Jeb Bush Goes Nuclear

by ALAN FARAGO

The Miami Herald prints a pro-nuke editorial by Jeb Bush in today’s Miami Herald. The newspaper editors should have appended to the editorial an advisement whether Bush is a consultant to or would profit from investments in the nuclear industry.

This is an issue because only a few weeks ago, Jeb–Florida’s former two-term governor– refused to disclose the specific terms of his consulting contract with Lehman Brothers, the bond firm he joined shortly after leaving the governor’s mansion that sold the state of Florida billions of dollars of toxic junk debt. (As governor in 2002, Jeb presided over the State Administration Board that lost $335 million by investing in Enron, even as the company was in severe financial straits.)

Miami Herald readers deserve to know whether Bush would profit from the expansion of nuclear power, either as a consultant or investor in companies planning to profit from the new nuclear future.

Is he a paid consultant, for instance, like former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman who also is a regular visitor to Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo? Ocean Reef is scarcely ten miles from Florida Power Light’s Turkey Point power facility– literally at the edge of Biscayne National Park– where corporate executives are planning to spend $100 million just in the planning and permitting phase of its proposal to build two new nuclear reactors.

Earlier this month, FPL lobbyists pushed through the one roadblock that local government could have raised in Miami Dade County–a special use permit–and managed to gain the permit without disclosing any details on substantive issues like cooling water supply (where will it come from, in a time of chronic drought?) and fill pad material : FPL proposes to raise 300 acres some 20 feet high to accommodate the new nuclear reactors that in 50 to 100 years will be threatened by sea level rise.

Did Jeb ever talk to Ocean Reef Club members about nuclear power? Did he talk to them about nuclear power, this week?

As governor, Jeb Bush was a ferocious advocate for the unsustainable growth that mars the Florida landscape. He was its biggest champion, with key fund raising advocates like Al Hoffman of WCI Communities paving his way to the governor’s mansion.

Now the costs are visible in high relief: today’s world-wide credit crisis that ties back to the influence of local production home builders in Florida on Jeb’s campaign trail.

So when Jeb Bush advocates a particular industry, precedent would lead to judicious questions about the nature of his involvement.

Yesterday Miami-based Lennar, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, declared a loss of $1.25 billion in the fourth quarter of last year. The Herald reported today, "Lennar recorded a $852 million tax refund because of losses on land sales." That’s not a bad refund for chaos inflicted on America’s landscapes.

Realize, that the price of land established by speculators like Lennar and its supply chain set the floor for purchases of environmentally sensitive land by the State of Florida, making sugar growers and big farmers who supported Jeb punch drunk with unrealized profit and deforming representative democracy in the process.

It is one thing to speculate and suppress caution with the Everglades: with nuclear power it is an different order of problem.

That is why nuclear power is the choice of last resort. It the choice after every option of public policy has been exhausted to conserve energy and reform the power grid, giving users the right to produce wherever possible and to sell back to the grid at the same rates they are charged.

The nation’s utilities are a long, long way from supporting market incentives to reform the energy grid. So, when you see everyone rush over to nuclear, you have to wonder who put the bet in and who is planning to cash out early.

Given Jeb Bush’s track record as governor, it is well within the range of probability that what you see, is not even close to the whole story.

ALAN FARAGO of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment and the politics of South Florida, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com.


 

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