News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Flashpoint

August 2, 2008

FLASHPOINT: Debating the oil crisis — Reducing consumption key to lowering energy costs

Pro-big oil, anti-environment conservatives have recently been making a lot of noise in favor of building nuclear power plants and an expansion of oil exploration in the Alaskan wilderness and off U.S. coastlines. Their position, as always, is that it is in the best interest of all Americans to allow big corporations to operate freely without any government oversight so that they can maximize profits, The recent mortgage, banking, and housing meltdown illustrates the disastrous consequences to average working people that result when government regulators turn a blind eye towards corporate excesses. Far worse consequences are likely if large corporations are allowed to build new nuclear power plants and expand oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas; particularly if these activities are allowed to proceed without aggressive government oversight.

According to proponents of nuclear power, environmentalists have

manipulated science and engaged in fear mongering in order to demonize nuclear power. Well, environmentalists have never needed to demonize nuclear power in order for most people to oppose it because it is fraught with serious problems that have never been adequately addressed. Advocates of nuclear power somehow always forget to mention that the radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants remains highly toxic for many thousands of years — well beyond the life expectancy of any known natural or engineered containment structure.

This is a fact of physics and engineering that has not been manipulated by anyone. Every decent, sensible person knows that producing large quantities of highly toxic radioactive waste without an adequate means of storing it is wildly irresponsible and downright immoral because it poses an unknown but potentially serious threat to future generations.

According to anti-environment propagandists, global warming is a fear campaign foisted upon us all by environmentalists. As an environmental scientist, I am skeptical of some of the claims about global warming made by environmentalists. However, it seems to me that any reasonable person who has examined this issue cannot escape the conclusion that global warming is very likely to be occurring and is also very likely to have serious consequences. I am sure that there are some people who, like global warming skeptics, also remain skeptical about the “alleged” link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

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