by Dr. Donald R. van der Vaart
Former Secretary, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
In the fall of 2017, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper joined 24 other governors in the US Climate Alliance. The Alliance has the goal of implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change after President Trump withdrew the US from it earlier that year. In joining each governor commits to “implement policies that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
According to the leader of the United Nations group that negotiated it, essentially the Paris Agreement was designed to destroy capitalism. And Cooper is committed to implementing the Paris Agreement here, via his “Clean Energy Plan” (CEP).
Cooper’s CEP is not a serious plan to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). It is, however, a serious attempt to increase the price of energy and force a redistribution of wealth. The first of many failings of Cooper’s plan will be discussed here.
Despite the supposed goal of reducing global warming, Cooper’s “Clean Energy Plan” ignores nuclear power, which is one of the few viable means to reduce greenhouse gases significantly in energy generation. The exclusion of nuclear power is no surprise, however, given that the Cooper administration enlisted the help of a longtime opponent of nuclear power to help develop the CEP: Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).
How much did Cooper’s state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) pay for RMI’s help? According to DEQ, they didn’t pay RMI anything. But somebody did. Who?
Certainly Michael Bloomberg did, as proclaimed by this Bloomberg Philanthropies press release from May 24, 2019.
A significant North Carolina connection for Cooper is Fred Stanback Jr., heir to the Stanback Headache Powder fortune and solar energy advocate. When Cooper approved Duke Energy’s water permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to bring natural gas into North Carolina, he contacted Stanback before he told the public. Cooper assured Stanback that he had managed to extract (or perhaps extort) “several concessions” from Duke in the process. They included a $58 million slush fund and grandfathering in 240 solar projects, which would overcharge ratepayers an additional $100 million by keeping outdated contracts in place.
Stanback has been described as “an anti-humanist environmentalist,” which is a belief that protection of the environment requires some level of population control. Finding cleaner, cheaper, and more abundant forms of electricity is contrary to this position because such a source would lead to more use. More use means more development, more consumption, and a higher standard of living.
It follows Stanback would support Lovins at RMI, who stated, “it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it.”
Nuclear energy is such a source. Despite all of the misinformation about nuclear energy, existing nuclear power is the cheapest electricity source out there. The next cheapest sources are hydro, combined cycle natural gas, and coal. All are much cheaper than wind or solar.
Nuclear power has a far smaller footprint than either solar or wind, it is a zero-emissions source, and it can run for more than a year without refueling. While much has been said about the risk of waste fuel, the industry’s safety record where used fuel rods are concerned is enviable. Certainly, the risk pales in comparison to the “existential threat” of global warming.
Under Cooper, the first draft of the CEP did not discuss existing or future nuclear power at all, even though 33% of NC’s electricity still comes from nuclear. Perhaps surprising only to the DEQ, this exclusion of nuclear power generated the largest number of public comments on their draft report of a plan with “Clean Energy” in the name.
To accommodate those concerns without addressing them, DEQ simply included a brief history of nuclear power in NC in the final report — but ended it with a straightforward, categorical rejection of nuclear power:
Going forward, new generating resources should be identified to replace the NPP’s [nuclear power plants’] existing capacity and generation even if the NRC extends their licenses (as desired by Duke Energy) for an additional twenty years. It is prudent to now begin looking for a nuclear generation replacement so that we can meet NC’s future baseload electric needs.
The Cooper administration handed NC’s energy policy over to a fringe, anti-humanist faction of the environmentalist movement. If they succeed, we will pay more for our electricity, by design. It turns out the environment will pay for it as well.
Other posts in this series:
Gov. Cooper’s “Clean Energy Plan,” Part 1: Background strategy and expectations