The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
FILE -- The American Electric Power Company FILE -- The American Electric Power Company's cooling tower at their Mountaineer plant is shown in New Haven, W.Va., Oct. 27, 2009. (REUTERS/Ayesha Rascoe)  

Leading Dem: Not possible to go coal, gas-free without nuclear power

If environmentalists want to move off coal, they need to embrace nuclear power, says a former Democratic senator.

Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh says that going “low-carbon” requires scaling up nuclear power, since it’s the only energy source of its kind that can produce massive amounts of power cost-effectively.

Bayh says that there is currently “a perfect storm of forces that are very challenging for nuclear energy” which are forcing the closures of nuclear plants around the country. In the last year, two plants in Wisconsin and Vermont were slated for shutdown due to economic forces, including a sluggish economy and low-priced natural gas.

“We’re at a fork in the road for nuclear power,” Bayh told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. Bayh is a co-chair of the group Nuclear Matters, which advocates for the preservation of existing nuclear plants to protect U.S. energy security.

Bayh said that green energy sources like wind and solar are costly and suffer from reliability issues. But these are the energy sources that receive government subsidies, especially after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, which tarnished nuclear power’s reputation.

“Significant steps have been taken to protect American nuclear plants in the wake of those natural disasters or in case of attack,” Bayh said, adding that Germany’s power crisis illustrates the dangers of going away from nuclear power.

Years ago, Germany embarked on a quest to get 80 percent of its power from green energy by 2050. The plan was to subsidize energy sources like wind and solar through higher taxes, while moving away off of coal, gas and oil. But a big problem came for Germany when they began to shutter nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima plant disaster in 2011.

Not only has it been difficult to move off of fossil fuels without seeing huge electricity price spikes, but the shuttering of nuclear plants has made the situation worse, says Bayh. Power prices in Germany are about three times as high as they are in the U.S. and households were forced to pay $26 billion in “green taxes” to green energy producers.

High power prices have forced Germany to turn back to coal power since the are no longer allowing nuclear plants to be built. The country’s about-face towards coal has actually caused their carbon dioxide emissions to increase, a trend that will likely continue as more coal plants come online — defying the government’s fight against global warming.