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

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail