Obama Drops Nuclear from Energy Segment of Convention Speech

Delegates react to President Barack Obama’s speech during the closing night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. (Photo by Jared Soares for PBS NewsHour)

Compare and contrast.

When then-Senator Barack Obama took the stage in Denver four years ago to accept the nomination of the Democratic Party, he delivered what many saw as a powerful and pitch-perfect speech that contained an ambitious plan to correct course after eight years of President George W. Bush. But to this reporter, sitting amongst the cheering throngs at Mile High, one point hit a decidedly sour note.

In the section on energy, which began with the understanding that the country’s economy, security and energy futures are intertwined, Obama pledged to “end our dependence on oil from the Middle East” in ten years, and also spoke of investing $150 billion in renewable energy over that same decade. But then the Democratic nominee added this:

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

And with that, at least from where I sat (politically more than physically), a soaring speech came crashing to the ground. Even four years ago, “tapping natural gas reserves” was an ominous gloss-over for dangerous drilling techniques and increased carbon emissions. “Clean coal” had already proven to be nothing better than a marketing laugh line, something the Senator from coal-producing Illinois had to say. And “find[ing] ways to safely harness nuclear power,” well, funny that, both because it, too, felt like campaign-trail noblesse oblige for some of Obama’s biggest contributors, and because it implied that a safe way to harness nuclear power was something that had not yet been found.

But there it was–what would eventually come to be known as “fracking,” plus the myth of “clean coal,” and a big nod to the moribund nuclear power industry. One, two, three strikes in Obama’s energy pitch.

Fast, uh, “forward” four years, move indoors and 2,000 miles east, and listen to what President Obama had to say about America’s energy future in his 2012 convention speech:

We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines, and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.

So, now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers. We’re offering a better path.

We’re offering a better path, a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where — where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet.

Yes, despite a concrete acknowledgement two minutes later that “climate change is not a hoax” and “droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke,” the president still brags of opening “millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years”–and then he promises to open more. And, yes, there is still a reference to the fool’s anthracite, “clean coal,” this time incongruously grouped with “wind and solar.” But notice what is not there–not in this section, not in the paragraph about the climate, not anywhere in the entire 38-minute speech.

President Obama no longer promises to “safely harness nuclear power”–that likely would have sounded like a cruel joke in a world now contaminated by the ongoing Fukushima disaster–but beyond that, he does not promise anything about nuclear power at all. There was no platitude, no carefully crafted signal to the industry that has subsidized much of Obama’s political career, no mention of nuclear power whatsoever.

That is not to say that the entire 2012 Democratic National Convention was a nuclear-free zone. A few hours before the president took the stage at the Time Warner Cable Arena, James Rogers, co-chair of the Charlotte host committee, and oh, by the way, CEO of Duke Energy, stepped to the lectern and endorsed Obama’s “all of the above” energy “strategy” (they keep using that word; I do not think it means what they think it means):

We need to work even harder toward a future of affordable, reliable and cleaner energy. That means we need to invest heavily in new zero-emission power sources, like new nuclear, wind and solar projects, as well as new technologies, like electric vehicles.

Well, if you are looking for a future of affordable, reliable and cleaner energy, you need look no further than nu–wait, what? If you are looking for those three features in an energy future, it is hard to imagine a worse option than the unsustainably expensive, chronically unreliable and dangerously dirty nuclear power plant. And, as has been discussed here many times, nuclear is not a zero-emission source, either. The massive carbon footprint of the nuclear fuel lifecycle rivals coal, and that doesn’t even consider the radioactive isotopes that facilities emit, even when they are not encountering one of their many “unusual events.”

But the CEO of the Charlotte-based energy giant probably has his eyes on a different prize. Rogers, who has been dogged by questions about a power grab after Duke’s merger with Progress Energy and his lackluster performance as fundraiser-in-chief for the DNC, sits atop a company that operates seven US nuclear power plants, and is partners in a plan to build two new AP1000 reactors in Cherokee County, South Carolina.

That last project, which is under active review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, awaiting a combined construction and operating license, is one of a small handful of proposed new nuclear facilities currently scrambling for financing. The South Carolina plant, along with a pair of reactors in Georgia, two slated for a different site in South Carolina, and possibly one more in Tennessee, represent what industry lobbyists like to call the “nuclear renaissance.”

But completion of any of the above is nowhere close to guaranteed, and even if some of these reactors are eventually built, none will be able to generate even one kilowatt of commercial power until years after President Obama completes his sought-after second term.

Which, if you really care about America’s energy future, is, of course, all for the better. As even James Rogers noted in his speech (and he gets props for this):

[W]e cannot lose sight of energy efficiency. Because the cleanest, most efficient power plant is the one we never have to build.

That Duke’s CEO thought to highlight efficiency is interesting. That President Obama, with his well-documented ties to the nuclear industry, chose not to even mention nuclear power is important.

In the wake of Fukushima, where hundreds of thousands of Japanese have been displaced, where tens of thousands are showing elevated radiation exposure, and where thousands of children have thyroid abnormalities, no one can be cavalier about promising a safe harnessing of the atom. And in a world where radioisotopes from the breached reactors continue to turn up in fish and farm products, not only across Japan, but across the northern hemisphere, no one can pretend this is someone else’s problem.

Obama and his campaign advisors know all this and more. They know that most industrialized democracies have chosen to shift away from nuclear since the start of the Japanese crisis. They know that populations that have been polled on the matter want to see nuclear power phased out. And they know that in a time of deficit hysteria, nuclear power plants are an economic sinkhole.

And so, on a night when the president was promised one of the largest audiences of his entire campaign, he and his team decided that 2012 was not a year to throw a bone to Obama’s nuclear backers. Obama, a consummate politician, made the decision that for his second shot at casting for the future, nuclear power is political deadweight.

This is not to say that the Obama administration has thoroughly abandoned nuclear as part of its energy plan, or even its kitchen-sink rhetoric. There is no shortage of well-researched analysis detailing where the president’s deeds have failed to match his words, and it will take more than a significant omission in one speech to turn around the federal government’s policy of protecting and propping up the nuclear industry.

But the fact remains that at a convention underwritten by the head of a large nuclear energy conglomerate, nuclear energy didn’t even rate head-of-state lip service. That in a country where the nuclear industry tries desperately to brand itself as an energy of the future, the president decided to, at least rhetorically, leave it in the past. And that in a time where apostles of the atom claim that there is a nuclear rebirth, Barack Obama decided, on one of his biggest nights, that nuclear power would be better left for dead.

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15 thoughts on “Obama Drops Nuclear from Energy Segment of Convention Speech

  1. Pingback: Obama Drops Nuclear from Energy Segment of Convention Speech | capitoilette « word pond

  2. GREAT ARTICLE!

    I notice also and posted this yesterday:

    Nuclear Energy was left out of President Obama acceptance speech completely but does that mean that President Obama is thinking of going nuclear reactor free like Germany is now doing?

    Future of Nuclear and fossil fuels: Only for Back-up for renewables

    http://wp.me/p26pKF-2Ff

    This man thinks N☢T and he NOW has full access to the DNC because he help put it on…

    http://is.gd/LhJayo

    Will President Obama AGAIN cave in to the Nuclear Industry like he did last term?

    The USA cannot afford a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima!

    Is the USA REALLY any different then Japan when it comes to Nuclear Energy Utilities or has the USA just been luckier?

  3. While japan continues to go crazy, here is what Germany is doing:

    While the USA and Japan’s leaders waffle on Solar because of BIG donations from their Utilities look what is happening in Germany, NO WONDER THEY ARE NOW LEADING THE WORLD TOWARD GREEN N☢N Nuclear Energy FREEDOM:

    http://wp.me/p26pKF-2Ff

    No wonder BOTH Countries are falling behind, it’s Leaders are thinking more about those that supported them than they are about their Countries Energy Future!

    What a Nuclear WA$TE! I wonder if they are the even listening to what we say?

    Forward To A N☢N Nuclear Future of Energy Independence ASAP…

  4. Nuclear Fix*
    * http://is.gd/DzSrY1

    The nuclear industries (aka nuclear fascists) policy of donating massive amounts of money to insure that all levels of Government support Nuclear Energy to protect their market share despite it’s enormous environmental RISK of yet another Fukushima, instead of supporting less expensive, NON RISKY Eco Friendly Solar energy.
    +
    Nuclear Conflict of Interest*

    * http://is.gd/WiYZpz
    A Nuclear Conflict of Interest happens when elected Leaders give their support to the Nuclear Industry because they have received some form of Nuclear Payback without disclosing it to the public.

  5. Why don’t we hear more from the UN about nuclear problems and fallout?
    and
    Why can’t the UN get involved in radioactive issues,

    Here is the answer: Nuclear Controversies

    http://is.gd/9wfPeU

    snip

    In 1995, the Director General of WHO Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, tried to inform on Chernobyl by organizing in Geneva an international conference with 700 experts and physicians. This tentative was blocked. The International Agency for Atomic Energy blocked the proceedings, which were never published. The truth on the consequences of Chernobyl would have been a disaster for the promotion of the atomic industry.
    This film shows the discussions at the following WHO- congress in Kiev in 2001, that lead to the fatal disregarding of internal radiation consequences throughout the nuclear world.
    The full transcript can be found here:
    vivretchernobyl.blogspot.com/2008/06/w-tchertkof-nuclear-controversies.html

  6. Possibly some of high office now realize that Mutually Assured Destruction is no longer simply a war strategy based on endgame consequences, but also a social paradigm made irrevocably present by the ongoing yet unreported spent-fuel “Sword of Damocles” these nuclear energy courtiers-to-power have brought upon themselves and the very life on Earth in Fukushima Dai Ichi Spent Fuel Pool #4.
    Methinks President Obama wisely has stepped aside from the dangerous throne of Nuclear Power Utility generation and embraced other oxymoronic technological boondoggles, such as “clean coal” and “drilling ’till it hurts” as a Potemkin policy to foist in an election year.
    Walter-Mitty Romney and Paul Lyin’ Ryan make no effort to pretend any policy as they have none other than pillage and rape the planet as their design.
    Won’t anyone look to Dr. Jill Stein at the Green Party (the Reality Based Party) to see the key values adhered to for a future of humankind and planetary life?
    No other party claims posted key values, only the values of the campaign contributors willing to purchase outright their pet interests as a platform.
    Go to

    http://www.gp.org/index.php

    The truth brings reward to the soul and the body politic.

  7. At Ron Rodarte, I agree, they should allow Dr. Jill Stein to join the debates, that would be a “WIN” for America because then both President Obama and Romney would have to “try harder”…

    It is sad that out two Party system is so far out of balance that people that like what the Green Party offers are afraid to vote for them because they don’t want to take a chance on allowing the vote to be split from the front runner and end up with another Bush, like when Nader kept Gore from winning!

    Campaign promises are the best way to hold Candidates feet to the “fire” and the less debate, the less chance we as voters have to get any concessions from our elected leaders!

  8. Why must everyone stop using Nuclear ASAP, so this does not happen any more often:

    Sea contamination of 3946 days later VIDEO

    http://fukushima-diary.com/?p=13743

    Look what is coming to the West Coast of the USA thanks to Fukushima’s radioactive pollution!

    See the great translation of this article written in German in the comments

    President OBAMA, Why are we N☢T hearing anything about this in our own MSM…

  9. And this From Germany about US Green JOBS

    Get the Facts Right: Germany has seen a Boom in Green Jobs

    http://is.gd/nLlp4v

    snip
    Is it true that the clean energy industry in Germany has not yielded net job growth?
    Over the last ten years, Germany has seen a boom in green jobs. More than 340,000 new jobs have been created in the renewable energy sector. By contrast, Germany’s only domestic fossil energy source, lignite coal, employs only 50,000 people along its entire supply chain, from mining to the power plants. Unemployment is a big challenge in Germany, too, but the renewable industry is providing many new jobs. In its German section, the AEI report clearly fails the reality-check.

  10. Pingback: Obama, Stuck in the 9/11 Era as Much as Mitt Is Stuck in the Cold War Era | emptywheel

  11. How would you suggest the USA pay for a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima? Time for the Nuclear Industry and all those that depend upon some form of Nuclear Payback* to answer that question…

    Almost a year and a half later Japan still has over 100,000 living in Nuclear refugee housing and having to pay for their meals… (see comment above)…

    * http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nuclear+payback

    Those that support nuclear power because nuclear power somehow supports them; no matter what the health implications or other “costs” are for others.

  12. Pingback: Obama quietly moving away from nuclear power « nuclear-news

  13. Great job, Gregg. A couple of us at enenews are bigs fans of yours.

    I heard that Obama wants to take the U.S. nuclear-weapons arsenal down to 300 weapons. Since nuclear energy and nuclear weapons go hand-in-hand, maybe this is one reason why he is no longer promoting nuclear energy.

    Plus, the companies that benefit from nuclear energy like Westinghouse and G.E. are pushing nuclear energy outside of the U.S., so they’re already positioning themselves to make sure they’re not hurt economically if the U.S. doesn’t build another nuclear-power plant.

    Sadly, Countries like Turkey, Vietnam, Belarus, Poland, Jordan, etc. are seriously considering nuclear energy.

    Thanks for staying on top of the nuclear-energy issue.

  14. Pingback: The Nuclear Debate in America - Post #2: Nuclear Energy in the 2012 Election

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