Biden's environmental advisers reject nuclear power

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

When Joe Biden took office, he backed the formation of an “Environmental Justice Council” composed of “leaders from the environmental justice movement” to advise his administration on a variety of issues, including energy policy. What could possibly go wrong? This band of green energy superheroes released its first set of recommendations on Friday and their energy policy goals probably won’t come as any surprise. They are advising against any investments in nuclear power and they also don’t want to see any effort going into carbon capture technology. In fact, if it produces energy and it doesn’t involve either a solar panel or a wind turbine, it sounds like they don’t want anything to do with it. So will Biden listen to them? If he does, it will be a change from some of the positions he took during the campaign. (The Hill)

The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council expressed opposition to nuclear and carbon capture projects as well as projects that expand capacity for fossil fuel production in a report issued Friday.

The volunteer advisory council listed such projects as among “examples of the types of projects that will not benefit a community,” in a set of recommendations issued to the White House.

The recommendations issued by the council, which is made up of leaders in the environmental justice movement, are meant to advise the Biden administration, but don’t necessarily reflect administration policy.

This group is also pushing for 40% of the “benefits of Biden’s environment policies” to go to underserved communities. How you calculate those benefits and how they would be dispersed isn’t mentioned, though they do talk about putting rooftop solar panels in more low-income neighborhoods. (Wouldn’t those “benefits” go to the building owner? Just saying…)

So the people who are ostensibly worried about carbon emissions have chosen two targets here. One is nuclear power, which produces absolutely zero carbon emissions. The other is carbon capture technology, designed to do precisely what they claim to want. Congressman Dan Crenshaw expressed the appropriate level of side-eye for this report.

To be fair, the council did express concerns over the handling of nuclear fuel waste. But that technology has really come a long way in the past several decades. As we’ve discussed here before, the newest generation of Advanced Small Module Reactors (SMRs) has a much smaller footprint than traditional reactors and reuses spent fuel rods so efficiently that there is little left over to deal with.

And what is the council’s objection to carbon capture? They say that it provides cover for fossil fuel producers to keep doing their work.

Carbon capture’s opponents have expressed skepticism about the still-developing technology aiming to capture the greenhouse gas from activities like burning fossil fuels. They argue that the government shouldn’t be boosting the fossil fuel industry.

As I’ve been saying here for years, I’m an “all of the above” guy when it comes to energy policy. If you want to put solar panels on every roof you can find, feel free. Put windmills on all the hills. If it puts more juice on the grid and diversifies our energy supply lines, that’s great. But I’ll just remind this council yet again of some fundamental facts. The sun doesn’t shine all of the time. It gets really dark at night. And in some places around the country, the wind doesn’t blow for days at a time. California has already encountered rolling blackouts because they’ve shut down so much of their conventional energy production and they’ve had to buy energy from neighboring states. (Which produce theirs largely by using fossil fuels.)

Our energy grid is in desperate need of upgrades and smart technology. That’s what we should be investing in and Congress has even managed to include some of that in the bloated “infrastructure” bill. These proposals from this council aren’t going to make us any more secure in our energy needs. In fact, they will do the opposite. And that gives me a sick feeling that Joe Biden will embrace them warmly.