Friday, February 19, 2010

Little Shop of Horrors

America's energy needs have turned into a "Little Shop of Horrors."

The musical comedy is the story of a weak and tender little plant that comes to be owned by a simple flower shop worker.

The worker adores the little plant, but soon finds out that in order to thrive, it needs just a teensy, weensy drop of his own blood every day.

In a plaintive quaver, the little plant begs, "Feed me." The shopkeeper takes pity and complies with a drop of blood from his own finger.

The sweet little plant grows into a big bullying plant that shouts in a huge baritone, "Feed me! Feed me now!" The shopkeeper complies, but the price in anemia and the risk to other humans multiply daily.

When it comes to energy, America is the plant in the "Little Shop of Horrors." Its appetite for energy is insatiable. Yet, energy supplies are far from guaranteed.

Experts predict that supplies of oil that heat homes and power planes, trains and automobiles may soon begin to shrink dramatically.

The lethal politics of major oil-producing nations make oil prices and supplies volatile at best. Global warming that could disastrously disrupt life worldwide is another downside of oil.

Thus, America is looking not only to power from solar, wind, waves, geothermal and conservation, but to nuclear power—all to feed the energy beast. All are more stable sources of power than oil, and many are cleaner.

But when it comes to nuclear power, President Obama is of two minds.

This week he announced that the government would provide $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to jumpstart construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia. They would be the first reactors developed in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

At the same time, his administration has been taking steps to shut down development of a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Yucca Mountain has cost the federal government more than $10 billion over 25 years of development and construction. It was to be the nation's imperfect but necessary answer to the question of what to do with highly radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants.

Understandably, it was never popular in Nevada. Democrat Sen. Harry Reid opposed the project from its inception. As Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, he acquired enough clout to stop it altogether.

So, as the energy beast yells for more power, the president arranges to give it more while ignoring the threat to life posed by piles of radioactive waste.

How desperate is life in the Little Shop of Horrors.

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