Big Oil Ramps Up Its Fight Against Nuclear Power


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The U.S. oil industry’s lobbying arm is waging a political war against state subsidies for nuclear power, according to a Monday Axios story.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is opposing attempts by state legislatures to bail out struggling nuclear power plants. The trade group said these attempts amount to de-facto energy subsidies that distort the market.

“When the government picks winners and losers in the energy markets, consumers pay the price,” Michael Tadeo, a spokesman for API, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Subsidizing nuclear power generation would raise energy costs and deny consumers the benefits of clean-burning, affordable natural gas.”

“Moving forward, API will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to skew the energy markets by propping up uncompetitive nuclear generation,” Tadeo said.

Six states have shut down nuclear plants in the past couple of years, and more plants facing challenging economic conditions, placing them at risk of imminent retirement.

Illinois and New York passed laws to keep reactors afloat by offering them credits for generating electricity without producing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. States including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Connecticut are considering similar proposals, but API has fought many of them.

“API’s disingenuous campaign against state zero emission credits for nuclear energy is incredibly audacious given their representation of fossil-fired interests that have already doubled their market power in a short period of time,” David Blee, executive director of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council, told TheDCNF.

Nuclear industry officials note that governments frequently pay a lot more to wind and solar power for generating no CO2 emissions, and that allowing nuclear to benefit from something similar makes environmental and economic sense.

“While we believe state legislators will see the bigger picture, API’s policies would only result in higher emissions, a less competitive energy market and higher costs ultimately,” Blee said. “The most acute impact would be on small towns currently hosting nuclear reactors, which would see the dislocation of thousands of workers, the dissemination of related businesses and the loss of property taxes from these clean energy factories.”

API’s entry into legislative debate over electricity markets is a major shift, according to Axios. API previously focused using energy for transportation, leaving the electricity markets to coal and nuclear power. However, the rise of natural gas as a major source of electricity has encourged the trade group to get involved.

Last year, the U.S. got about 34 percent of its electricity from natural gas while nuclear provided about 20 percent, according to the government backed Energy Information Administration. Natural gas is providing about twice as much of the U.S. electricity supply as it did in 2000.

Axios suspects API is going on the offensive against nuclear power due to an upcoming Department of Energy study focusing on what the government could do to stop nuclear plants from shutting down.

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