America’s Energy Future

If you go to The New York Times, click on Business and then click on Energy, you can see the country’s energy future unfold. Gone are the promised green jobs from the Obama administration. Wind energy companies are losing contracts. Solar panel manufacturing plants are closing. The Obama White House has given up on climate change “cap and trade” legislation and is facing a new Congress with members ready to reign in the EPA.

Meanwhile, both the Obama administration and many of the new Tea Party legislators, especially their leader, Jim DeMint, support the nuclear renaissance. Ground is being clear for new nuclear power plants by the Southern Company near Augusta, Georgia, along with a building to train the new Homer Simpsons. It is a huge construction contract for The Shaw Group from Louisiana.

Meanwhile, there is ongoing debate on what to do with country’s current aging nuclear reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is giving most of them 20-year extensions. But the Vermont legislature overruled the NRC and banned the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant from continuing. Its pipes are leaking radioactive tritium into the groundwater. Its owner, Louisiana-based Entergy Nuclear, is trying to sell it.

These actions fit perfectly with another story about the cultural differences toward natural gas drilling in Louisiana and Pennsylvania. In the South, landowners embrace the gas drilling despite several incidents while up North there is controversy about the environmental consequences of the drilling fluids and fracking fluids on clean water supplies.

During the Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt started the Tennessee Valley Authority to bring electricity to rural areas of the South. Today, the Obama administration, during the Great Recession, is giving billions of dollars to a French-government-owned company to turn surplus weapons plutonium into a fuel called MOX to be run in civilian nuclear reactors. Like its nuclear power plant neighbor across the Savannah River, the MOX facility at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site outside Aiken, South Carolina, is an enormous construction site for The Shaw Group along with its French partner, Areva.

No energy company wants to risk its reactors to this new fuel, so there are no customers for it. Instead, the Obama administration is asking Franklin Roosevelt’s TVA to test it in one of their reactors.

That should tell you all you need know about America’s energy future.

Susan Trento

Susan Trento

Susan Trento is PEC’s Executive Director and a DCBureau reporter and editor. She spearheaded investigations into contractor fraud while working on Capitol Hill. Her book about lobbying and public relations in Washington, The Power House, led reviewers to compare her work to Rachel Carson and Jessica Mitford. She is the co-author of several books and received the 2006 Triumph Award. She taught at the American University School of Communications.

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