Nuclear Power and Clean Energy Policy
As we consider designing a future clean energy policy, nuclear power cannot be ignored because of its near zero carbon emissions even when considering the entire nuclear fuel cycle. It is also the case that public opinion of nuclear power has been increasingly positive, largely for those environmental reasons, though certainly it decreased after the accident at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima, Japan.
Nevertheless, a strong argument can be made that nuclear power should not be considered as a clean resource in our energy portfolio for two significant reasons. First, nuclear power cannot pass a market test. Second, and complementarily, we can achieve greater gains in energy efficiency and in reduced carbon emissions by investing in alternative and renewable resources.
Today, we hear the phrase that the United States is experiencing a “nuclear renaissance.” Evidence of such a renaissance can be found in the fact that approximately 30 nuclear units are in some stage of planning and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted combined construction and operating licenses permits for two reactors in Georgia and two reactors in South Carolina.
Compared to the situation of nuclear power over the last 30 years, these licenses indicate a significant change in the course of commercial nuclear power. Indeed, until last year, no new plants were built or ordered since 1978, and all plants that had been ordered since 1974 were canceled. Consequently, these new licenses evince a
Robert Glicksman Testifies in House Hearing on Regulatory Policy
by Ben Somberg | February 28, 2013
CPR Member Scholar Robert L. Glicksman will testify at a hearing this morning of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. The hearing will promote the notion of "The Obama Administration's Regulatory War on Jobs, the Economy, and America's Global Competitiveness" (sounds awfully familiar), and the solution, the majority will say, is a series of anti-regulatory bills (many of which passed the House, but went nowhere in the Senate, in the last Congress). Professor Glicksman’s
Natural Gas in the Big Picture:
With advancements in hydraulic fracturing technology, shale gas has dramatically altered domestic energy in the United States. Some commentators claim that shale gas can address all of our major energy problems. Some consider natural gas a bridge fuel to a clean energy future. Bills in Congress proposing a federal “Clean Energy Standard” have included natural gas as a qualifying “clean” fuel source. President Obama’s recent State of the Union address emphasized natural gas and renewable energy as important to reshaping
Not-So-Smart ALEC: The Right Wing vs. Renewable Energy
Cross-posted from Triple Crisis. Renewable energy is clean, sustainable, non-polluting, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, improves the health of communities surrounding power plants, and protects the natural environment. Who could be against it? Answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that is active in drafting and advocating controversial state legislation. They’re not just interested in energy: in recent years ALEC has supported Arizona’s restrictive immigration legislation, the “Stand Your Ground” gun laws associated with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and
Outgoing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson made environmental justice a priority at the agency. As her tenure draws to a close, EPA released its Plan EJ 2014: Progress Report in January, summarizing the agency’s considerable advances toward this important goal. The EPA deserves accolades for the seriousness with which it has treated the issue and for the progress it has made to address the unique and disproportionate burdens that environmental contamination visits on American Indian tribes and their
The Missing Energy-Water Roadmap
by Dave Owen | February 19, 2013
In the 2005 Energy Policy Act, Congress recognized that energy and water supply issues are deeply intertwined, and required the Department of Energy (DOE) to report on their nexus and make recommendations for future action within two years. (42 USC 16319). DOE started this important work, but never finished it. DOE’s initial report, issued in 2007, hinted at the complexity and seriousness of the energy-water nexus. It discussed both how supplying energy requires water and supplying water requires energy. For
National Energy Policies and the Environment: Can the National Environmental Policy Act Provide a Harmonizing Framework?
Energy policy in the United States is inextricably linked with questions of environmental protection. Thus, for example, the Obama administration will soon be called upon to decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, how much (and what kind) of regulation to impose on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction, whether to regulate carbon emissions from existing coal-burning power plants, what proportion of federally owned lands should be devoted to mineral extraction, and whether to allow the expansion of oil
EPA's IRIS Program Still on GAO High Risk List
by Matt Shudtz | February 15, 2013
This week, GAO provided a helpful, unfortunately annual, reminder that EPA must do more to keep the IRIS program relevant for chemical risk management. For the fifth year running, EPA’s programs for chemical risk management (IRIS among them) have been deemed in need of attention to avoid becoming so ineffective as to be considered a waste of agency resources. GAO notes minimal progress by the IRIS program on completing assessments in the last two fiscal years (4 assessments each year).
Change in Leadership at the SBA Offers Opportunity for Charting a New Course for Controversial Office of Advocacy
Earlier this week, Karen Mills, the current Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), announced her intention to leave office, opening up another second-term vacancy for President Obama to fill in the coming months. The SBA position is unlikely to attract as much media attention or pundit speculation as the EPA or Energy Interior posts, but it could have a big impact on whether the Obama Administration is able to take on the long to-do list of public health, safety,
Two Years Later, OSHA's Rule to Protect Workers from Deadly Silica Still in White House Review
[[Ed. Note: This post is a reprint, with minor updates, of McGarity’s post one year ago on the first anniversary of the proposed silica rule arriving at OMB. Little has happened on the issue in the past year – except more people have been sickened or killed by silica exposure.]] Today marks the second anniversary of an event that received little media attention, but marked a major milestone in the progression of a regulation that is of great importance to
Phasing out Fossil Fuels
We will phase out fossil fuels. We have no choice. They are a finite resource and at some point they will run out. Admittedly, coal will not run out nearly as quickly as oil, but sooner or later all fossil fuel resources will run out. The only question we face is whether we phase out fossil fuels before we have set in motion climate disruption’s worst effects or instead just allow a phase-out to occur through price shocks and shortages
Administration Warns of Food Inspectors Being Furloughed From Budget Sequester -- But Moving Forward Separate Plan to Unilaterally Take Poultry Inspectors Off the Job
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Media Manager Ben Somberg. The White House issued a fact sheet last Friday presenting “Examples of How the Sequester Would Impact Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security.” The consequences of the impending budget cuts from the “sequester” are not some abstract problem; they’re serious dangers, like this one: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could conduct 2,100 fewer inspections at domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture food products while
Subsidizing in Spurts: Our Production Tax Credit Policy, or Lack Thereof
Taxes and energy are subject to constant partisan debate. Both are at play in politically-charged discussions about the government’s role in promoting renewable energy, particularly wind energy. Since 1992, the federal government has granted a production tax credit (PTC) (currently 2.2¢ per kilowatt/hour (kWh)) for production of certain renewable energy. The credit initially focused on wind, closed-loop biomass, and poultry-waste energy resources; in 2004 Congress expanded the program to include open-loop biomass, geothermal, and several other renewable energy sources. With
The Legacy of Subsidizing Fossil Fuels
Often lost in today’s debates over whether to continue tax benefits for renewable energy is a historical perspective on the significant support the federal government has provided and continues to provide the fossil fuel industry. Tax benefits for the energy industry as a whole totaled over $20 billion in 2011, which is, and historically has been, about 2% of total U.S. tax expenditures. In general, the United States has used tax benefits to first support development of domestic fossil fuel
Antibiotic Resistance and Agency Recalcitrance
Eighty percent of the antibiotics used in this country are given not to humans, but to animals destined for the human food supply. Most of these antibiotics are given to the animals not for the purpose of treating active infections, but for the purposes of promoting growth and preventing infection in the microbe-rich environment of the modern factory farm. For over 40 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been collecting evidence that this agricultural practice contributes to the
The Precarious Legality of Cost-Benefit Analysis
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Cost-benefit analysis has become a ubiquitous part of regulation, enforced by the Office of Management and Budget. A weak cost-benefit analysis means that the regulation gets kicked back to the agency. Yet there is no statute that provides for this; it’s entirely a matter of Presidential dictate. And reliance on cost-benefit analysis often flies in the face of specific directions from Congress about how to write regulations. There are a few exceptions, such as regulations involving
Climate Progress Possible With Energy Efficiency Standards for Appliances -- Under Laws Congress Already Passed
President Obama's focus in his second inaugural address on the need to address climate change was welcome after many months of near silence on this critical issue. While tackling climate change will require significant efforts limiting emissions from power plants, automobiles, and other sources, the President has recognized in the past that improving energy efficiency in general, and setting stricter energy efficiency standards for appliances specifically, can have a major impact on reducing both U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and consumer
CPR Report: Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy Dances to Big Business's Tune
Congress created the Office of Advocacy (Office) of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to represent the interests of small business before regulatory agencies. It recognized that, unlike larger firms, many, if not most, small businesses can’t afford to lobby regulators and file rulemaking comments because of the expense involved. The Office was supposed to fill this gap by ensuring that agencies account for the unique concerns of small businesses when developing new regulations. Instead, as new reports from the Center