Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Nuclear Option

John Tierney has an op-ed in today's NY Times discussing the potential for nuclear power to be a fuel of the future, with support from environmentalists who were once completely opposed to nuclear energy. There are downsides to pretty much any energy source that's realistically available to us at this point, and I'm inclined to offer tentative support for nuclear, provided it can be done economically. For an energy source that was going to be "too cheap to meter", it hasn't really come through at all. The intial capital costs of building massive nuclear power plants are difficult to make back, and the risk of meltdown meant the government had to write laws to protect producers from excessive liability. If nucelar producers can convince the private sector to insure their plants and the spent fuel (which they should also be accountable for), this might be the lesser of many evils that would help combate the potential for global warming. Tierney also makes the case for a carbon tax, which I have long supported as a positive policy option that would stimulate innovation in less-carbon intensive fuels. The important thing is to not make the tax too large, and likely, to ramp it up slowly over time. I was surprised to see Tierney supporing a carbon tax, which must mean that this idea is gaining favor across political lines.


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