March 1, 2013 by Joseph Tomain

Nuclear Power and Clean Energy Policy

As we consider designing a future clean energy policy, nuclear power cannot be ignored because of its near zero carbon emissions even when considering the entire nuclear fuel cycle.  It is also the case that public opinion of nuclear power has been increasingly positive, largely for those environmental reasons, though certainly it decreased after the accident at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima, Japan.

 Nevertheless, a strong argument can be made that nuclear power should not be considered as a clean resource in our energy portfolio for two significant reasons.  First, nuclear power cannot pass a market test.  Second, and complementarily, we can achieve greater gains in energy efficiency and in reduced carbon emissions by investing in alternative and renewable resources.  

Today, we hear the phrase that the United States is experiencing a “nuclear renaissance.” Evidence of such a renaissance can be found in the fact that approximately 30 nuclear units are in some stage of planning and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted combined construction and operating licenses permits for two reactors in Georgia and two reactors in South Carolina.

Compared to the situation of nuclear power over the last 30 years, these licenses indicate a significant change in …

Feb. 26, 2013 by Joseph Tomain

With advancements in hydraulic fracturing technology, shale gas has dramatically altered domestic energy in the United States.  Some commentators claim that shale gas can address all of our major energy problems. Some consider natural gas a bridge fuel to a clean energy future.  Bills in Congress proposing a federal “Clean Energy Standard” have included natural gas as a qualifying “clean” fuel source. President Obama’s recent State of the Union address emphasized natural gas and renewable energy as important to reshaping American energy use.   

Given the projected impacts of climate change, we have reached a point when the air and water impacts of natural gas development call on policymakers to sort through some key questions with care: How will current and future energy policy position natural gas, explicitly or by default, relative to fossil energy alternatives like renewable energy?  What role should natural gas play in the …

Aug. 23, 2012 by Joseph Tomain

Based on what the Romney-Ryan team has said so far on energy, I expected their energy plan today would be something like the National Energy Policy of 2001, delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney four months after George W. Bush’s inauguration.  I thought that their energy plan would simply be a retread of old thinking, much like their education policies.  But today’s plan goes to a whole new level.

The 2001 plan, famously developed behind closed doors, predicted a 30% growth in energy demand by 2020, increased dependence on foreign oil, and an increased gap between domestic production and demand, all contributing to the need for greater domestic energy production.  After reading the Romney-Ryan plan, I have (and I do not believe that I am saying this) a little nostalgia for the Cheney Plan, for two reasons.  First, even though the Cheney’s task force …

Aug. 21, 2012 by Joseph Tomain

Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee reported out a bill that would extend production tax credits for the wind industry, in addition to providing other tax benefits for the construction of new energy-efficient homes, energy efficient appliances, and biofuels.  These are all positive efforts that serve as investments in the necessary transition to a clean energy future.  Yet meanwhile, the Presidential campaign rhetoric on this issue, and on energy policy more broadly,  is as predictable as it is disappointing.

Governor Romney came out in “firm opposition” to extending production tax credits to the wind industry even though Republican Senators, such as Chuck Grassley, co-sponsored the tax legislation that passed the Senate committee with a 19-5 bipartisan vote.  It is equally unsurprising that conservative groups such as the Club for Growth applaud Romney for his "courage" to oppose tax credits and to stand up to claims about …

Oct. 3, 2011 by Joseph Tomain

This post was written by Member Scholars Kirsten Engel, William Funk, and Joseph Tomain, and Policy Analyst Wayland Radin.

The President’s recently announced American Jobs Act would be partially funded by repealing oil and gas subsidies, including subsidies in the forms of tax credits and exemptions. Eliminating these unnecessary and harmful subsidies would be a long overdue step toward sound climate and energy policies. Oil and gas subsidies cost American taxpayers billions of dollars every year, but have long since ceased to serve any clear policy goal. Rather, they inflate the profits of an industry that is already highly profitable.

Federal energy subsidies are criticized as wasteful government spending by politicians on both sides of the aisle.  But not all energy subsidies are wasteful. When properly targeted, federal subsidies can achieve social benefits that elude the free market, such as a clean environment. Subsidies and tax …

Dec. 16, 2008 by Joseph Tomain

President-elect Obama’s announcement of his energy team clearly signals a dramatic change from the energy policy of all past presidents not only from the past administration. This team will oversee a new direction for future energy policy, especially pertaining to climate change.


With these appointments and in his remarks, the President-elect identifies several strong themes for future energy and environmental policy including: (1) A commitment to expanding the economy while protecting the environment; (2) creating a government office merging energy and the environment (this point is underscored by Carol Browner’s selection); (3) science and technology are to be in the forefront of energy and environmental policy (underscored with Stephen Chu’s nomination); and (4) that innovation in policy and technology will be encouraged (underscored by the nominations of Nancy Sutley, Lisa P. Jackson and Sen. Ken Salazar).


The President-elect’s remarks announcing the appointments are …

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