Tone Deaf Obama Expands Loan Guarantees for Reactors and Drops Renewable Energy

I just read something that made me livid. While we have multiple reactors melting down in Japan, Obama has decided to expand nuclear loan guarantees. The real kicker? I was just reading this article, from the fall, about how President Obama slashed renewable energy guarantee programs behind the scenes after praising them.

Now, instead of restoring his cuts, he is asking for 12 times as much money for nuclear boondoggles. Loans that the CBO reported that half of them are likely never to be paid back.  So, bailing out the nuclear industry to the tune of over $20 billion dollars in non-recoverable bailouts while not proving basic support to clean energy programs that actually are likely to be paid back and support good, green jobs.

Read this from last year:

Obama Talks Big About Clean Energy While Cash Stripped From Key Program – ABC News.
“While President Obama has touted his deep commitment to a clean energy industry, the administration has quietly drained more than half of the $6 billion allocated to a key renewable energy program and senior White House officials have proposed either fixing or scrapping one of the President’s most widely heralded initiatives involving solar and wind power.”

Then this now:

Obama Seeks to Expand Loan Guarantees for Reactors, Chu Says – Businessweek.
“The Obama administration will press ahead with efforts to expand loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors while investigating the failure of Japan’s power plants after an earthquake, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

The U.S. Energy Department is seeking to add $36 billion in loan-guarantee authority to the program’s existing $18.5 billion, Chu said today at a House committee hearing. President Barack Obama asked lawmakers to expand the program in Obama’s February budget request…

Obama supports an expansion of nuclear power and increased loan guarantees, and “that position has not been changed,” Chu said. Energy officials “don’t believe there is any danger” posed by U.S. reactors, Chu said today.”

Got it? President Obama cut renewable energy loan guarantees, a critical clean energy investment program, in half, – by $3 billion dollars while now seeking to expand Nuclear energy loan guarantee programs by $36 billion dollars. That is an increase of twelve times! over what he left for clean energy.

Angry yet? I thought so.

I expect to get some crap about how nuclear power is awesome in my inbox, but right now, I am not interested in hearing it. All I have to say is that I thought President Obama and Chu were being tone deaf and short sighted when they came out ahead of the Deepwater disaster endorsing offshore oil drilling. Now, they have stripped renewable energy guarantees and are working to increase nuclear power loan guarantees in the wake of the largest nuclear disaster in modern history. Are they just trying to piss us off and lose the next election? Because, they are doing a heckuva job.

14 Responses to “Tone Deaf Obama Expands Loan Guarantees for Reactors and Drops Renewable Energy”


  1. 1 rmarg Mar 16th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    You may not believe this, but I am in favor of the renewable loan guarantees. We need a diverse portfolio of energy sources. Solar and wind could be developed into swing and peaking power sources.

  2. 2 jperrykelly Mar 16th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    This reflects a reality that caused me to abandon five years of biotech activism at the national level–including two stints as a surrogate ‘stem cells’ spokesperson for the Bush White House. I discovered politicians and worldview leaders exploit the hopes and bias of grassroots backers (by proclaiming false agendas) while betraying our lives and futures to their corporate masters.

  3. 3 Richard Graves Mar 16th, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    It can be really disheartening. Glad to hear your support and stories.

  4. 4 jperrykelly Mar 16th, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Thank you Rickard. I appreciate all you and everyone at Grist do toward defending our planet and future! Sincere regards! James

  5. 5 Grado Mar 17th, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Largest nuclear disaster in history? Do you know anything about Chernobyl? The reactor exploded while it was going full tilt and the reactor built without a container. It’s basically impossible for japan’s accident to even be comparable.

    I realize disaster spawns hyperbole, but I don’t understand why so many clean energy gurus choose reinforce the nuclear stigma with such haste. If we really want to lower emissions from power generation on any grand scale now, nuclear is really the only way to do it. Nuclear is the segua between the fossile fuel and renewable energy eras. Nuclear is easy to hate, because of its stigma and its association with some horrible things (weapons), but if you delve deeper into the technology and be realistic about clean energy initiatives, one realizes its importance. http://abetterenergyplan.ca is a great place to start. Also, this article, http://www.enviralment.ca/2011/03/09/terrapower-eyes-a-new-kind-of-nuclear-power/, talks about the work of Bill Gates on ushering in a new breed of nuclear power plants which correct many, if not all, of nuclears shortcomings.

  6. 6 Richard Graves Mar 17th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Hey Grado,

    Perhaps it is just the youth bias on this blog, but I was talking about ‘the largest nuclear disaster in modern history.’ – which may be a different definition from yours, as most of the readers of this blog were born after that accident. In fact, my father received a civil service commendation for handling information on Chernobyl for the State Department, so I am pretty familiar with it.

    This disaster is still unfolding and we won’t know how bad it is until it is resolved, so calling it ‘hyperbole’ may be premature.

    Also, pro-nuclear groups always say this: “Nuclear is the only way to reduce emissions, be realistic, etc” and quite frankly your arguments are weak. Nuclear is slow, expensive, tremendously hard to implement on a grand scale, and dangerous. Even the IAEA said it just isn’t realistic to imagine that nuclear energy can replace or supplant coal in the next 50 years.

    You might want to take a look at reports like: Carbon-free and Nuclear-free – http://www.ieer.org/carbonfree/- before you get condescending about ‘reality’ and nuclear power.

  7. 7 Grado Mar 17th, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I apologize if I came off condescending, it was early in the morning. I guess I should realize that this debate has basically entered a stalemate. We both have the same goals, but differ in how we think to reach them. I for one believe nuclear can be a part of the solution, you do not. That’s all and fine, but at least we are not of the “Why do we even need to care, climate change is a liberal conspiracy” camp, which will probably be the greatest hurdle in the quest for sustainable energy production.

    As a final two cents, here is an article contrasting the Japanese reactor with Canadian “CANDU” reactors, which operate in several provinces and countries. http://envirogy.ca/2011/03/17/nuclear-energy-staying-grounded/

    Thanks for the debate.

  8. 8 Ken Mar 17th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Be careful. You are quoting articles without checking the facts. Even if this is true, you don’t understand why these actions might be taking place. Just maybe, they need the nuclear supporter votes to pass a comprehensive energy bill that includes loan guarentees to renewable energy sources that would dwarf the $3 billion you are talking about. This is complicated stuff. Your post only ignites emotions and will cause people on our side to stay home in 2012. That would not be good.

  9. 9 Richard Graves Mar 17th, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Ken,

    I am far beyond the stage of believing that the Obama Administration is playing some kind of three dimensional chess on these issues. The White House fundamentally failed in its strategy and sacrificed climate goals. I wrote about that here: From Grand Bargain to Devil’s Bargain

    You tell me not to quote articles without checking the ‘facts’, but ABC and Businessweek use factcheckers, while your scenario is just a hypothesis – you don’t back up what you say with facts at all.

    I have not run into anything from the White House indicating that this is some maneuver to increase RE funding…but even if it was, increasing Nuclear loan guarantees that the CBO (more of those facts) says are likely be defaults, during this disaster is jaw dropping.

    I am not worried about ‘igniting emotions’ that is what we need to organize and mobilize for 2012, I am not saying people shouldn’t vote – but we need to fight for actual progress on these issue and the White House isn’t going to do that without a movement pushing them.

  10. 10 jperrykelly Mar 17th, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Richard and Ken, for what it’s worth…

    My experience (at least with GW Bush and Conservatives) suggests politicians and major political/social players can have priorities 100% in opposition to their ‘stated’ agendas. I came to realize (re biotech issues) that ‘staying in the game’ and brokering power was far more important to national leaders than adherence to worldview policies. Their actions taught me a reality that’s as relevant to climatic change as it was to stem cells: grassroots voters can be hoodwinked into believing whatever they want to believe–or enticed to rejoin the fold if offended–but financial backers in Pharma, BIO, (and Big Oil and Mining) cannot.

    Hence the meaningful actions of politicians of BOTH sides court THE MONEY while their empty words and gestures are meant to appease the voters. I understand exactly what Ken is saying…withdrawing support for Obama (or Democrats) ensures Pro-Oil politicians will further consolidate their stranglehold on our fate. However, Richard is also correct. Appeasement with two-faced allies who betray our futures and trust will never win this war. In fact, the system exploits this very desperation–the need of grassroots movements to have ANY ally when the only alternatives are committed enemies–to entrench the status quo.

  11. 11 rmarg Mar 17th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I have read the Carbon Free Nuclear Free report. I noticed that they invoke coal with carbon sequestration if energy storage does not materialize for an all renewable grid. There is quite a firm consensus among energy experts that nuclear is safer than coal. I guess you could say the report leaves me coal’d. ;-)

    While they have a temporary suspension on new projects, China is building nuclear plants, windmills, and solar. I do not see why the future energy grid needs to be either solar free or nuclear free. They all have their place on the grid.

  1. 1 Renewable Energy Investing to Skyrocket due to Japanese Nuclear Crisis – ADI News | Renewable-E.com Trackback on Mar 17th, 2011 at 5:53 am
  2. 2 Analysis: Green buying binge after Japan crisis won’t last – Reuters | Renewable-E.com Trackback on Mar 18th, 2011 at 6:14 am
  3. 3 Grassroots Power Defeats Dirty Gas Pipeline in Oregon « It’s Getting Hot In Here Trackback on Mar 24th, 2011 at 4:31 pm
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About Richard


Richard, VP, Business Development for Ethical Electric is a veteran of online organizing and online media, clean energy entrepreneurship, and mission-related investing. The founder of Fired Up Media and Editor of It's Getting Hot in Here, he served as VP of Project Finance for Solar Mosaic, the Online Organizer for the Webby-nominated, 17 million person TckTckTck campaign and as an angel investor in and board member to startups, such as Skyline Innovations, Faraday Bicycles, and SumofUs.org. He graduated from the Center for Progressive Leadership's Executive Fellowship and the NextGen Fellowship in Mission Related Investing, as well as Macalester College, where he developed the first student-led Clean Energy Revolving Fund. He also has been known to collect and use cooking equipment from around the world and might just make you something, if you ask nicely.

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