Posted by: David Offutt | April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011: Things Don’t Look So Good

The Obama administration justifiably held BP to at least some accountability for the effects of its Deepwater Horizon blowout, but now the administration is already issuing new permits for drilling. However, it recently became public that whatever is supposed to activate blowout preventers instead deactivates the blowout preventers at the same time! It turns out that this problem has been known for years and still nothing has been done about it – so much for safe drilling!

Nuclear energy is considered one of the solutions to the climate change crisis because it generates electrical power without contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. The obvious drawback is that if anything goes wrong its effect will change global warming from ‘gradual and catastrophic’ to ‘immediate and catastrophic.’ The recent disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan has added natural disasters to the many other reasons for our long-time doubts about the wisdom and safety of nuclear energy.

Candidate Barack Obama realized the dangers when he was running for president in 2007 and 2008. He admitted that all that was wrong with nuclear power was “that it might blow up.” In fact, nuclear energy reminds me of the old football cliché about throwing a pass – only one good thing can happen, and everything else is bad:

(1) There’s always the possibility of a terrorist attack – and don’t forget that right wing hate groups have been multiplying since the election of Barack Obama – we now have over 1000 organized hate groups inside the United States.

(2) Radioactivity weakens metal over time, and that’s the reason we intended to replace or shutdown our 40-year-old plants – instead there are plans to stretch them years beyond their “safe” period of productivity.

(3) Accidents really do happen – at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, it was a stuck valve that fooled workers into thinking they had sufficient water to cool the reactor and caused them to almost expose the core and have a complete meltdown.

(4) And there are those pesky spent fuel rods that nobody wants – once these uranium packed rods no longer produce enough heat to provide electricity, they are placed in water for more than umpteen years because they are still too hot to dispose of.

Shockingly, President Obama now supports new and “safer” nuclear plants! What changed his mind? His energy secretary, Steven Chu, is a strong proponent of nuclear energy. Also his top advisor and political consultant David Axelrod was a PR consultant for Exelon, the biggest nuclear plant operator in the US. Once again, our president needs to be reminded of a lesson from John F. Kennedy. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, our military’s joint chiefs of staff recommended an air strike on Russian sites inCuba. They insisted that the Soviet Union would do nothing in retaliation.  JFK said that the only good thing about their advice was that if they were wrong there wouldn’t be anyone left to tell them about it.

In addition to the few issues listed above (there are many more), here are two other things that he needs to seriously consider: (1) nuclear plants are run for profit – if owners or managers have to choose between profit and safety, profit will trump safety every time; (2) and, in the past 30 years, more often than not, a majority of voters have chosen presidents (Reagan, Bush I,  and W. Bush) and congresses that oppose regulating industry and oppose safeguarding workers, consumers, and the environment – Mr. Obama is gambling that that trend will not continue – but the Elections of 2010 that brought the Fox-Republican-TEA Party to power in the House of Representatives are proof of how dangerous that presumption is.

After only four years, the foxes are back in charge of the henhouses and chairing the committees in the congressional House. One of the typical ones is Rep. John Shimkus, the new chair of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Economy, who opposes any government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions because, according to the Bible, after the Great Flood, “God said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood.”

One of the major unifying factors of the diverse members of the Fox-Republican-TEA Party is their denial of climate change. All are expected to pretend that the massive accumulated scientific evidence doesn’t exist and ignore the near universal agreement among climatologists and other scientists.

 

koch-industries-secretly-fundOne of their sponsors, ExxonMobil, keeps junk scientists on its payroll to create doubt in the mind of the public – much like the tobacco companies used to do. Fox “News” editor Bill Sammon emailed his staff to always immediately point out “that critics have called into question” the data used whenever climate change or global warming is mentioned. David and Charles Koch, of Koch Industries, have invested millions in TEA Parties and Americans for Prosperity to elect politicians who will do the bidding of the super rich and oppose any anti-pollution legislation or rules that might affect corporate profits.

 

Multibillionaires Charles and David Koch contribute huge amounts of money to get anti-regulation and anti-environment politicians elected on the state and federal levels of government.

Multibillionaires Charles and David Koch contribute huge amounts of money to get anti-regulation and anti-environment politicians elected on the state and federal levels of government.

The Wizards of Was, like the Koch brothers, who work behind the curtains to turn the clock back to the unregulated 1880s and 1890s, have the House of Representatives eating out of their very wealthy palms. The House recently passed another of its ever-increasing malicious bills. HR910 actually prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job. This is in spite of the estimate that for every dollar spent on the EPA, we save about $22 in health, air, and water quality! Though unlikely to pass the current Senate, this bill would deny the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions – I’m not making this up! Regardless, this bill was not passed by stupid people. They are essentially sociopaths. These congressmen, guided primarily by their corporate bosses, just don’t seem to care what happens to the rest of us or to the planet.

The destruction of a rainforest in Indonesia.

The destruction of a rainforest in Indonesia.

The GOP and many of its voters also treat global warming as a religion they simply can choose not to believe in. Apparently, they really believe that climate change is just nature taking its course. But it’s not nature that’s pumping excessive carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s not nature bulldozing, chain-sawing, and burning the planet’s rain forests. Is it conceivable that human activity is having no impact on our climate? Is it even remotely possible that the drastically rising carbon rates, which have historically corresponded to temperatures, have nothing to do with our actions? Is it logical in any way?

by David Offutt

Author’s Note: This essay was the 81st consecutive monthly letter I’ve sent to the editor of the El Dorado News-Times and my 6th annual contribution for Earth Day. However, it is also the lst letter that the editor declined to print. Shea Wilson, the previous editor, moved on and was replaced by Chris Qualls on January 28, 2011.

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Responses

  1. Excellent essay, David.

    No shock that Obama is pro-nuke, since he is from Illinois. The first nuclear chain reaction took place at the University of Chicago. The first nuclear power plant was built in Illinois. The first and only commercial storage facility for high level nuclear waste is in Illinois. Illinois currently has 11 operating nuke plants, more than any other state. It has 3 additional nuke plants that are closed because of problems.

    But wait, there’s more …… Illinois has a nuclear fuel production plant in Metropolis. And a second fuel plant is just across the river in Paducah, Kentucky. Illinios is home to Argonne National Laboratory and to Fermilab.

    In addition to the previously mentioned commercial storage facility, there is a nuclear waste dump in Sheffield that was closed after it developed leaks. Then there are Manhattan Project wastes buried at Palos Forest Preserve (what a quaint name for a contaminated nuke site !).

    To sum things up, the nuclear industry is big business in Illinois, and you can’t get elected dogcatcher there unless you support it. OF COURSE Obama is pro-nuke ! ! !

    But wait, there’s more ! ! ! Obama accepted bribes — er, I mean “campaign donations” — from Exelon and Exelon executives. Exelon is the world’s largest nuke plant operator. They were Obama’s 4th biggest patron while he was a senator. And not surprisingly, Senator Obama voted the way the nuclear industry wanted him to vote.

    Regarding BP, Obama has been the biggest single recipient of BP bribes — er, I mean “campaign contributions.” http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/36783.html

    But I agree with the gist of your essay — it’s hard to find a reason to be optimistic about the environment these days, and as lousy as Obama is on environmental issues, Republicans are even worse.


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