Nuclear phase out threatens greenhouse gas goals

April 20, 2018

by John McClaughry

The news site Axios recently published an article about a report from the think tank Third Way. It looked at the effect of planned and potential nuclear plant closures on carbon emissions in the U.S. power sector.

Its conclusion was that even if just some early nuclear plant retirements come to pass, it will knock the country further from a target set under President Obama to cut greenhouse emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. That conclusion was bolstered by a chart showing how much zero-carbon power — from renewables and nuclear plants — is needed to support the economy-wide 2050 goal .If you’re worried about carbon dioxide emissions – and I’m not – the chart will be depressing. We’re not going to come close.

Axios observes that much of this generation will likely be replaced by gas, which means more emissions, and even if it’s all replaced by renewables, that’s still a setback. The only way we win is if we grow the amount of zero-carbon energy we’re producing. As nuclear plants get shut down, new renewables will have to pay-off that zero-carbon debt,” writes Ryan Fitzpatrick of Third Way.  A loss of 20% of nuclear generation by 2030 is a setback of 4.5 years’ worth of clean energy growth.

The climate change worriers ought to be strongly in favor of nuclear power, like their guru Dr. James Hanson. But they aren’t, and you might want to ask them why.

– John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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