Friday, December 18, 2009

Things Republicans tell environmentalists:

I hear a lot of oddball stuff at the door from people who don't believe that what Citizens Action Coalition does matters. We generally go for the consumer rights angle with these people, since talking to them about the air they breathe doesn't work (it just reminds them that Rush Limbaugh doesn't believe in global warming), talking to them about the water they drink doesn't work (since most of them have enough money to buy bottled water and do), and talking to them about their rates going up doesn't always work either (because they believe that standing up to the utilities will only increase the cost of doing business and therefore raise their rates in the end).

All that I can deal with. It's really not that unusual or difficult, since it all amounts to one thing. "None of those things can happen to me. I have money, therefore I am invincible."

But there are a few things that they bring up that are really sort of mind-bending. Not all Republicans are dumb like this; there are a lot of them who are far more environmental in their approach than they want to admit (perhaps because it might get them associated with liberals to admit that they care whether we pollute our groundwater). Some of the best logical disconnects I've seen are as follows:

"Wind and solar can't replace coal. What we need is more nuclear." Never mind the fact that wind and solar can and--in some states--do replace coal. The good bit is what often follows. "In France they get all their power from nuclear, and they've even got a way to recycle the waste so that it's clean now, too. That's what we need to do."

That's right! I have heard hardcore Conservative Republicans tell me that America should be more like France. Are you seeing why this totally blows my mind? The appropriate reply to them is obviously that French citizens pay half or more of their income in taxes, a huge amount of which goes toward paying for their nuclear program. Don't believe nuclear is expensive? Then why do nuclear states have electric bills twice as high as non-nuclear states. If Republicans want their rates or their taxes to go up, they should pick which way they want to pay. Either way they will.


I also love hearing from these people that nuclear is so clean because the reactor only puts steam into the air. What the fuck do they care? These people don't believe in global warming anyway, so it ought to matter to them that the reactor puts out less air pollution, but at the expense of

  • contaminated water (and less of it, since nuclear power plants require billions of gallons of water that they're legally allowed to take from nearby cities' drinking water in a drought, since the choice between thirsty poor people and dying crops is cake compared to a nuclear meltdown),
  • national security risk (since even a decommissioned nuclear plant is an awesome target for a terrorist attack, and we can't mine all our uranium in the USA anyway, often getting it from countries that don't like us),
  • higher utility rates,
  • and the use of taxpayers as collateral for everything nuclear-related (see the Price-Anderson Act, which means that if a company wants to build a nuclear plant and defaults on their loan, if a company makes a mistake and the plant melts down, or really anything goes wrong, they're not liable; taxpayers are).

So yeah, it's a little better for the air, but all of those others things outweigh that. They should outweigh that even further for Republicans.

So why are they so pro-nuclear? Because the coal-dependent utility companies who make more money by spending more money (and yes, they're paid based on their expenses, which means their projects don't have to be successful or efficient--just expensive) did an advertising campaign decades ago talking about how great nuclear power was for the environment. These ads stopped because those companies got sued for lying in their ads, but not everyone knows that or cares.

Now, the fact that our government is actually acknowledging that global warming happens means that this is coming up again. They're being more careful not to state that nuclear power is actually environmentally-friendly at all (since now they know they can get sued over it and will lose), but they're still pointing out that this'd be an awesome way to reduce our carbon footprint (never mind that 1% of our coal plants in this country go to power uranium refinement and that'll only increase if we build more nuclear power plants).

This is something I hear a lot. "You guys aren't in favor of nuclear, are you? You've kept them from building any nuclear plants in this state; I don't support you guys."

The appropriate answer is, "Nuclear power is expensive, and if we let utility companies charge you for a nuclear plant, your rates would double. Everyone's rates would double, which is our members don't want. Also, we're not the ones who shut down Marble Hill. The regulators did that because the spending had gotten so high that it was no longer the project they'd approved. We're just the ones who got ratepayers a refund for all the money that had been wasted building a plant that never went online. We keep rates low in Indiana. Is that work you can support?"

At which point I point them back down to our support statement, and if they say no, I walk away and hope their neighbors are smarter than they are. Staying and arguing wastes my time, and only lets people like that think they're important.

1 comment:

Makarios said...

Thinking about stuff like that is hard! Let's listen to Rush--he'll tell us what to do.