New Climate Stewardship Bill Would Subsidize Nuclear Development

WASHINGTON, DC, May 27, 2005 (ENS) - A new version of the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Bill includes financial subsidies for development of nuclear power, a provision that has drained environmentalist support from the measure to limit the emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the United States. With about five percent of the world's population, the United States emits roughly one-quarter of the world's climate warming greenhouse gases.

Senators John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, introduced a modified version of their climate change bill, the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act on Thursday. It includes the provisions of the Climate Stewardship Act of 2005 introduced in February, along with new provisions to promote the development and deployment of low or zero greenhouse gas emitting technologies.


Senator John McCain of Arizona was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986. (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
“This new title, when combined with the cap and trade provisions of the previously introduced bill, will promote the commercialization of technologies that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and increase the nation’s energy independence,” McCain said. “And, it will help to keep America at the cutting edge of innovation where the jobs and trade opportunities of the new economy are to be found.”

Both the earlier version of the bill and this latest version would provide for the trading of emission allowances and reductions for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The system would be based on a greenhouse gas database provided by the government which would contain an inventory of emissions and a registry of reductions.

It would require a reduction in carbon dioxide emission levels to 2000 levels by the year 2010 by capping the overall greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity generation, transportation, industrial, and commercial economic sectors, and creating a market for individual companies to trade pollution credits.

The bill would establish a target for the year 2010 setting the U.S. emissions level for the affected sectors at levels emitted in the year 2000 measured in units of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents.


Low water level on Lake Powell in Arizona, Senator John McCain's home state, is due to a drought that began in 1999. (Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)
The bill’s emission limits would not apply to the agricultural and the residential sectors, but the economic sectors that are affected represent approximately 85 percent of the overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for the year 2000.

These provisions are similar to the carbon dioxide trading market established by countries that must meet their emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol, which the Bush administration has declined to join.

But the new Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act would use the financial resources generated by this emissions trading program to provide incentives for the development of alternatives to conventional fossil fuel power production - including nuclear power.

These alternatives also would include solar and coal gasification combined cycle technologies, as well as more efficient products and vehicles, and a variety of alternative vehicle fuels that result in lower overall emissions.

“We face an urgent and complex challenge - cutting emissions of climate-changing gases like CO2 while growing our economy. Every technology, every innovation has to be on the table so that the market can choose the best ideas and inventions,” Lieberman said.


Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was first elected to the United States Senate in 1988. (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
“Senator McCain and I have developed a bill that shuns picking winners and losers between and among different technologies – we want the market to do that. Instead, our bill would create a system that puts every technological option on the menu to ensure that there will be viable low greenhouse gas emitting products and energy services available to face the challenge of climate change.”

The bill specifies that funding would be provided for development of three nuclear reactors demonstrating new technology - one of each new certified design.

Environmentalists are concerned about the dangers of nuclear power - the lack of secure long term storage for the tons of radioactive wastes, and the possibility of accidents or terrorist strikes that would releases large amounts of radiation.

“There is no need to jeopardize our health, safety, and economy with increased nuclear power when we have cleaner, cheaper, and safer solutions to reduce global warming pollution,” said Emily Rusch of the New Jersey Public Research Interest Group.

Rusch said Americans "can meet our future electricity needs and reduce global warming pollution far beyond the goals in the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act without increasing our reliance on nuclear power."

She cites a 2004 study by Synapse Energy Economics which found America could reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide from electricity generation by 47 percent by 2025 compared to business as usual and meet projected electricity demand, while saving $36 billion annually in electricity costs and cutting our reliance on nuclear power by nearly half.


Senator Joe Lieberman is in this group that visited a family farm in Northford, Connecticut to view drought damage in 1999. (Photo courtesy Office of Senator Chris Dodd)
“We continue to support the original Climate Stewardship Act, as a good first step in tackling the challenge of global warming. We do not support this new bill, which adds expensive and unnecessary subsidies for dangerous nuclear power plants,” said Rusch.

In addition, environmentalists point out, substantial greenhouse gas generation occurs across the nuclear fuel cycle. Carbon dioxide emissions per unit energy from nuclear power are about one-third of those from large gas fired electricity plants.

The carbon dioxide emissions arise from burning fossil fuels to mine the uranium bearing ore used to manufacture fuel rods and in the manufacture of all the components of the power plants, including the fuel rods.

Lieberman and McCain say they crafted the Climate Stewardship Act "in close consultation with industry leaders and the environmental community," modeling it after the successful acid rain trading program of the 1990 Clean Air Act.

McCain and Lieberman first introduced the legislation in 2002 and despite strong Senate support, the legislation fell short of passage in a vote in October 2003 on the Senate floor. The senators have pledged to bring the legislation to another vote this year.

A summary of the newly introduced bill is available at: