In presidential debate, McCain misleads on nuclear power
John McCain made his central energy pitch in Friday night’s debate. It’s a short passage, but it is remarkable for the amount of nonsense it manages to pack in.
1. This came at the culmination of a discussion about cutting spending, with McCain touting his credentials as a fiscal conservative and even boasting of a “spending freeze.” But 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 would cost around $315 billion, possibly much more, with taxpayers on the hook for loan guarantees, defaults on which could potentially add up to $100 billion. How does that qualify as fiscal conservatism?
2. McCain says constructing all those reactors would create 700,000 jobs, a claim he’s made several times before on the trail. There’s no documentation for that number on his website. The New York Times says, with delicate understatement, that it’s “a figure that many experts find to be inflated. ” A recent report from the wildly optimistic nuclear front group American Council on Global Nuclear Competitiveness projects half McCain’s number. Even nuclear lobbyist extraordinaire Patrick Moore will only claim 225,000, less than a third McCain’s number. Taking job creation numbers from the industry’s own Nuclear Energy Institute — even the most wildly optimistic estimates of direct and indirect, short- and long-term jobs combined — only gets to about 171,000.
By contrast, a recent report from the Center for American Progress found that $100 billion invested in renewables and energy efficiency could create two million jobs in two years — less money, more jobs, in a fraction of the time.
3. McCain says nuclear power will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, but nuclear power creates electricity. Oil heats homes, powers transportation, and is made into a range of products. There’s very little in McCain’s plans or his rhetoric indicating that he’ll push for a wholesale switch to electric powered transportation (unless that $300,000 car battery prize really pays off).
4. Why does McCain reference the work on climate change he did “with Senator Clinton”? It’s Joe Lieberman who cosponsored the only climate change bill McCain has ever offered (he’s introduced it three times). Clinton has signed on as co-sponsor to that bill, along with several other climate bills, but so has Obama. McCain did no special work with Clinton on climate legislation. Why is he trying to write Lieberman out of his history on this issue?
5. Finally, is it me, or when McCain rushed through “wind, tide, solar, natural gas, flex-fuel cars and all that,” did he sound openly dismissive?