The New Progressive Solution to Climate Change Is Nuclear Power

by Greg Pollowitz

Well, duh. Rachel Pritzker writes on CNN:

Last week a leaked draft of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that climate change will have severe ramifications for the global food supply, making it harder for crops to survive and leading to rising food prices.

This report, scheduled for publication in March, provides the latest evidence of the dramatic impacts that the shifting climate is already beginning to have on the planet and on human societies.

Clearly, climate change is a global challenge unlike any other we face, which is why I, along with a small but growing number of progressives, support a unique and potentially surprising solution to it.

It is time for policymakers to recognize that nuclear power must be a robust part of our nation’s energy plan to reduce carbon emissions.

These may seem like strange words coming from a liberal whose family has been active in progressive politics, and who grew up on a Wisconsin goat farm in a home heated by wood fires. Like many of my fellow progressives, I care deeply about the environment and the future of our planet, which is precisely why I do not think we should be reflexively shutting the door on a technology that may be able to help address global climate change.

Energy production is the largest single contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Some people believe that we can solve climate change by reducing global energy demand and switching to solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources. But, as I’ve seen first hand in Latin America, people in the developing world are consuming an increasing amount of energy as they seek to live the modern lives that we in the West enjoy. As a result, studies show that energy demand is actually poised to triple, or even quadruple, over the next century.

The rest here. Now, it’s nice of Pritzker to start this conversation, but details of implementing it are lacking. Which brings me to the “Pollowitz Plan” for nuclear power, which long-time readers of Planet Gore might remember. In summary, we should put the U.S. Navy in charge of the nation’s nuclear energy production. Here’s what I wrote in January 2008:

If we’re allowing the military to generate it’s own electricity with solar power and dump the surplus into the grid, why not go one step further and put nuclear reactors on military bases? With enough reactors, we could make the entire military and federal government energy independent, as well as add much-needed energy into the economy. As for who would run the reactors, that’s the easy part. We have the most successful nuclear reactor operators in the world at our disposal: the U.S. Navy.

Senator McCain has proposed 45 new reactors by 2030, but in reality, how likely is that to happen in the current regulatory environment? Not very. But expanding the current naval nuclear program to include land-based reactors would seem to be an easier path to accomplishing the same overall result with the added benefit of having the nation’s most competent nuclear operators in charge of the entire program. 

See, I was a pro-nuclear environmentalist before it was cool. And if it helps get this idea off the ground, I’m open to changing the name to the “Pollowitz Progressive Power Plan.” 


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