You would think that on Earth Day an energy source that is affordable, abundant, reliable and most importantly doesn’t create any emissions would be celebrated. For some reason, though, nuclear power remains a pariah in clean energy circles.
It is likely that one in five of you reading this online right now is doing it on a computer powered by nuclear energy. There are more than 100 reactors in 31 states supplying about 20 percent of our nation’s electricity. Unfortunately that number hasn’t changed much since go-go boots and bell bottoms were all the rage.
The sad fact for both the environment and the job market is that it has been more than 30 years since a new nuclear facility has been constructed in the United States.
As a former member of the California Coastal Commission, the California Air Resources Board and current member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I have long been an active steward of environmental issues. What these experiences have taught me is that it is difficult to be an environmentalist without encountering some sort of paradox that suggests otherwise.
As we celebrate Earth Day, it is important to take a moment and understand these paradoxes and the challenges they present. Take surfing as an example. I have been a surfer all my life and deeply understand how surfing compels those devoted to their vocation to be in harmony with the environment.
But what many surfers don’t realize is that we leave a larger footprint than what is washed away by the tide. Surfboards are made of toxic polymers, wetsuits and wax are made from petroleum, and surfers leave a significant carbon footprint as they travel by air, land and sea with their boards in tow.
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, exactly one year ago today, triggered one of the worst environmental catastrophes in our nation’s history, with some 200 million gallons of oil eventually spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s important to remember that this was also a worker safety tragedy – 11 workers died and 17 were injured. As Ranking Member of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, I’ll be fighting to make sure there are the strictest possible safety standards for the benefit of the men and women who do this kind of work.
Thursday’s opinion piece by Douglas Headrick of the San Bernardino Valley Water District (“Poor Oversight Leaves California Dry”) simply doesn’t hold water.
Headrick claimed that California’s State Water Project is unable to provide enough water to agencies because of the Santa Ana sucker, a small fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.
In fact, the sucker is completely unrelated to the State Water Project. The real reason the author wants endangered species protections removed is to prevent releases from the local dam – which, not insignificantly, would also deprive many residents of Southern California of their primary water supply.
Even as technology becomes increasingly critical to the way we live our lives, power our world and defend our shores, the United States has allowed the production of minerals crucial in the creation of these advanced products to slide.
Critical to high-tech clean-energy and defense manufacturing, rare-earth elements (REEs) are minerals used in the production of cutting-edge technologies such as wind turbines, batteries for mobile phones, laptop computers, the planet’s most powerful magnets, military radar and sophisticated weapon systems — just to name a few.