Oceans & Forests Blog

"All of the above" disappoints all around

Posted Feb. 6, 2014 / Posted by: Katherine Fuchs

The president’s “all of the above” energy strategy is hypocrisy. There, I said it.

President Obama cannot be serious about climate change if his Department of Energy is working to prop up dirty fuels like nuclear and coal. It should be simple to understand why both coal and nuclear have no business in a clean energy future. Burning coal directly emits toxic pollutants including greenhouse gasses and multiple meltdowns have demonstrated the immediate risks from nuclear power. In addition to radioactive releases following reactor accidents, even properly functioning reactors steadily crank out a toxic brew of nuclear waste with no long-term plan to isolate it from humans or the environment Finally, with budgets tight, spending billions on nuclear plants that take at least a decade to come online makes no sense when wind farms can be scaled up in a matter of months.

The Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program perfectly embodies the dissonance in the president’s positions on energy and broader environmental issues. After four years of back and fourth with the Department of Energy Southern Company, the second largest publicly owned utility in the U.S., filed documents to finalize a $3.46 billion loan guarantee to build two new reactors in Georgia.

The total loan guarantee package supporting Plant Vogtle expansion adds up to $8.3 billion. Oglethorpe Power Company claims to have completed negotiations with DOE for its $3.05 billion slice of the DOE pie and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, known as MEAG, has until July 31, 2014 to strike a final deal for $1.8 billion in support for its stake in the Vogtle project. In addition to the Vogtle loan guarantee package, $2 billion has been pledged for a uranium fuel facility in Idaho. DOE is still evaluating other proposals for uranium fuel and nuclear reactor projects up to $12.2 billion.

DOE has also begun soliciting proposals for fossil fuel projects for $8 billion in guarantees under the same program. DOE is requesting proposals for projects that will “avoid, reduce, or sequester” carbon, but fossil fuels can never be clean and  new programs only encourages corporations to keep digging and drilling. Even if it were possible, carbon sequestration technology will not help West Virginians wondering if their water is safe to drink, or those who breathe the pollution that comes out of the smokestacks and it certainly won’t help anyone build a new clean energy economy.

Friends of the Earth and our allies have been stepping up the pressure on President Obama to set a course for a truly clean energy future. In January, Friends of the Earth and 17 of our allies sent an open letter to the president telling him that his “all of the above approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignor[ing] the impacts of carbon-intense fuels.” The White House responded with a letter defending “a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production” and then doubled down on “all of the above” during the State of the Union Address.

With over 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we are at a global tipping point. In the State of the Union Address, the president got applause for saying that  “when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.” Mr. President, the consequences of our energy choices are not just your grandchildren’s problem. Climate change and radioactive waste are our problems. They are problems causing visible consequences today.

- Katherine Fuchs, nuclear subsidies campaigner

Photo credit: High Flyer

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