That’s why I’ve proposed a strategic energy fund, $50 billion to invest in clean, renewable energy.
How would I do that? Take the tax subsidies that were given in the 2005 that Dick Cheney wrote; take them away from the gas and oil industry. They don’t need our tax dollars to make these enormous profits.
Let’s put to work the money that we should get from the oil and gas industry, in terms of windfall profits taxes, so that we can begin to really put big dollars behind this shift toward clean, renewable, green energy.
It’s not going to happen by hoping for it. And these small, you know, pieces of puzzle that are starting to take shape around the country are not sufficient for us to break our addiction to foreign oil.
So that 2005 energy bill was big step backwards on the path to clean, renewable energy. That’s why I voted against it. That’s why I’m standing for the proposition — let’s take away the giveaways that were given to gas and oil, put them to work on solar and wind and geothermal and biofuels and all the rest that we need for a new energy future.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you say you’re against nuclear power.
But a reality check: I talked to the folks at the MIT Energy Initiative, and they put it this way, that in 2050, the world’s population is going to go from six billion to nine billion, that CO2 is going to double, that you could build a nuclear power plant one per week and it wouldn’t meet the world’s needs.
Something must be done, and it cannot be done just with wind or solar.
EDWARDS: Well, yes, there are a lot of things that need to be done.
If you were to double the number of nuclear power plants on the planet tomorrow — if that were possible — it would deal with about one-seventh of the greenhouse gas problem. This is not the answer.
It goes beyond wind and solar. We ought to be investing in cellulose-based biofuels. There are a whole range of things that we ought to be investing in and focusing on.
I want to come back to something Senator Clinton said a minute ago. I agree with her and Senator Obama that it’s very important to break this iron grip that the gas and oil industry has on our energy policy in this country.
But I believe, Senator Clinton, you’ve raised more money from those people than any candidate, Democrat or Republican. I think we have to be able to take those people on if we’re going to actually change our policy.
Now, what we need in my judgment is we need a cap on carbon emissions. That cap needs to come down every year. We need an 80 percent reduction in our carbon emissions by the year 2050. Below the cap, we ought to make the polluters pay.
That money ought to be invested in all these clean renewable sources of energy: wind, solar, cellulose-based biofuels. As I said earlier, I’m opposed to building more nuclear power plants.
But I’d go another step that at least I haven’t heard these two candidates talk about. They can answer for themselves. I believe we need a moratorium on the building of any more coal-fired power plants unless and until we have the ability to capture and sequester the carbon in the ground.
Because every time we build a new coal-fired power plant in America when we don’t have that technology attached to it, what happens is, we’re making a terrible situation worse. We’re already the worst polluter on the planet. America needs to be leading by example.
Some of the more recent times when he has made this clear include last July's CNN/YouTube debate:
As recently as last year, both Senators Clinton and Obama co-sponsored legislation (S.280, introduced 1/12/07) to provide the nuclear power industry with huge subsidies for new plants. According to Frances Beinecke, President of the NRDC:
Unfortunately, this industry is paying out very large checks to lobbyists to make sure they receive this largesse. Hmmm, wonder who's getting a chunk of that money?