Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Who Will Benefit from Federal Subsidy of Nuclear Power Renaissance?

Steve Peace, a former California State Senator and impresario of the Killer Tomato cult movies, called father of the California electricity industry restructuring urged by Enron, (and who later denied paternity), has the following comments on the news that the federal government will now be committing billions of dollars to support new nuclear power plants in the South.
The December 1995 California PUC Order restructuring the state’s utility industry, bifurcated the traditional generation and distribution roles of regulated utilities. The federal alternative energy programs, under which Obama’s nuclear funding is administered does not account for these changes. As a result, even if California lifted its moratorium, there is no practical way to structure financing for such a highly capital intensive project.****

California taxpayers and rate payers will contribute billions of dollars to help provide cleaner, cheaper power … and jobs in largely southern states and receive no collateral benefit.

It is hard to be critical of California politicians for avoiding the energy issue given the incredible amount of just plain inaccurate assumptions they have to contend with. The PUC has even removed its December 1995 Order from its web site, contributing to the myth that it was the legislature that directed restructuring by passing AB1890 the following year. I get it. I lived it.

I went to Washington in 2000 to present to FERC the evidence of market manipulation. They ignored me. That did not surprise me. They were in Enron’s philosophical pocket. Staff and commissioners worshipped former FERC leader and Enron chairman Ken Lay. But, what was shocking to me was Enron’s ability to manipulate public opinion and cower California politicians. It was here that I learned two tough lessons: that truth had no intrinsic power and that California had no clout in the federal government.****

Solar and wind are great but, the ugly truth is that they are solutions measured in “megawatts”. Unfortunately, the challenge ahead of California is measured in “terawatts”. No debate will have more consequence, environmentally and economically, to California’s future. We ought to at least be a party to the discussion before more California money goes to other states that are at the table.
Obama's nuclear power initiative deals another blow to California taxpayers, California Independent Voter Network, February 16, 2010.

For more on the federal move to underwrite construction of new nuclear power plants see A Comeback for Nuclear Power, N.Y. Times, Feb. 16, 2010.

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