December 29, 2010
As the 112th Congress prepares to convene, a big question hanging in the air is this: Will the Tea Party support nuclear energy as a part of restoring American prosperity or will it bring the Renaissance to a halt by cutting the loan guarantees that seem to be a necessary part of the revival?
Politico does an excellent job of laying out the ground rules in this long analysis. "Although several tea party-supported winners in the House espoused an `all of the above’ approach to energy policy that included nuclear energy during their campaigns," writes Darius Dixon. "it remains to be seen how these new members will react to the sticker shock of new reactors and the massive role the federal government plays throughout the industry. Nuclear power is where energy independence meets big government – the industry depends on subsidies, loan guarantees and other federal funds that are an easy target for those seeking to shave deficits and big government."
Dixon lays out the key players – Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Lamar Alexander, R.-Tenn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., all of whom have been outspoken in favor of nuclear but are not particularly associated with the Tea Party. On the House side, Congressman Fred Upton, who will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote an op-ed in Politico earlier this month with former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham supporting a nuclear revival. But Upton had the backing of the old guard when he beat out Texas Congressman Joe Barton for the chairmanship – although he now seems to be making up for lost time. The real bellwether will be Representatives Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and David McKinley (W.Va.), both Two Party freshmen who have snagged seats on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Both are pro-nuclear but have not yet confronted the question of federal subsidies.
The story’s real find is Ryan Hecker, the Houston lawyer who organized the Contract from America. Hecker puts his finger on the nub of the problem when he argues that nuclear can survive without subsidies. “I honestly think one of the major problems is not just capital costs but that they’re on an unfair playing field," Hecker tells Politico. “In America, we’re about the free market. I have a really really hard time believing that nuclear energy can only survive, and can only prosper, under a government-controlled industry.”
Hecker recognizes that nuclear has become uneconomical only because of excessive overregulation and because of the indiscriminate subsides and mandates that are propping up renewable energy. “Government has a role” in putting nuclear back on equal footing, he tells Politico, “especially since it screwed up the energy industry so much with overregulation.”
Read more at Politico