FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Ohio Got Nuked

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

Ohio is poised to do its thing as the ultimate swing state. On March 4 it may, along with Texas, choose the Democratic presidential nominee.

Tragically, the candidates will campaign in a state whose economic future has been nuked.

Once a great industrial heartland, Ohio’s rust belt status has been solidified by billions in excess electric rates driven by four nuclear reactors, and by the state government’s inability to make way for a green-powered future.

On Friday, February 22, a powerful group of international steel investors announced they were pulling Ohio out of the running for a new high-tech production plant. Some 500 jobs will now go elsewhere. The investors blamed unstable power prices. “If you had to rank from clarity on the utility situation, Ohio would not rank very high,” said one.

The state suffers some of the nation’s highest and most unpredictable electric costs for four simple reasons: the Davis-Besse, Perry, Zimmer and Beaver Valley 2 nuclear plants.

Davis-Besse, near Toledo, is world-famous for a leak of boric acid that ate through a six-inch stainless steel reactor pressure vessel, bringing northern Ohio to the brink of a Chernobyl-scale catastrophe. Perry, east of Cleveland, suffered billions in construction cost over-runs, and is the only US nuke to have been damaged by an earthquake. Zimmer, on the Ohio River, was allegedly more than 95% complete when massive design and construction flaws forced its hugely expensive 1980s conversion to coal. Beaver Valley 2, near Pittsburgh, has run up even more in overages.

To recoup their radioactive losses, Ohio utilities rammed a 1999 “deregulation” bill through the legislature that has thus far cost ratepayers at least $10 billion, and counting. The vast bulk of the money has gone to repay “stranded costs,” corporate code for sunk debt reactor owners don’t want to eat. Had that money gone to increased efficiency and renewable technologies, Ohio’s economy would be on a very different footing.

The bill was largely guided by the Akron-based FirstEnergy, whose Anthony Alexander has been a major Bush-Cheney donor. FirstEnergy makes very large campaign donations, mostly to Republican legislators in Ohio and nationwide. Forbes Magazine estimated Alexander’s 2005 salary at more than $6 million.

As part of the dereg scam, the utilities promised an “open market” for electricity once the nukes were paid off. But instead of competition, Ohio is getting unregulated monopolies that are neither clean nor reliable. It was FirstEnergy’s shaky grid that helped black out 50 million people in the northeastern US and Canada in 2003. Small wonder investors are skittish.

A much-touted energy bill passed by the state Senate in October mandates that Ohio utilities generate 25% of their electricity with “advanced energy” by 2020.

About two dozen other states have similar provisions. But Ohio’s has become a national joke by including “clean coal” and nuke power in the mix. The Senate bill says half of that quota—12.5%— must come from renewables such as wind, solar and bio-fuels. But the other 12.5% can come from still more nuke and fossil fuels.

Because of this and disputes over regulation, the bill has languished in the Ohio House. Republican Speaker Jon Husted is reportedly considering removing the coal/nuke concession. But Democratic Governor Ted Strickland has long-standing ties to the coal and uranium enrichment industries, which are deeply rooted in his native southern Ohio.

In the meantime, electric prices and green energy are in deep in limbo, and have dragged down any hope of an economic revival. Except for municipal utilities like Cleveland and Bowling Green, northern Ohio endures some of the nation’s highest electric rates.

The region does not lack green visionaries—or resources. Bowling Green owns four extremely successful wind turbines, and may build more. The Cleveland Foundation and others are pushing hard for a renewable energy infrastructure along the lakefront to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels and fuel cells. The Museum of Science hosts the only utility-scale windmill in a US downtown.

The Great Lakes region boasts some of the world’s most powerful wind resources. But a sustainable green harvest must somehow blow by Ohio’s continued corporate commitment to nuke power.

The Senators campaigning here for the presidency had best look closely at the $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for new reactor construction that were written into the Congressional Appropriations Bill passed in 2007. They might also do something about the Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Bill, soon to be debated on the Senate floor, which may contain significant handouts to build still more atomic reactors.

Above all, as the campaign rolls through swing state Ohio, those who would be president should make note of what a mess nuke power has made of this state’s economy.

HARVEY WASSERMAN, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com

 

 

 

 

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail