The truth about Obama and nuclear power

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Font Size:

We have established that Obama’s war on coal hinges on the assumption that 100 new nuclear reactors will be built in the U.S. in the next few years. Without the power from those 100 new nuclear reactors, Obama’s plan will cause the lights to go out. You cannot rule out half of our electricity supply and pretend otherwise.

Now that that assumption is an even more obvious fiction, Obama’s defenders are charging forth to say he does too support nuclear power.

And they point to his recent statement that, “Nuclear energy is an important part of our own energy future.”

But that doesn’t mean that he will promote any new reactors. It just means that he knows he can’t shut down the existing fleet, additions to which have been stalled since 1978. Meanwhile he plans to add no coal, and shut down the existing coal fleet. Electricity, after all, comes from those holes in the wall.

Obama also said to Iowa voters in October 2008 that he was “not a proponent” of nukes, and it is unlikely that anything has changed his core position.

And to put his comments about the importance of nuclear power in perspective, on Friday he said, “First, we need to continue to boost domestic production of oil and gas.”

Ah. Yes. Of course we must. Please point to his record of trying to boost production again?

Was it revoking 77 leases on 130,000 hydrocarbon-rich acres ab initio — which his interior secretary called just the beginning — sealing off more land for exploration and production, taking advantage of the Gulf spill to shut down meaningful exploration and production there (and lying to aid his political objectives), or maybe halting recent progress that brought a revival in Alaskan production close to happening?

Closing off oil fields is not going to boost production, no matter what ideological bubble one inhabits. Thanks to Obama’s actions, our domestic output numbers already began to drop in 2011 and are projected to fall off the cliff next year.

So, now we have also established that he will say anything, regardless of the reality.

But enough words. How about actions?

Was it his NRC reversing course on recertifying the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant this week? Just a “pause,” right? Like the pause nukes have been in for three decades?

Here is the reality about Obama and nuclear power, affirming that he is charting a disastrous path. Citations are omitted, but all of this is found in my book Power Grab.

Obama’s supposed pro-nuclear stance is occasional and purely rhetorical, with the sole exception a promised loan guarantee for two nuclear projects . . . representing one-fiftieth of the nuclear capacity that Obama’s own economic assessments include in order to produce their phony “cap-and-trade” numbers;

Once elected, Obama cancelled a loan guarantee for a second U.S. plant to produce uranium fuel for nuclear reactors even though, as a presidential candidate, he said during a campaign stop in a nearby town that he supported that same loan guarantee;

His support for nuclear power is contingent upon finding an “acceptable” place for and manner of storing spent fuel, or finally recycling it. Such slippery subjectivity (“sure, so long as it’s ‘safe’ and ‘acceptable’”) is the way his team has masked what is, in truth, an unyielding opposition to most energy projects and sources;

Sure enough, Obama canceled the high-level nuclear waste repository that had been decades and $13 billion in taxpayer funding in the making. After all, two senior administration officials blustered that we actually have no need for any more nuclear power (or coal) because that production can be replaced by putting some windmills off the East Coast.

These are actions. And the truth is that President Obama is waging an aggressive war on coal, and even stepping it up against gas, demanding a vast new reactor fleet begin construction yesterday. His assumption that 100 nuclear reactors would be built in the near future was insincere and facially absurd and is now utterly implausible as a practical matter.

All of which says he must place his war on coal and gas on hold. He is not doing so. Instead, he is doubling down on the anti-coal demagoguery.

He is a committed anti-energy ideologue, because energy liberates you. Just as George Will wrote about automobility, abundant energy is “subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends [and . . .] encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.”

Abundant reliable energy runs counter to Obama’s ideology. He is not a proponent of nuclear power, and when he admitted that he was telling the truth. And notwithstanding a few words aimed at avoiding questions about how we keep the lights on, given his war on coal-fired electricity, nothing he has done reveals that he will promote increased nuclear power to replace coal and then gas.

Tell the truth. Have a responsible conversation about our energy needs, the costs and benefits associated with energy sources, and how we best move forward. So far, all of that is lacking out of the White House. It is now up to Capitol Hill.

Chris Horner is a senior fellow at The Competitive Enterprise Institute.