FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget

by

shutterstock_158023340

You don’t have to be a math wizard to understand the Obama administration’s just announced $4.15 trillion budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year, but it helps.

It also helps if you like gerunds, since pretty much every header in the administration’s Budget document is about “building,” “investing,” “reflecting,” “partnering” etc.

But the most essential talent is being able to decipher the rather vague and allusory subtexts contained in the narrative.  This is the key to figuring out what is actually being funded.  And, as they say in New York, “good luck with that one, pal.”

Cut to page 19 of the Office of Management and Budget’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget document.  Here we find “clean energy,” a phrase no longer to be trusted at face value, having been purloined into meaning at times something quite the reverse.  For example, nuclear energy tends to hide beneath the “clean energy” mantel, muddling the message and undermining cause for optimism.

While it may be true that the nuclear power fuel chain does not produce the kind of dirt that can be swept under rugs, the nuclear industry has metaphorically done exactly that by presenting itself as a “clean” energy technology.  There is nothing particularly clean about an industry that contaminates the air, land and waterways with heavy metals and with radioactive isotopes that, among other things, give kids living nearby leukemia.

But let’s gerund away anyway and see what lurks beneath the section entitled, “Doubling the Investment in Clean Energy R&D.”  Here we learn that the U.S. Government indeed intends to double its current $6.4 billion investment in clean energy for 2016 to arrive at $12.8 billion by 2021.  A hefty chunk — $7.7 billion — will be given as discretionary funding to the Department of Energy in 2017 alone for “clean energy R&D.”

But for what, exactly?  “About 76 percent of the funding is directed to DOE for critical clean energy development activities, including over $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies,” the Budget document reads.  Just two billion dollars for energy efficiency and renewable energy combined?   That leaves $5.7 billion for something else that the DOE considers “clean energy.”  One of those claimants undoubtedly is nuclear power.

More clues to the likely destination of this unassigned mystery money can be found in a later section where the Budget document reveals that the $7.7 billion is actually earmarked as funding for the “first step toward the Mission Innovation doubling goal.”

The White House describes Mission Innovation, which was announced during the Paris climate talks last December, as an “all-in, all-sector approach,” which is basically the same old “all of the above” foolish compromise on energy policy that the Obama administration has held to from the beginning.

Since this strategy is roundly contradicted by what is actually happening across the country — wind and solar energy installation outpacing natural gas while coal fades and nuclear plants close — there is only one logical explanation for this “fair and balanced” energy policy nonsense: corporate captivity.

To oversimplify: Barack Obama, the Senator from Illinois, emerged from Rahm Emanuel’s clamshell, and Emanuel invented Exelon and Exelon is today the country’s leading nuclear behemoth.  Exelon’s chief lobbyist in the early days was David Axelrod.  Team Obama was born in the country’s nuclear cradle, then.  Nevertheless, it’s high time that a U.S. president as committed to renewables as Obama, ceased tossing favors — aka our money— to his corporate nuclear cronies.

And so it goes on. Sitting on that Paris stage last December for the Mission Innovation announcement was Bill Gates, whose only energy agenda is tinkering around with nuclear unicorns, an exercise so devoid of relevance to the urgent battle to address climate change that every dime spent there is a dime wasted.  OK they are his dimes, trillions of them.  But think what he could really do for climate change if he spent his riches wisely.

Let’s follow the trail of budget breadcrumbs a little further.  The OMB goes on to say: “Mission Innovation is complemented by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a separate, private sector-led effort whose purpose is to mobilize substantial levels of private capital to support the most cutting-edge clean energy technologies emerging from the R&D pipeline.”

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is Bill Gates again, and loaded to the hilt with his fellow billionaires all salivating at the prospect of old nuclear pots to mend.  But given the Breakthrough Coalition is entirely “separate” and “private,” what is it doing even being mentioned in a government budget rollout?

What comes out of the Clean Energy R&D pipeline rather depends on what goes into it.   It would be good if that turned out to be a true renewable energy revolution and not more deadly radioactive effluent from an obsolete fleet of new nuclear power plants.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail