Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nuclear Energy and Politics:

It's Complicated

For years, the mantra has been that the Republicans are in favor of nuclear energy and the Democrats are against it, so if you're a nuke, "Republicans good, Dems bad."  I have always felt the truth was not so simple.  A recent article in the New York Times reinforces my viewpoint.  Even more interestingly, the author, Eduardo Porter looks at the issue from the point of view of climate change concerns.  But his conclusion is the same.  Basically, the political parties focus often focus on other issues, and things like nuclear power and climate change end up being "collateral damage."

The article notes that the liberal viewpoint criticizes conservatives for "climate change denial."  But, he notes that the liberals have their own biases that perhaps raise equal challenges for climate change measures being proposed.  Namely, many liberals are "anti-nuclear" and perhaps "anti-fracking" as well. 

Likewise, it has been my observation over the years that many advocates of nuclear power are also "fiscal conservatives" and therefore, are traditional against appropriating Federal funding for technological development.  Thus, in years when we've had a pro-nuclear Administration and/or Congress, the budgetary treatment of nuclear development has not necessarily been generous.

All of these observations are, of course, generalizations.  I personally know many people from both of the political parties whose views do not match the stereotypes I've noted above.  Hence, my liberal use of quotation marks.  My point is really that these issues are all complicated and have many factors.  People have biases and blind spots that sometimes cause them to end up undermining a cause they profess to support.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis is easier than the cure.  It seems to be difficult to get people to change preconceived biases, or to abandon positions they previously espoused.  And yet, people do change, and many of us probably know people whose views have shifted over the years--possibly in both directions.  I am hopeful that, over time, people will learn to understand better how their views on one issue may sometimes undermine their interests on another issue, and may moderate their positions accordingly.

In the meantime, I think those of us who feel that liberal equals anti-nuclear and conservative equals pro-nuclear should look closely at our own biases about the two ends of the political spectrum.


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