Obama’s Energy Secretary: More Nuclear Power to Fight Global Warming

Global warming does not have to divide liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans. President Obama’s Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz illustrated the point perfectly last week, championing for climate reasons the same nuclear power that conservatives have long supported. This could be the start of more bipartisan climate policy.

In testimony before a Senate Appropriations Committee energy and water panel, Moniz advocated resolving storage issues for spent nuclear fuel that are blocking the expansion of nuclear power. His testimony mirrors similar sentiments he expressed earlier this year.

“We are supposed to be adding zero carbon sources, not subtracting or simply replacing by building to just kind of tread water,” said Moniz according to a May 2016 Scientific American article.

 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Scientific American noted nuclear power provides nearly two-thirds of the United States’ zero-emissions power. Nevertheless, five of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors shut down in the past few years and more may follow.

“I also know we can’t get there [meeting carbon dioxide reduction goals] unless we substantially support and even embolden the nuclear energy sector,” said Moniz. “We’ve got to support the existing fleet.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told the Senate Appropriations Committee energy and water panel last week that she would like to pass legislation making it easier to store spent nuclear fuel. This would address some of Moniz’s concerns.

The political dynamic of Moniz, Feinstein, and many concerned climate scientists advocating a more nuclear-friendly energy policy presents an opportunity to develop common-ground climate policy that Democrats and Republicans can jointly support. As I pointed out in a column earlier this week, prematurely closing zero-emission nuclear power plants will almost certainly cause a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Conservatives often oppose government-imposed carbon dioxide reductions because alternative power sources tend to be much more expensive than conventional power sources. However, a climate policy that facilitates more emissions-free nuclear and hydro power – along with low-emission natural gas power – would meet the emissions goals of global warming activists while assuring conservatives that emissions reductions do not have to come at the cost of higher energy prices and economic stagnation. For conservatives who are skeptical of an asserted global warming crisis, building our economy around nuclear, hydro, and natural gas is an acceptable option that meets climate global warming activists’ climate concerns.

President Obama’s energy secretary and concerned climate scientists like James Hansen and Kerry Emanuel like the idea of building a climate policy around more nuclear power. Perhaps it’s time more policymakers follow their lead.

This article first appeared at Forbes.com.

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