Republicans in the Senate claim to have an “alternative” to the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act. (OK, so it was just Sen. Lamar Alexander, but we’ll accept his claim that he has some so-far-anonymous colleagues behind him). But on closer inspection, chances that their plans would affect clean energy or energy security seem dim.
First, let’s look at what ACES aims to accomplish: To reduce global warming pollution and increase our energy security by creating new incentives for clean, made-in-America energy while containing costs to consumers.
So would Sen. Alexander’s plan address these issues? Let’s break it down:
- “Reduce global warming pollution“: Unlikely. The proposal contains no mechanism for directly addressing carbon pollution. Opening up more public land and water to oil and gas drilling would drive up emissions, while provisions for nuclear energy would reduce emissions only if those facilities replaced coal-fired power plants. Simply adding nuclear plants on top of existing power plants would result in a net gain of carbon emissions (building, fueling, and operating nuclear plants isn’t carbon-neutral).
- “Increase our energy security”: Doubtful. America has only a fraction of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves. We’d remain dependent on the international fossil fuels markets – and the shady characters that control them.
- “New incentives for clean, made-in-America energy“: Contradictory. While the plan would dedicate more funding for renewable energy, it would invest far more in nuclear and fossil fuels while failing to level the carbon playing field.
- “Containing costs to consumers“: Definitely not. Sen. Alexander’s plan would dump the entire cost of building the new nuclear plants on ratepayers – an estimated $700 billion, or over $2,300 for every man, woman and child in America. And the proposal says nothing about reducing energy usage or consumer rebates.
Based on all that, can you call the Senate Republican plan an “alternative” to ACES? Or is it more of the same policies that got us into our energy mess in the first place – the status quo leftover from the Bush/Cheney era?
Sen. Alexander’s own words are revealing. Instead of asking for his proposals to be incorporated into ACES, Sen. Alexander said he wouldn’t support ACES even if it included his ideas, calling it “unfixable” and saying it “needs to be junked.” He even made an odd plea to President Obama to abandon his entire clean energy agenda and learn to love nukes.
All in all, it’s just hard to take Sen. Alexander’s plan seriously. But then again, this is the guy who was recently touting moon power.