Prior to natural gas hydraulic fracturing making played out gas wells viable again, America was in a real climate emissions pickle. In 1994, Democrats finally won their war of extinction on nuclear energy, they cheered as President Bill Clinton and Senator John Kerry(1) created regulations that act as bans and eventually forced through a series of anti-nuclear activists at the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

What had taken its place during the lag between nuclear and natural gas was coal. The thing Democrats now want to ban. The problem is that solar and wind are an adjuvant to conventional energy, solar is not now nor will in the next next 40 years be ready to lead. Wind never will be.

Which means if Democrats really care about climate change they need to have an “OK Boomer” moment when it comes to nuclear power and their leadership. Fine, grandpa had a crush on Jane Fonda, that is not why you make strategic resource decisions. Energy is a strategic resource in 2023, not a political football.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine agree, but they also know that a government bureaucracy that needed 19 years to approve a salmon that grows a little faster than local salmon needs time to listen to the environmentalists who got nuclear energy impossible to approve argue that if nuclear energy worked it would already be approved. And then insist it is too expensive to start now because Democrats blocked scientists and engineers from working on it for 30 years.


Where smartphones would still be today if President Clinton and Senator Kerry listened to Democrats who think cell phones cause cancer.

In 1994, you carried a cell phone in a bag. Yet today we have a computer that could navigate us to Alpha Centauri in our pockets. If Clinton and Kerry, at the demand of their Democratic party peers and constituents since the 1960s, had not ended nuclear energy, we would have 4th generation nuclear reactors on par with smart phone technological leaps – reactors that could not melt down and would be powering the US with clean energy right now.

It would be expensive to start a cell phone industry from scratch today, just like nuclear has a high-cost to ramp up again. It is worth it. We wouldn’t have had to contribute to $4 trillion in solar and wind subsidies that have not made a dent in conventional fuel usage, and instead are used as tools to keep poor countries poor. South Africa has spent $8.5 billion on alternatives and managed to close one coal plant – because they have blackouts every day.


Credit: Laying the Foundation for New and Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the United States (2023)

The challenges are steep but only because a political party that can find a way to regulate weedkillers down to the level of detectable at all, meaning they are effectively banned, or use their appointees in government agencies to circumvent Congress once a month to advance their agenda, or even just outright ban natural gas stoves without any pretense of science at all, still hates nuclear energy.

Yet young liberals don’t hate nuclear energy. They are the reason Democrats had to flip from being anti-vaccine to Team Science(2) in 2021. They have suffered from “green fatigue” their whole lives and don’t want to listen to old white men insist nuclear energy is bad but the reasons are too complex to discuss, when in reality the reasons from the 1960s no longer exist.

That is why this is a good time for the National Academies to call on the Department of Energy to stop with its ‘solar and wind only’ fetish and embrace nuclear power again. In this century had one Energy Secretary who advocated $9 a gallon gasoline, then one who did nothing but run out the clock on his term, then one who had a boss so polarizing even boosting science funding dramatically and lowering emissions using natural gas got lost in science media fixations, and today we have one who has to plead with oil companies to increase oil production – while Democrats in Congress are threatening oil executives to get them to stop producing oil.

Talk about a political minefield.

Yet is an essential one to navigate if climate change mitigation is really the issue for Democrats, and not just a veil of science-y sounding rhetoric to assist political donors and allies by subsidizing and mandating the businesses they want to be in.

Nuclear energy, and not new bans without using any evidence, is the way to show real science leadership.

NOTES:

(1) Ironically somehow now the Biden administration’s climate change envoy, despite being the reason for so much climate change.

(2) Only on COVID-19. They still hate Big Pharma and GMOs and cell phone towers and natural gas. But the science world takes victories where it can get them.

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