(Note: The writer is addressing the question, “Should the U.S. bail out failing nuclear and wind energy producers?”)
TAMPA, Fla. — The key to ample supplies of energy resources rests with which are sustainable and which are not.
While oil and gas may be abundant now, that does not mean these fossil fuels will be all that available in the future.
Wind energy, of course, does not carry all the environmental risks associated with oil and gas, and the presence of wind is pretty much eternal.
If safety measures are strictly followed, carbon-free nuclear energy is also a viable option — especially as the horrors of Chernobyl fade into the past.
For years, the oil and natural gas industries have benefited from generous federal government subsidies. Why should the wind and nuclear industries, now in need of similar subsidies, be any different?
The simple answer is that they should receive the same degree of concern by Congress and the Trump administration as the politically well-connected oil, gas and coal industries.
Renewable energy sectors like wind and nuclear employ some 500,000 people around the United States.
If jobs are of interest to the White House and Congress, a high priority should be afforded to the half-million employees — located in every state — in the wind and nuclear industries as is extended to oil and gas workers in a dozen states that include Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Workers at hundreds of factories that produce wind turbines could lose their jobs if the wind energy sector collapses.
Furthermore, the nuclear power industry currently provides one-fifth of America’s energy, hardly a trifling percentage. Nuclear energy alone accounts for half of Illinois’s energy production.
As far as safety is concerned, horizontal hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has been responsible for far more damage to the environment than either the wind or nuclear sectors.
The worst-case situation for the U.S. nuclear industry, the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident, did far less damage to Pennsylvania than the pollution of groundwater aquifers in the state caused by the fracking industry.
Attempts to bail out Pennsylvania’s faltering nuclear energy sector met with fierce opposition from state capital fracking lobbyists in Harrisburg, who have managed to ensure that a nuclear energy bailout package is dead-on-arrival.
Against such lobbying efforts, a federal assistance boost to wind and nuclear energy in Pennsylvania and other states is critical.
Federal tax credits have boosted the renewable energy sector to a degree not seen with their fossil fuel counterparts.
Considering the environmental damage caused by fossil fuel exploitation, wind and nuclear energy should receive the same degree of federal government support as that given to the lobbyist-intensive fossil fuel industry.
Also the world’s supply of oil and natural gas is finite. Fossil fuels are simply not renewable. Mexico, a major oil producer, saw its Cantarell field reach peak production in 2004. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have concluded that their own oil reserves are in decline.
Because of that, the governments of the Persian Gulf region have started to diversify their economies.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are investing in nuclear. The first Arab nuclear reactor was completed this past March in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital. The Saudis also are developing a wind plant in northwest Saudi Arabia and plan to have renewables produce 9.5 gigawatts of energy by 2023.
When the Saudis begin to deal with running out of oil, why shouldn’t the United States take heed of the problem?
Reliance on substitute renewable energy sources like wind and nuclear is the only feasible alternative to fossil fuels. It makes sense for the federal government, working in partnership with the states and private industry, to focus its attention on boosting the renewable energy sector, especially when it is facing financial decline.
Wayne Madsen is a leading progressive commentator whose writings have appeared in leading U.S. and European newspapers. Readers may write him at 415 Choo Choo Lane, Valrico, FL 33594