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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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Is Ocasio-Cortez Right To Dismiss Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear plant Ohio

Last week the Democratic party, backed by the new energy of a particularly young and leftist freshman class in the House of Representatives, finally unveiled the first official version of the Green New Deal, a resolution for a new energy policy a long time in the making. The Green New Deal is being championed by New York’s divisive newcomer Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As is standard for complex congressional plans, a fact sheet was also released alongside the Green New Deal to explain the bill in layman’s terms. The fact sheet details how the United States could strategically lower its greenhouse gas emissions all the way to zero over the next ten years. There was one striking difference however, between the fact sheet and the Green New Deal bill itself, and it’s a big one: the key green-energy issue of nuclear power.

While the fact sheet made public by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez states outright and in no uncertain terms that the Democrats’ Green New Deal "will not include investing in new nuclear power plants," nuclear energy is not mentioned in the original bill at all. Instead, the language of the bill remains vague on exactly what energy sources it plans to utilize in order to reach their zero-emissions target. The Green New Deal merely outlines a plan to source 100 percent of the United States’ energy from "clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources" by the end of the decade without ever once explicitly mentioning nuclear power. Related: Goldman: ‘Shock And Awe’ OPEC Cuts To Send Oil Higher Soon

The fact sheet’s notable denunciation of nuclear power in the future of the U.S. energy mix has made waves among constituents, and rubbed many potential Green New Deal supporters the wrong way--by the end of last week Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's office had already removed the controversial document from its website, with spokesman Corbin Trentstating "we just wanted to let the resolution stand on its own for now."

The version of the Green New Deal released last week is far from final--it’s a framework to begin discussion and debate of how best to move forward toward the target of zero greenhouse gas emissions in the United States over the next ten years. The role of nuclear energy is likely to loom large in these debates, but if the fact sheet shared by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is any indication, it looks like the Democrats will not be counting on it to confront the nation’s contribution to global climate change and bring them toward their zero-emission goal.

Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the lead sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate, said that the first draft of the bill has been left intentionally open-ended in order to garner the support of both progressives and moderates alike within the caucus. According to the Senator’s statements at a press conference on Thursday, the strategy is already bearing fruit. "That's how it's drafted and that's what we're already beginning to see happen," he said.

Nuclear energy presenting itself as a divisive issue among progressives is nothing new. It’s long been a point of contention between environmentalists who see it as a key solution to tackling climate change and more moderate Democrats who see it as more high-risk than high-reward after well-publicized tragedies like 1979’s Three Mile Island meltdown. Related: Looming Elections Could Exacerbate Alberta’s Pipeline Problems

The dismissal of nuclear energy in the Green New Deal’s accompanying fact sheet has provoked a lot of debate about the viability of the bill itself. Some argue that moving away from nuclear is a step in the right direction and that Ocasio-Cortez’s party should stick to its guns on that facet of the green energy issue, while others contend that the outright denunciation of nuclear just shows how toothless the proposal really is.

Despite its divisiveness, however, nuclear is already a key part of the United States’ clean energy mix. Currently, one in every five megawatts powering U.S. homes and businesses is provided by nuclear reactors, making nuclear the biggest provider of clean electricity in the nation. That being said, in spite of what nuclear is already doing to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint as well as its massive potential as a clean energy generator, it remains a politically tricky talking point. For the Democrats, who are finally in a position to advance some of their initiatives after flipping the House in the midterm elections, political sticky wickets are more undesirable than ever. All this is to say that it’s not looking good for nuclear.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com


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Leave a comment
  • Junk Jibbing on February 13 2019 said:
    So were supposed to take this seriously? No car, no home, cause mine will be illegal. No transportation. I’m going to need a tub to wash my clothes. It will be like going backwards in time. And people are actually signing on to this? Are you kids all on dope or something? Education system is failing us big time.
  • Guest Guest on February 14 2019 said:
    She has said several inflammatory things to many markets, including her own since taking office. This is another of such things where Cortez and most politicians have no idea of the real world or business aspects at play. They are just given a bigger metaphorical megaphone than most.
  • James Hopf on February 14 2019 said:
    Anyone who actually wants to get rid of nuclear power clearly doesn't genuinely care about global warming. Why would one's first move be to move backwards with respect to emissions reduction? Of course, the GND people have already shown their lack of genuine concern by attaching much of their left-wing agenda (most of which has nothing to do with global warming) to the initiative. As many have said, it's mainly a political vehicle to fire up their base and get some of their (long-existing) agendas passed (in the *name* of global warming).

    At an absolute minimum, renewables should be used to replace fossil fuels first, and only after fossil fuels are mostly gone should retiring nuclear plant even be considered.

    BTW, I don't think that supporting nuclear (at least keeping existing plants open) will be as politically difficult as the author suggests. Just propose a market-based, technology-neutral policy such as a carbon price or a mandate for non-emitting energy. Even though such a policy would not be *about* nuclear, it would give it an equal level of support as renewables, and would thus keep all existing plants open. A large number of people (including many who don't like nuclear) support this idea, i.e., a tech neutral policy that allows all means of emissions reduction to compete on a fair playing field.

    Such market-based, tech-neutral policies actually enjoy bipartisan support. What will be politically difficult (impossible, actually) is ramming down this extremely partisan, left-wing policy (the GND) which puts the govt. in charge of the entire energy sector!
  • billy bob blugg on February 20 2019 said:
    Yes. Nuclear energy is so dangerous only the wealthiest of the leftist elite are capable of handling it.

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