Friday, February 19, 2010

“This is Only the Beginning”

From the Desk of Joe Rollins

Kudos to President Obama for his announcement yesterday of more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the United States in more than 30 years, promising “this is only the beginning.” After over one year, the Obama administration has finally come up with a stimulus plan that will actually create good, high paying jobs in the United States. Furthermore, the end product will be something incredibly useful to this country. The best part of this plan is that it will not cost the U.S. government one dime; rather, it is just a guarantee that is highly unlikely to ever be called upon.

It took a lot of political willpower for President Obama to propose building a new nuclear plant after it’s been a taboo subject for nearly three decades in this country. Say all you want about wind power and solar energy, but those alternative energy sources will only contribute a small percentage to our energy needs. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, has the potential to furnish virtually all of our power needs in the United States, much like it does in France. In France, nuclear power constitutes approximately 80% of the needs of the entire country.

As would be expected, the environmentalists jumped all over President Obama, calling him a sell-out to big industry. To be honest, I’ve never really understood why Greenpeace and other environmental groups are so vehemently opposed to the construction of nuclear power plants. As far as I know, there is nothing cleaner than nuclear power in generating energy.

Until Obama’s announcement yesterday, the stimulus money was being poorly utilized to build things that we really do not need. There are just too many structural items that we really need to waste hard-earned taxpayer money on pork barrel projects. A good example of that is the high speed train that they are proposing to be built between Tampa and Orlando. There’s also a proposed high speed train between the San Francisco area and Las Vegas.

There are a number of studies which indicate that these high speed trains would not be utilized. Logistically, there’s the issue of actually getting to the train station and in the case of the Tampa to Orlando train, you would still need a car to commute upon arrival within those cities. Unless you’re only traveling to the train station, these high speed rails wouldn’t help you accomplish much.

Don’t get me wrong – projects like building high speed rails would create jobs and would help commerce. But in the end, the product just wouldn’t be very useful to the taxpayers. If it is so important that we build high speed trains, then let’s build them between two cities that really need them, like New York and Washington, D.C., New York and Boston or Philadelphia and any major Northeastern city. It seems that the politics need to be eliminated so that meaningful projects can be undertaken rather than those that only satisfy local governments.

In recent months, some of the research and science regarding global warming has been called into question. Even scientists seem to disagree as to the cause of global warming and its potential risks. Furthermore, there is now evidence that certain data from climate scientists was seriously flawed. While some say the inadequacies of the data do not undermine the argument that humans are the reason for global warming, it certainly doesn’t help to influence those who are already skeptics on the subject.

It was announced on Tuesday that oil giants BP and ConocoPhillips and heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar have pulled out of their membership in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. This is a quick exodus from important corporations that originally supported the Cap and Trade bill that Obama proposed and was passed by the House of Representatives. I can’t help but believe that this erosion of support is because some of the research is questionable.

You may recall that when Denmark hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009, a consensus was never reached regarding global warming, mainly because China, Brazil, India and South Africa walked out of the summit. Basically, they felt that the developed nations should contribute funds and share green technology if they expected poor and developing countries to take major actions on environmental protection. In other words, they felt the U.S. became a predominant economic power without regards to protecting the environment and that their countries should be given the same opportunity or the rich companies should at least subsidize the poor countries in this regard.

As you know, I am often astounded by the actions of our Congress. They are proposing to spend a trillion dollars in Cap and Trade and tax our industries based on questionable scientific data. It would seem wise to hire the absolute best scientists throughout the world to create an indisputable 20-page paper on the effects of global warming based on precise data.

An unbiased, non-partisan committee of the best global warming scientists in the world could be paid $1 million to accomplish this in the matter of a few months. If their assessment is as dire as we were led to believe, then maybe the Cap and Trade should move forward. If not, then delay it until more prosperous times. However, it is unwise to even consider spending a trillion dollars when the science is still in dispute.

As always, the foregoing are my opinions, assumptions and forecasts. It is perfectly possible that I am wrong.