Friday, May 14, 2010

One Sunk

With the explosion and sinking of the BP oil rig, there’s an important lesson to be learned.  It is that for-profit energy producers have a cavalier attitude toward safety and don’t give a damn about the environment.  And there are some in the government who feel the same way.

In the 21 years since the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the coasts of Alaska are still polluted, despite the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on cleanup and the millions of dollars Exxon spent on spin control.  Now, we are seeing the same behavior with BP, Transocean, and Halliburton with the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Today, the energy lobby is touting nuclear energy as a “clean” alternative.  Tell that to the citizens of Pripyat – oh wait!  No one has lived there since the Chernobyl disaster.  An entire city had to be abandoned 24 years ago because of a reactor meltdown.

Scientists and engineers tell us that nuclear power can be made safe.   Just like they told us that offshore drilling can be made safe.  The reality is that there is no such thing as cheap energy.  The hidden cost of oil includes not only the cleanup of numerous spills, but the billions of dollars and precious lives spent to execute what is becoming a continuous state of war in the Middle East.  What is the hidden cost today of the leak of radioactive water into the New Jersey aquifer from the Oyster Creek plant?  What would be the cost of evacuating Wilmington, Delaware if there were a catastrophic accident at the Salem power plant?  And we haven’t yet considered the hidden cost of safe storage and disposal of nuclear waste, which is still a problem after 55 years of commercial nuclear power.

“Green” energy is not risk-free either.  But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where a windmill fails that would impact the environment for 30 years like an oil spill, or for hundreds of years like a nuclear meltdown would.

Those who embrace nuclear energy, like President Obama, contend that with proper regulation we can make our reactors safe.  The fallacy here is that the for-profit companies will skirt or ignore the safety regulations à la BP, or that another Cheney administration would rescind the protections completely.

It’s time to enact a permanent moratorium on nuclear plants, and develop a plan to replace those we have with green power generation.  Will it cost more?  Maybe – until you factor in the hidden costs.  Will it be safer and more environment-friendly.  Absolutely.

So take a look at the title of this blog post – it’s an anagram.  Heed it.

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