Weekly Column by Lamar Alexander: Working to Ensure the Brightest Energy Future for America

Posted on May 1, 2015

   The United States uses nearly 20 percent of all the electricity in the world. We get 60 percent of our carbon-free, emission-free electricity from nuclear power, while wind provides only 13 percent and solar provides one percent.

   So, if the Obama administration really cared about clean air, why would it disadvantage nuclear power? That’s what I asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy this week.

   For more jobs and a bright energy future in our country, we need the reliable, clean, cheap energy we get from nuclear power, and lots of it – not unreliable power that is only available when the sun shines which is only about 30 percent of the time, and when the wind blows which is only about 35 percent of the time. However, the Obama administration treats wind and solar energy better than nuclear power. One example of this is EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan proposal, which aims to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants, but unfairly penalizes states and utilities that have invested in nuclear power.

   At the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies’ budget hearing for EPA this week, I questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about why this proposal doesn’t give the same credit to nuclear as it does to new wind and solar. 

   If the EPA is really serious about clean air, it doesn’t make sense for the agency to treat wind and solar better than nuclear power.

   In Tennessee, TVA is doing a terrific job cleaning up its coal plants, building nuclear plants, and utilizing hydropower plants, but EPA fails to give Tennessee proper credit for TVA’s decision to build the first new nuclear plant of the 21st century by giving preferential treatment to wind and solar.

   To rely on unreliable wind and solar power when nuclear power is available is the energy equivalent of going to war in sailboats when the nuclear Navy’s available.

   If the Obama administration is serious about achieving energy independence and protecting our environment, it needs to start working with Congress to unleash the clean, cheap, reliable sources of energy that nuclear power can provide to help power our 21st-century economy and put America on a path toward a bright energy future.