Lindsey Graham: Coal and Nuclear are “Clean” Energy

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You’ve heard of greenwashing, but maybe you should also be on the lookout for “cleanwashing.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the lead proponents of a climate bill, wants the Senate to include coal and nuclear power in a so-called “clean energy” mandate.

Graham is circulating draft legislation that would replace a provision in the current Senate climate bill requiring utilities to produce a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources—known as a renewable electricity standard, or RES. Graham’s proposed mandate instead involves ramping up the amount of electricity from “clean” sources over time—13 percent by 2012, 25 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2050. But the big question is what “clean” means. According to Graham’s draft language, new nuclear power and coal with carbon-capture technology would qualify, in addition to renewable sources like wind, solar, biomass and hydropower. This would be a boon to the nuclear industry, which has pushed hard to be included as part of any clean energy mandate.

Environmentalists have already slammed the RES in both the House and proposed Senate text as too weak. Including technologies that aren’t actually renewable would only undermine the RES further.

Graham has made it clear that he wants major incentives for nuclear power and offshore drilling in a climate and energy bill as part of the deal to cut carbon dioxide pollution. Graham’s clean energy mandate also calls for more government-backed loans for nuclear power, with place-holder language calling for funds “sufficient to build 60 additional nuclear reactors.” This would require an even greater expansion of a program that the Obama administration has already advocated tripling.

It’s not known whether Graham’s proposal will be included in the final legislation that Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Graham are working on in the hopes of gaining bipartisan support for a climate bill. But they’ve made it clear that there will be a lot of compromises on energy in order to bring reluctant senators on board. 

 

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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