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We can phase out the three poisons – nuclear, coal and oil – in twenty-five years.
And replace them with solar, wind and energy efficiency.
The science and technology say yes.
It’s now only about politics.
Or as S. David Freeman puts it – about values.
Freeman is the former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, where he shut down eight nuclear power plants.
Five years ago, Freeman wrote a book titled Winning Our Energy Independence.
Five years later, we aren’t much closer to that goal.
One reason – the failed environmental movement.
“The so called environmental movement has lost its voice,” Freeman told Corporate Crime Reporter last week. “It doesn’t speak up anymore.”
You mean they’ve been gagged by the likes of Chesapeake Energy, which we just recently learned donated $26 million to Sierra Club?
“To me it’s not crucial whether it is a crime or cowardice,” Freeman says. “The end result is that the environmental movement died and didn’t have a funeral. Whether they were bought, or whether it’s tired blood. For my purposes, I don’t need to decide whether the Sierra Club is corrupt, or that NRDC has sold out. I’m looking at the fact that they are not speaking up.”
“And of course, it’s hard to blame the environmental groups when you have a Democratic President that mouths, word for word, the same thing I see on the gas company ads on television.”
Are you proposing a funeral for the environmental movement?
“I don’t know that they deserve one,” Freeman says.
“I’m hoping that there is a whole new breed of young activists, the folks that don’t even know about nuclear power. They’ve gotten onto the fracking issue, and gotten hold of the tail on the tar sands dog.”
“The Occupy Wall Street crowd – those are the people who provide an 86-year-old guy like me with hope. But the so called environmental movement – it’s just tired blood, hardening of the arteries, tunnel vision, and wanting to keep their jobs.”“I was present at the creation. I was working for Richard Nixon and John Ehrlichman. We put all of these environmental laws on the books. And if you look at the environmental messages Nixon sent up in 1970 and 1971, they make the Sierra Club today look like a middle of the roader.”
Another reason we’re not making much progress – President Obama and the Democrats.
Like many liberal Democrats, Freeman voted for Obama, hoping that Obama would lead the way to a renewable future.
Now, Freeman calls Obama “an absolute disappointment.”
And he’s furious that Obama is using the same language used by the fossil fuels industry – that we need all available energies coal, oil, nuclear, natural gas and renewables.
“That’s the big lie,” Freeman says. “And unfortunately, the President of the United States has ratified that lie in his State of the Union message by saying – we need it all. We don’t need it all.”
“You can’t take energy that is simple and clean – like solar power – and put it in the same pot with the most poisonous stuff on earth – plutonium – or with fossil fuels that are poisoning the air we breathe and causing epidemics of lung disease and asthma – not to mention the awesome risk of climate change.”
“For anyone who can read, write and think, you lay the basic facts on the table and it’s a no-brainer.”
“You replace them with solar, wind, and storage – one year at a time. It’s probably a 25 year transition. But the point I make in my book, it’s 25 years from the day we start. I wrote the book five years ago, and we haven’t started yet in earnest.”
“Everything new needs to be renewable. The public has not been informed. We don’t need a lot of additional research, although we do need some to improve the product.”
“But there are existing technologies, if we have the will power to – one year at a time – replace the coal, the oil and the nuclear power.”
“We have a little bit of that going in the electric power field, where California and many other states are gradually increasing the percentage of renewal. But it is moving at a snail’s pace. And it’s through the regulatory system, where the enforcement is a bit lax.”
“Mother nature doesn’t know about the lack of enforcement. The problem is, we have a family doctor – the climatologist – telling us that in this decade, we need to get carbon under control.”
“On nuclear power, just read the papers – Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima. We have a fleet of old nuclear power plants that are radioactive factories that are now over 30 years old. And we are just running the risk that we are going to have Fukushimas all over the world in coming years.”
“And we have the technology to replace them.”
“I have been at this for a long time. I was once in favor of nuclear power because of the air pollution from coal. And we didn’t have alternatives. But now we do.”
“Ask your children – what would you choose – a bunch of solar panels or a radioactive factory?”
“It’s a no-brainer for somebody who is not an energy expert – for an ordinary citizen.”
“Of course you are not going to take a one in a million chance of killing millions of people and wiping out a big chunk of America. Why take that risk? The marketplace won’t take that risk.”
“It’s not a hard decision to make that from now on we ought to focus on making energy from what mother nature gives us free of charge – the wind and the sun.”
As for electric cars, Freeman has an idea.
“The utilities ought to own the batteries,” he says. “They can store electricity in the batteries in the car. And it helps firm up the power system.”
I would own the electric car, but the utility owns the battery in my car?
“Right,” Freeman says. “The price of the electric car goes down from $25,000 to $15,000. And people start buying them in droves.”
The batteries cost $10,000?
“Yes, the batteries are very expensive.”
What’s the incentive for the utility to own the battery?
“They are going to sell a lot more electricity,” Freeman says. “It’s a big new market. It’s a huge market. And they can make money on electricity to drive the car. And then they can also use the battery to store power in the hours that the car is not running. And it fits in nicely to the electric system. And they amortize them as they do their power plants over a long period of time.”
“It’s a way of getting the electric car business booming. And it makes sense. The batteries have a dual purpose. They run the car, but they are part of the storage system that the utilities are going to need in the future with an all renewable electric system.”
[For the complete question./answer format Interview with S. David Freeman, see 26 Corporate Crime Reporter 9, February 27, 2012,print edition only.]
Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.