Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nuclear power is a bargaining chip. You don't just give away your bargaining chip.

There are only two things that Republican congressmembers actually want that also could play a part of an effort to fight climate change.  One of them - capturing and sequestering CO2 and other pollutants from coal - isn't an optional bargaining chip.  We don't know if it will work adequately and cost effectively, and we do need to know exactly that, so funding research and pilot projects has to happen.

The other Republican desire is for nuclear power.  While I think nuclear power could play an expanded role in countries that already have it, it's at most a limited solution and not one with such expansion potential that a year or two of delay is a problem.

Given that most Republicans have been incredibly irresponsible on climate change, it's clear that they should not be rewarded with help for their nuclear power corporations.  Thanks primarily to Republicans and secondarily to those on the left who won't support cap-and-trade, the chances for comprehensive climate legislation are dimming, and they will only get worse from fall elections through January 2013 (unless the EPA steps in and saves us all).  If we can't get a comprehensive bill, then an energy bill is possible, and this is where the Republicans shouldn't be rewarded.  I could see giving them a taste with modest support and additional research, but that's all.

These $54 billion loan guarantees to nuclear industry that Obama is pushing are more than a taste.  They're not the long-term deals that Republicans want either, but they're more than Republicans deserve.

Some interesting discussion at the link above on this issue, but I have some questions about loan guarantees in general - they seem to be a classic Republican Party idea that corporate profits belong to stockholders while corporate losses should be paid off by taxpayers.  Given that half of previous nuclear power plant proposals were started but never finished, there seems to be a large chance of defaults.  I also think it would be possible to structure the parent company/subsidiary relationship so the parent company makes money even if the project collapses by charging interim expenses to the subsidiary.  So the parent company profits, subsidiary goes poof in a paper bankruptcy, banks gets their money back plus interest, and taxpayers pay everyone for no result.  Just guessing on that one worry.  And loan guarantees should have include some upside for government, maybe a profit participation.

Maybe I just need to learn more about this financing stuff.

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