Grist asks McCain about contradictory messages on nuclear subsidies
John McCain hosted a call-in with bloggers today following his address in Columbus, Ohio, in which he outlined his priorities for a first term in office. Grist got in a couple of questions:
You mentioned climate and energy in your speech today, that they would be among your top priorities, and that has also been the focus of several speeches this week. You say in general that you’re against subsidies, even for renewable energy, but you said today that you’d like to see support for nuclear energy, which would cost taxpayers a lot of money, and you also mentioned coal. How do you reconcile this?
I think the biggest problems with nuclear power are of our own making. Jimmy Carter decided back in ’77 or ’78, I don’t remember exactly what year it was, but he said that we wouldn’t reprocess spent nuclear fuel. That was a huge setback. As a result of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, we set in place a regulatory process that sometimes means it takes 10 to 15 years before we’re able to get a nuclear power plant in operation. We’ve asked businesses to make huge investments that don’t show returns to their investors. The Yucca Mountain gridlock is remarkable. It’s remarkable that we have not been able to find a place in America where we can store spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste, and we end up in the worst of all worlds with spent nuclear fuel from power plants all over America, which poses significant threats to our national security.
I intend to fix all those things, and I intend to bound everybody together to fix those things. And I want to encourage peer research and development in a broad variety of areas, including development of a battery that will take a car 100 miles before it has to be plugged in and then it can be reenergized in an hour or so. I intend to push very hard for nuclear power, because I believe that nuclear power has got to be a component of us addressing the issue of climate change and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. And I am unashamed and unembarrassed by my advocacy for nuclear power.
You also talked about coal, and federal support for coal, in your speech today.
Clean coal technology we certainly need to make investments in — pure R&D. I have always supported government investment in pure R&D, whether it resulted in the invention of the Internet or any of the other significant technological breakthroughs. We have some of the best minds in America in our labs. I do draw a line between pure research and development and letting the free enterprise system take over and move forward with the technologies.
So there you have it.
Except that McCain’s “advocacy” and “support” for nuclear power have him calling for a lot more than just R&D funding. The climate plan he unveiled this week includes “loan guarantees for the construction of new [nuclear] plants and a program to assist with the first-of-its-kind engineering needs,” plus “measures to further encourage investor confidence [in the nuclear industry] through improved safety, expanded manufacturing base, and waste disposal solutions.”
So he’s against “subsidies,” except when they are “support.” Even when “support” means tons of taxpayer cash.
The National Review put up a transcript of the call, in which they apparently deemed my question, and McCain’s answer, unworthy of transcribing. Instead we get this, which is amusingly indicative of the seriousness with which the NRO types approach energy issues:
Kate Shephard [sic]: Energy independence and nuclear power?
McCain: The biggest problems with nuclear power are of our own making. Carter said we wouldn’t reprocess nuclear fuel, that was a huge setback …
Guess that’s that! The NR blogger also notes that “John McCain seemed feisty today, even in the face of some somewhat skeptical questions from bloggers.”
Someone else on the call asked him this question near the end, which NR also didn’t bother to transcribe:
Would it be fair to say that you would be open to appointing Democrats in your administration?
I would be more than open. I will appoint Democrats to my administration.