Friday, June 24, 2005

Energy smokescreen

President Bush's latest campaign is to ballyhoo the need for new nuclear power plants as a way of providing clean energy.

Without skipping a beat and with a straight face while speaking at a Maryland nuclear generating plant, the president lumped nuclear power and oil consumption together in the same sentence in a remarkable mixing of metaphors to suggest an energy solution.

The president is trying to fool the public into believing more nuclear power would somehow compensate for the gluttonous consumption of oil by automobiles and trucks, the principal villains in America's energy needs. He also knows capital costs make nuclear power overall more expensive and not as cheap as he suggests.

Nor has long-term storage of dangerous and long-lived nuclear waste been adequately solved. The planned Yucca Mountain waste storage site still is snared in controversy, as are plans to ship thousands of tons of radioactive waste to the Nevada site from 43 states through 703 counties populated by 123 million people.

Bush's burst of enthusiasm for nuclear energy—he hasn't visited a nuclear plant in 26 years—is similar to his earlier proposals for hydrogen-powered cars, now a laboratory experiment whose mass production is years and years away.

His energy smokescreen avoids the real issue: new, tougher mileage requirements for autos that would drastically shrink America's energy dependence on oil and begin to solve the political crisis that goes on because of indifference and the president's deference to political friends in the auto industry.

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