Obama to cave on coal, nuclear power next?
posted at 3:35 pm on December 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Maybe there’s something to this triangulation strategy after all. A day after Barack Obama enraged his base by cutting a deal to extend Bush-era tax rates for another two years, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu signaled that Obama may agree to Republican proposals for coal and nuclear energy as a compromise energy plan:
The Obama administration may consider caving to GOP demands to include nuclear and some coal production in a “clean energy standard,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Tuesday.
A national “clean” or “renewable” energy standard would require utilities to purchase a percentage of their electricity from nonfossil fuel sources and is seen as one of the administration’s few options for a broad energy policy after the death of the cap-and-trade bill. …
He later added that “a renewable energy standard is an important mechanism for stimulating renewable energy, but there are other forms of clean energy.”
Chu cited both nuclear power and coal plants that capture and store their carbon emissions as part of the discussion.
Adding nuclear power back into the mix would mean another difficult fight, this time in Nevada. Obama refused to proceed with the Yucca Mountain storage program, a move that helped Harry Reid in his home state. If the US began building nuclear power plants again, though, storage for spent fuel would be a must — and it would have to go somewhere. Yucca Mountain would be the most logical site, but that would mean that Obama would have to renege on a key political pledge from 2008, one he had actually fulfilled in his first year as President.
That won’t cause as much trouble as reversing on coal, however. If Obama’s promise to “bankrupt” energy producers who open new coal-based power plants gives way to subsidizing or at least accelerating their success, the global-warming Left will find another reason to abandon ship. Coal, even in the carbon-capture mode, remains anathema thanks to the methods required to extract it. The EPA has more or less declared war on mountaintop removal and even new mining operations. If Obama steps in and starts expediting permit approvals and ramps up mining, expect a revolt among progressives.
However, I’m a little skeptical that Chu is promising anything more than lip service. Obama may just offer some rhetorical support and rely on a permitorium rather than a moratorium on nuclear and coal to prevent any growth in either industry. “Part of the discussion” doesn’t equal “part of the solution” in this administration.