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Nuclear energy policy: a really unfortunate sausage

BY GUEST OPINION | MARCH 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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The old saying goes that watching laws get made is like watching sausage get made — they may be good at the end, but the process is pretty ugly to watch. The 2011 Iowa legislative session is one such ugly viewing experience.

“Elections have consequences” and “to the victor go the spoils” are other old sayings that are appropriate in this political climate. In the November 2010 election, the Republican Party took control of the Iowa House of Representatives and the Iowa gubernatorial seat. The Democratic Party was left with a slim 26-24 majority in the Iowa Senate. This left the Democrats with a tough job of protecting the people’s rights and protecting the environment from the corporations who look to gain more power and go about their polluting ways unfettered by regulation and oversight.

The Senate Democrats have done a great job of protecting the people and the environment of Iowa — until last week, when they let a nuclear-power bill get through the first legislative funnel with only token resistance. Senate Study Bill 1144 got through a Senate commerce subcommittee unscathed and only two senators voted against it in the full Commerce Committee. The bill, now known as SF390, now goes to the full Senate for debate and possible passage. Where are the Senate Democrats when you really need them to protect us from the devastation that this bill could create?

Many smart people can disagree on the merits of nuclear power. You can debate the safety, militarization, proliferation, and nuclear-waste-disposal issues related to nuclear power. But the one thing that can’t really be debated is the cost.

Nobody has conceived of a more expensive way to boil water. The cost of these nuclear plants will be passed onto Iowans who pay electric bills before they are even built. This advanced rate-raising has happened in other states, and their electric bills have skyrocketed. Our electric rates will probably go up 5 cents per kilowatt hour now and by 10 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020 if the nuclear-power generators are built. If the plants are not built, the utilities get to keep all the money they have collected. This puts all the financial risk on those who pay electric bills and none on the investors of the utility.

This issue really needs to be debated in both the Iowa House and Senate. We need our elected officials to stand up for the residential and business electrical customers who will get left holding the bag if this bill passes. We need them to ignore the falsehoods and campaign contributions of the utilities who are promoting this bill. We need our elected officials to say no to this nuclear bill.

This is some nasty-tasting, radioactive sausage that Iowa does not need. It’s enough to make this writer think about becoming a vegetarian.

Mike Carberry is the director of Green State Solutions, an Iowa City-based environmental consulting firm.


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