I have an op-ed on TomPaine today (it’s also on CommonDreams and EnergyBulletin) that I’m fairly invested in. It attempts to make an argument I’ve made in bits and pieces several times — something I’m keen to communicate clearly, though I’m not sure this piece fully does the job.

The argument, in short, is that the current debate over our energy future is distorted by money. Big-industry supply-side options like nuclear, "clean coal," and ethanol get all the press, while more immediately effective demand-reduction policies wither from lack of attention. It is the responsibility of the citizenry to push for these options, since industry (and the congressfolk they own) will never do it.

I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think. (More below the fold.)

Consider a parallel: Right now, there’s a fierce debate over Bush’s NSA collecting information on domestic phone calls. The debate has been artificially narrowed: Are you for the program or against it? If you’re against it, you can be labeled pro-terrorist or weak on defense or whatnot. But the debate shouldn’t be so narrow. There are thousands of other things Bush could do that would demonstrably, immediately make us safer (port security comes to mind) that wouldn’t shred the Constitution. Why not start with those? Then in a few years, stop, reassess, and decide whether you need more legally tenuous strategies.

So too with nukes. It’s easy to cast anti-nuke enviros as crusty old hippies who fight progress. But there are tons of things we could do to use less energy; we could save as much energy as we’d get from nuke plants, without the waste, security risks, government subsidies, etc. Why aren’t we talking about those? Why is the debate so constricted?

Why? In a word: money. The nuclear industry can in effect buy a prominent op-ed in the Washington Post and set the terms of the debate. Demand-reduction strategies have no concentrated, monied constituency.

(I didn’t choose "The Alt Fuels Distraction," the headline of the piece, and I’m not entirely sure it works. But whatevs.)