When discussing climate change with people on the political Right, you commonly get two responses.
The first is “You hate private enterprise and want to get the State to interfere with our lives and destroy our freedoms”
No I want people to be able to choose that they have a future, and that they do not have to be poisoned and disempowered by corporate profit seeking, and neoliberal politics.
It is true I don’t want to surrender the future to the corporate elite and their political representatives, but if business wants to come along and help save both the economy and ecology they function in, they are more than welcome to join in, and many businesses are. In many states in Australia, the renewables transition has been led by business and local councils, in the face of government opposition or intransigence. I can’t stop them, and don’t want to stop them.
Despite the neoliberal Right’s ongoing claims that the only options are to do nothing, or to accept massive government interference in our lives; this is not true. That is just their attempt to politicise the issue, so as to save profit, at the citizens’ expense, and make doing nothing, part of right wing self-identity by suggesting that only left wingers believe in climate change and all the solutions are evil, and worse than the problem should it exist.
The second response I get is “Nuclear power is the solution but you won’t let us have it“.
Nuclear power is an option, although there is little evidence that many people, including the neoliberal Right, actually want it.
From what I hear from people in the UK, the price of the power reactors produce has blown out, and they are slow to build safely.
To make [the Hinkley Point] project viable, the U.K. pledged to pay EDF [The company involved] 92.50 pounds for every megawatt-hour of electricity it produces, more than double the current market price, for 35 years.Bloomberg
Let us reiterate the obvious position here. Hinkley Point is only going ahead because of government interference in the market, by guaranteeing an electricity price.
It is also probable that it is able to go ahead because the Government is providing tax-payer funded indemnity as private insurance companies will not cover the complete risk of accident.
I don’t understand why a government would offer this, as once relieved of the burden of responsibility for accidents the company building the reactor has an incentive to cut costs on safety to increase profits. And as safety problems are likely to happen years in the future when the high level executives and their bonuses have all disappeared, or the company may not exist, there is even less incentive to make sure it is safe.
So for some bizarre reason neoliberals support nuclear energy even though it appears unable to operate in a free market. They frequently argue that renewables cannot survive in a free market and therefore should be penalized, although this is not as obvious. The position is not that consistent. It must be because tax-payers’ money is being directed at the established corporate sector.
the new technology will be challenged to expand in the open power market without a guaranteed cost savings [over renewables]. Gen IV will be more likely to expand in state-owned utilities willing to take the technology risk…. Investments to commercialization, continued international cooperation, government support, and multi-years’ worth of effort are needed, but by many indications, Gen IV reactors will be the next nuclear renaissance. [italics added]
Let’s not rely on marketing hype for our future: the tech may never arrive and, if it does, it may not be as good as hoped.
Thorium could be good, but I can’t find any significant present day research on this issue, and it failed in the 1980s in Germany. So we are looking at at least 15–20 years research before anyone starts building, and it may have significant problems anyway.
As far as I can see (which could easily be wrong as things change a lot here), few reputable private companies seem to be building nuclear energy reactors, and few politicians (no matter how much they mumble about nuclear energy being the solution) are keen to have them built in their own electorates.
The reality is that I don’t see any serious agitation for nukes from anyone, including from the political right, other than from nuclear power companies, although quickly forgotten suggestions are reasonably common, as is blaming the left for the lack of nuclear power. I also do not see any decent finished innovations in the field and we still face the possibility that reactors are no longer economic. On top of this, we still have not really solved the waste and insurance problems.
If there was any serious agitation, or interest, given that we live in a plutocracy in which corporations own the political system and the news system, then nuclear energy would probably be happening.
It seems that the establishment is still more interested in subsidising fossil fuels and eco-destruction, than they are in nuclear energy, for whatever reason.
So whatever the regulations are, that might obstruct nuclear energy, they do not seem to be the sole problem. And when things are dangerous, you might hope there would be some regulation, otherwise we just repeat the destroy the environment and poison the people, for profit thing, which is the main cause of our problems.
If all this is correct, then nuclear energy seems a displacement fantasy and a political pretense, rather than a valid solution.
When it comes down to it, I would rather support Renewable transitions which are happening anyway (however hindered by governments), than push hard to get something going which might not happen and probably would be a waste of tax-payers’ money.