Alliance Questions Governor’s Choice Of Nukes Over Renewables
Friday, Oct. 5, 2007
Snake River Alliance News Release

Ken Miller, Snake River Alliance Clean Energy Program Director
(208) 344-9161 office
(208) 841-6982 cell

Gov. Butch Otter’s claim that Idaho should focus more of its energy efforts on nuclear programs rather than renewable energy reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the costs of nuclear power and the benefits of renewable energy and conservation and efficiency programs, the Snake River Alliance said.

“We appreciate Gov. Otter’s interest in seeking inventive solutions to Idaho’s energy challenges,” said Alliance Clean Energy Director Ken Miller. “But the governor’s recent comments that the nuclear industry is somehow Idaho’s silver bullet and his claim that renewable energy is ‘tremendously subsidized’ by taxpayers is simply inaccurate.”

Gov. Otter was quoted by the Associated Press as saying on Oct. 2: “Alternative energy, clean energy – those are all great ideas. But when you take a look at the impact they have and the subsidy they need, solar and wind are both tremendously subsidized. I think there are other clean energy alternatives. I think nuclear is one of them. I’m behind nuclear.”

The AP further reported that Gov. Otter “Contends investments in those (renewable energy resources) would likely take too long to pay off and looked to his own household for an example: Solar panels to warm his ranch in Star, Idaho, would cost $60,000, while a natural-gas furnace is $6,000, he said.”

“We give the governor credit for acknowledging climate change is occurring and also for his initiatives to help Idaho catch up with the rest of the states in addressing it,” Miller said. “But when it comes to his embracing nuclear programs and his criticism of renewables as heavily subsidized, the governor is simply incorrect. Along with the petroleum industry, nuclear power is the most heavily subsidized energy sector in the United States. Federal support for renewables pales in comparison, and Idaho’s support for renewables is almost nonexistent.”

Renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and geothermal receive only modest taxpayer support, mostly in the form of a federal production tax credit. The state of Idaho provides almost no incentives to develop the resources.

By comparison, the nuclear industry has benefited from an estimated $85 billion in taxpayer support over the past 50 years, and industry lobbyists continue to press Congress for more subsidies just so investors in ill-conceived power plant schemes such as the Idaho Energy Complex on the shores of C.J. Strike Reservoir can reap the greatest possible return on their investments.

The fact is, if you strip away the huge federal giveaways being showered on the nuclear industry, nuclear power would be unable to compete with modern wind farms, geothermal plants, and solar array sites. Thanks to venture capital and equity investments, and the ingenuity of developers despite minimal government support, renewables are moving ahead nationwide.

Despite its massive taxpayer-funded support and demands that Congress fund loan guarantees in the tens of billions of dollars so the nuclear industry can attract investors, the nuclear industry faces insurmountable obstacles in terms of the huge environmental costs associated with mining and enriching uranium, disposing of the nuclear waste, and decommissioning these power plants. Idaho electricity consumers enjoy some of the lowest power rates in the country; there is no reason they should be saddled with nuclear power’s huge financial and environmental costs when cheaper, cleaner energy options have yet to be developed in Idaho.

The Alliance also questioned Gov. Otter’s claims that renewable energy resources are too expensive to meet Idaho’s energy needs. In fact, Idaho is alone in the Northwest in failing to develop its abundant renewable energy potential. Every state in the Pacific Northwest is bringing hundreds of megawatts (the equivalent of a modern coal plant) of wind power online, yet today Idaho has only two wind farms providing a scant 74MW of electricity to its utilities.

Rather than short-changing Idaho’s potential for renewable energy, the Alliance encourages unleashing the state’s ingenious energy entrepreneurs and allowing them to propel the state toward on a clean, safe, and inexpensive energy future.

“Over the past few months, Gov. Otter has made good strides in acknowledging Idaho can contribute to the nation’s clean energy future,” Miller said. “This is no time to discourage our state’s clean energy developers by dismissing the value of renewables and the immense value these projects can bring to our local communities.”