dissecting dr. chu

picture-11As my workaday gears begin transitioning over to state public health and sustainability planning issues, I find myself constantly pulled back to snag a few must-read items from the national (and international) energy front.

Though the country sent McCain and his promises of 45 new nuke plants packing last month, the debate over uranium-fueled futures is sure to continue. Here at home, the McCain defeat demanded CPS Energy delay a decision on doubling the South Texas Nuclear Plant until next fall, as Mr. Swartz pointed out last week. Word is, they’re still going to try to finagle another infusion of capital from the city, say $200 million, for more nuke “study” in the interim. Time will tell.

So all eyes shift to Obama where murkier statements on nuclear’s roll in the national energy mix began to clarify with Dr. Chu now in ascendancy.

Consider Karl Grossman’s dissection of the incoming energy secretary in Counterpunch.

The reaction from safe-energy advocates is mixed to the proposed appointment of Steven Chu as U.S. energy secretary by President-Elect Barak Obama. Mixed is a charitable response to the prospects of Chu being in charge of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Although he has a keen interest in energy efficiency and solar power and other clean forms of renewable energy, Chu is a staunch advocate of nuclear power.

“Nuclear has to be a necessary part of the portfolio,” declared Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, at an economic gathering last March in Palo Alto, California organized by Stanford University.” http://news.cnet.com/8301-10787_3-9888608-60.html

“The fear of radiation shouldn’t even enter into this,” he said in comparing nuclear and coal. “Coal is very, very bad.” Chu, a physicist, repeated a claim of nuclear proponents that coal plants produce more radioactivity than nuclear plants—a contention based on coal containing trace amounts of uranium and thorium.

But the claim—and Chu—ignore the huge amount of radioactive products created by fission or atom-splitting in nuclear plants, the gaseous ones routinely released, and the many tons that are left, classified as nuclear waste and needing to be isolated, some virtually forever.

Next, NASA’s James Hansen (who some were fretting was about to boost nukes himself as a climate salve) is lobbying Obama to implement a carbon tax rather than the more politically salable cap-and-trade that has been bandied about these past couple years.

A straight-up tax would allow energy prices to settle out, proponents say, while pointing to cap-and-trade failed performance under Kyoto-participating nations. CO2 emissions are rising faster than ever.

From Worldwatch Institute:

Eminent climatologist James Hansen will urge U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to support a carbon tax, in a letter to be sent this week, Hansen said.

Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, is one of the leading voices for a carbon tax to address climate change, rather than backing the more widely used cap-and-trade approach. In his plan, Hansen recommends levying a rising tax on fossil fuels and redistributing 100 percent of the proceeds to taxpayers – a “tax and dividend” approach [PDF].

Obama has preferred a cap-and-trade policy – an economy-wide limit on greenhouse gas emissions that will be lowered over time and that allows polluters to trade emission permits on a carbon market. His most recent climate change speech, delivered last month at a summit hosted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, further emphasized his support for cap-and-trade.

It was also interesting to read the climate debate distilled and refracted through a Christian perspective, that of the rich nation’s obligation to the poor, in a portrait of a founding IPCC scientist in NRDC’s OnEarth. [Check: We’re Doing God’s Science.]

Finally, those of you with a hunger for global and indigenous justice: Check out BeyondNuclear’s new campaign (PDF) fighting for the Touareg in Niger. Have we fought so hard against the tyranny of Big Oil to turn our back on genocide perpetuated by the uranium interests?

From the campaign flier:

Areva’s 40 years of uranium mining in Niger has left miners and their families exposed to the often fatal health effects of radioactive dust and radon gas that have dispersed everywhere. Contaminated metals have been abandoned by the roadside and used in household goods. The water is poisoned with radioactivity and other toxins or simply depleted, starving the people, their livestock and their crops.

Despite the known health risks of uranium mining, doctors paid by Areva at the two company-owned hospitals insist that mining activities have had no impact on public health. In reality, patients are not told if they have cancers or diseases of the lung because it might reflect badly on Areva and involve long and costly treatments.

If this kind of discrimination sounds familiar, that’s because indigenous and underprivileged people around the world have all suffered similar fates. Uranium mines are invariably on native lands and the workers are often indigenous people starved of resources and opportunities and eager for any job. As a result, they have most often become the unwitting victims of pre-meditated atomic poisoning and have received little or no compensation or medical support.

Okay. With that reading list knocked down, we recommend some honest, old-fashioned ice fishing. The weather in South Texas is just perfect.

(That Chu image up top was shot for Acumen Journal and snaked from Bart Nagel Photography.)

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One response to “dissecting dr. chu

  1. Love him? Hate him? How do YOU feel about our soon to be former President? Take part in a chance to immortalize your views in book form by visiting http://goodbyegeorgew.com/ and letting your opinion be read!

    Check out the following article about http://goodbyegeorgew.com/:

    A Movement for Participatory Democracy Sends Honest Goodbye to George W. Bush

    Time and again the U.S. Constitution has been trampled since 9/11 under the jackboots of the George W. Bush Administration and an all too complacent U.S. Congress. In the wake of the landslide election results nearly routing the Republican Party from Washington, the time has come to take back our rights. One place to start is at with the momentum being built by http://www.goodbyegeorgew.com.

    A veritable national movement is being facilitated by Kate Wheeler and her daughter Ashley who came up with the idea for this site as a way to speak out and release the frustration so much of America has felt after 8 years living under Son-of-Bush. The Goodbye to George W. Movement, as Wheeler calls it seems to be picking up speed rapidly.

    “We just started the site and dozens of people have already written their letters. We think that the American People and the world need this. It’s a chance to tell Bush what they really think, a catharsis after so many years of a White House that promoted hatred and fear,” Wheeler said.

    Wheeler pointed to the concept of homeland security as the ideological militarization of U.S. mentality. With the U.S.A. Patriot Act and subsequent legislation, Constitutional limits were taken off of federal law enforcement.

    For example, the FBI has been requesting reading lists from libraries and bookstores; librarians and booksellers are prohibited from even speaking with a lawyer regarding the unconstitutional FBI requests.

    According to the American Civil Liberties Union, by early 2008 more than one hundred anti-war protests had been attacked by authorities in recent years.

    “Freedom of expression and democracy are among the values that the founding father amended to the U.S. Constitution and they are what has motivated us to launch the site,” Wheeler said by phone from her home in Georgia.

    The Goodbye George Movement that Wheeler and her daughter initiated with http://www.goodbyegeorgew.com sets a challenge, in a real sense, to put participation back into U.S. politics. In the United States people may turn out to vote but beyond that are infrequently given forums for the ongoing voicing of their opinion to policy makers.

    “We see the Goodbye George Movement as the beginning of the end to politics-as-usual in our country. Today people are writing what the really think to President Bush. We are going to keep on top of Obama as well to see that the change this country needs really happens,” Wheeler concluded.

    The letters written at http://www.goodbyegeorgew.com are not only a historic undertaking as a step toward making American politics more democratic, they will also be preserved as part of history in the form of a book that Wheeler plans to publish. Copies will be awarded to the first 100 letter writers.


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