There is just no way to spin that it is. What started off with activists being anti-nuclear weapon has morphed into irrational, anti-science stances against all energy - even reactors that simply cannot have a meltdown and use old nuclear waste for fuel. Who could protest against such a thing?
Well, when you have tens and hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, and a lot of that money is coming from aging hippies who bought into the Ralph Nader/Jane Fonda hysteria that nuclear power was causing a cancer epidemic and the Apocalypse, you have to play along.
And then some people at Friends of the Earth are just plain wrong, no different than Greenpeace or Union of Concerned Scientists or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They incorrectly believe nuclear power is an environmental issue the way pollution is. Dr. James Hansen, the world's leading advocate for reducing CO2 emissions, abandons activists and agrees with science on this issue, and co-authored a paper claiming 1.6 million lives have been saved by displacing coal with nuclear power.
The history of anti-science and anti-energy beliefs by environmentalists is quite long, too long for this article. But by the 1990s, Democrats had firmly established themselves across the board as the anti-science party in the United States. For a brief period in this new century Republicans clawed their way into contention by limiting Federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research and not buying into global warming, but limiting hESC funding was simply hyped into being something big - it is not even close to the environmental holocaust that environmentalists, championed by Senator John Kerry and President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, heaped on us by trying to make coal the only acceptable energy source for utilities. The problems in climate change today can be directly placed at their feet. The reason that the CO2 emissions per capita of a person in France are one half those of a German are simple to find - just look at all of their nuclear power plants.
Due to that reality, and despite some hysteria after the Fukushima tsunami caused a panic, support for nuclear power is going up again. Only 14% of people in France now oppose it. And that is France we are talking about. The same people who insist that genetically modified corn is causing a cancer epidemic Jane Fonda blamed on nuclear plants 35 years ago.
Friends of the Earth is not as happy as they should be that America is actually back at early 1990s levels of emissions - just like we said we wanted to happen under the Kyoto agreement - they now want the cleaner natural gas that caused the CO2 decline gone too. But nuclear power, which would absolutely cause energy emissions to plummet, well, they really dislike that one.
In the early 1990s, Democratic efforts were as much simple politics as being anti-science - but their constituents were (and are) anti-science so it was the easy road. Democrats were on their way to losing Congress for the first time in 40 years and so they were in a panic to mobilize their base. Anything Republicans were for they went against. And Republicans have historically always been for science. So the Superconducting SuperCollider had to go and so did the Integral Fast Reactor, ambitious science programs championed by President Ronald Reagan.
Now, the White House that claims to love clean energy wants to cut the MOX nuclear project - the mixed oxide fuel project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina where weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapon stockpiles is mixed with uranium and converted to fuel for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican Senator, would like for funding to remain intact - it is over budget and behind schedule, the same as 100% of government science projects, so that shouldn't really alarm anyone - so Friends of the Earth put out one of their attack ads against Graham on politically friendly venues, like The Daily Show and MSNBC, and also on Fox News. Maybe they are hoping that conservatives who dislike all government funding will be happy that a President who has acted like our economy works on Monopoly money finally found something to cut besides White House tours.
To environmentalists, this is being pro-science.
The Department of Energy, which had no problem squandering $72 billion on lots of pet projects for their boss, including a dozen scandalous examples in 'green energy', wants to cut $132 million - 30% - of the MOX budget this year. But that would be a bad idea, this is a project we know will work. It is not some obscure basic research idea, like the SSC. Losing it would be a bad thing, this effort is just scientization of politics, a standard policy for the current administration. Nuclear power is a striking example.
It gets sillier. The administration trumpeted its support for a whole mix of energies and approved a partial loan for the first American nuclear power plant construction in 30 years and then, after the press coverage was over, changed the terms of the loan. If only those dozens of solar power fiascoes had been so diligently scrutinized.
To oversee our clean energy future, President Obama appointed a non-physicist to run the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - her credentials were a book lobbying against the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal plan and being a Director at an anti-nuclear advocacy group - on an interim basis and is now pushing to get her for a full 5-year term, despite the fact that she has refused to do even the slightest thing that might be regarded as nuclear regulation and has instead engaged in a nuclear blockade. Even Senator Barbara Boxer - arguably one of the biggest enemies of science in one of the biggest anti-science states (California) in American politics - is threatening to hold up approval of a Democratic appointee for a Democrat president until the NRC shows it has done something...anything.
The President supports cutting the MOX project because it is not 'advanced' enough. You may have heard that before. President Obama also canceled NASA's Constellation Program, to replace it with something more 'advanced'. What that is, no one is sure - it is still in planning, an asteroid or whatever - but it will have his name on it rather than George Bush's, which seemed to be the determining factor. The fact is, MOX doesn't need to be cutting edge - we know it works and we know it can use weapons-grade highly enriched uranium and plutonium from dismantled bombs as fuel and it has zero CO2 emissions. The United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and France have been using MOX technology for decades but previously it never got out of testing here due to activists and the political party that caters to them.
Keystone XL is another example where the president plays both sides on energy - he stonewalled approval of it, citing the environment (though all studies by scientists in his own administration had found no environmental impact from a few hundred miles of pipeline in an area that already has 20,000 of them) but then said he was going to rush an extension to it because he cares about energy. Yes, he supported a pipeline to nowhere (across Native American burial grounds, no less) while he demanded that the actual pipeline be studied again and again until scientists came to a conclusion environmentalists liked - not to build it. Obviously oil is not 'clean' but the only clean alternative is nuclear power. The administration is against the existing and against the only viable clean alternative. The President hates clean energy.
Robert Stone, Academy Award-nominated director, former foe of nuclear power and the person behind the "Pandora's Promise" film asking environmentalists to reconsider their knee-jerk dislike of nuclear power (I interviewed Stone about the film and the science here) has gotten a similar dose of double standard and inconsistency about his change of heart regarding energy, noting in Slate that
Climate activist Joe Romm recently urged his readers to follow his example and simply not bother going to see the film. This didn’t stop him, of course, from launching into a lengthy critique of it.Welcome to the world of progressive anti-science activism as most of us see it, Mr. Stone. Science bad, aging hippie hysteria good. Unfortunately for us all, I don't think the White House reads science sites.