Why should we worry about the environment? Plenty of reasons.
It’s a stressful time for those who care about the environment given happenings in Washington D.C. With approval of fossil fuel industry shill Scott Pruitt as head of EPA, there’s a concerted effort to gut the budget, throw out clean water and clean air regulations, and streamline permits for drilling, mining and atom busting.
That means more threats to public health exacerbated by climate change impacts including sea rise (think refugees) and catastrophic weather events. Expect more territorial disputes and continued destruction of the very ecosystem that supports planetary life. Mars won’t save us.
Politicians tell us it’s about jobs? They mean those old ones that have gone away, but who will fill those jobs if the water and air are poisoned and the land can’t produce food? Environmentally friendly jobs exist now with more to create. Buggy whips are no longer a mainstay of life. It’s time to change. Adopt longer-term thinking. It will take all of us at all levels.
Not only is EPA likely to be weakened, but former Texas Governor Rick Perry can make matters worse as he takes the Department of Energy (DOE) helm. Remember his wish to eliminate the department during his Presidential run? Well, funny, he’s changed his mind now that he has the head job.
DOE is responsible for advancing the national economic and energy security of the United States through implementation of policies regarding nuclear power, fossil fuels, and alternative energy sources. There’s energy research and regulatory power over state-to-state rates plus pricing for wholesale electricity, natural gas, hydropower and oil pipeline rates. There’s a renewable energy laboratory. Energy efficiency and renewable energies offices help get technologies into the marketplace and promote them. They are doing such work here with EPB.
Sadly, DOE doesn’t emphasize non-fossil fuel research. Instead, sixty percent of the DOE budget goes to overseeing our nuclear weapons, their maintenance, cleanup and the radioactive waste it generates. Perry is likely to double down on that given close ties with a radioactive waste dump company in Texas.
Although Senator Alexander loves nuclear power, it’s dying, but not before the industry attempts to get government bailouts and citizen loans. In an old-technology repackaging attempt, DOE and TVA seek Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval for a site near Oak Ridge to build a small nuclear reactor (SMR) though there is no approved design or customers.
Aside from Watts Bar2, 40 years in the making, no U.S. nuclear reactors have been built. Several are closing. Toshiba has withdrawn from the nuclear construction business based on a loss of $6 billion from investment in a Westinghouse nuclear reactor design. Westinghouse has closed shop locally. Further, to this day there’s still no permanent radioactive waste repository. Not only is nuclear too costly, it’s unsafe, and dirty while both solar and wind power are cheaper and safer.
Why does that matter here in Chattanooga? Because TVA’s seven nuclear reactors are downwind threatening water and air quality with daily venting and leaks even without a Fukishima disaster. When refueling, highly radioactive rods are removed to pools for cooling and eventually placed in casks, but not before bomb making materials are removed.
Radioactive trash is transported across our highways for processing and on to waste dumps. Cask lifespan is shorter than the radioactive material within. We can live without nuclear power. Worldwatch Institute tells us that wind plant manufacturing is the fastest growing job sector in the U.S. economy. In Tennessee solar PV manufacturing ranks high.
With Pruitt going lite on protection at EPA and Perry focusing on fossil fuels and nuclear to the detriment of promoting renewables, it’s left to states and local communities to move us into a greener future. Will we take up the slack and the associated cost? Time is not on our side. Remember, the temperature keeps rising.
Sandra Kurtz is an environmental community activist and is presently working through the Urban Century Institute. You can visit her website to learn more at enviroedu.net