Tuesday, May 17, 2005

People Like Tierney Really Make It Hard

People like John Tierney really make it hard to start supporting the possibility of nuclear energy again because of their smugness. Now that it's on the table again, Tierney takes the chance to make fun of environmentalists and all of their kooky ideas. A couple of specifics:

1. Makes fun of an anti-nuclear protest from the 1970s. "More than 65,000 protesters marched on the Capitol to hear energy experts like Jackson Browne and Benjamin Spock - and, of course, Jane Fonda, an authority because of her role in the "The China Syndrome."

What a hypocrite. Oh I'm sure Tierney would say the same thing about an anti-immigration protest with Governor Arnie, an authority because of his role in "The Terminator." What a stupid asshole of an argument.

2. "Protesters dressed as mushrooms chanted, "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to radiate." I went to the rally sympathetic to the movement but left unsure of which was scarier, nuclear power or its enemies."

Yes, there's a good comparison. Hippies dressed as mushrooms are definitely as scary as Chernobyl. I know the Russians think so.

3. If Washington hadn't acted, nuclear power plants wouldn't have been built so fast, maybe not at all. But if the industry had been forced to deal with the costs and the risks on its own, it might have developed cheaper, simpler, more reliable plants.

Instead, it built unwieldy plants that were prone to problems, making them costly to operate and also inciting public fears. Even though the fears about the American industry were overblown, they led to tighter regulations and more expense.

Starting with nuclear power, they've backed one loser after another for the past half-century. They promised that their subsidies would move us beyond fossil fuels and produce electricity from vast solar arrays, solar towers, geothermal heat, ocean waves, sugar beets, corn, manure and something called biogas (you don't want to know). But when the subsidies ran out, the electricity stopped.

So for Tierney, the answer is "Hey, just let the market take care of it." Which anyone who didn't look at the market as a fundamentalist religion might say that the dominance of the free market over American life is the problem here. The weakness of governmental efforts to promote alternative energy and to make it cheaper than fossil fuels is precisely the reason that we are still in a fossil fuel economy. If the government plays an active role to regulate the market and really promote alternative fuels, whether nuclear, wind, solar, or whatever, these other fuels will have a chance. But until we stop worshipping the god of the unregulated free market while in fact living in a world where we regulate the market to actually promote a fossil fuel economy, other forms of energy have little chance of success.