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Felicia Muftic: In search an energy policy

Felicia Muftic / My View
Grand County, CO Colorado

The Japanese nuclear disaster has revived some old conflicted thoughts and musings about quo vadis of our national energy policy.  

Why are the still very viable nuclear rods still stored in the former Platteville, Colo., St. Vrain nuclear power plant? The plant ended nuclear power generation in 1992 and reopened in 1996 to generate power by gas, instead. The answer points to an unsolved problem.

How and where do you dispose of nuclear waste? No one wants such depositories in their backyard. Nevada has so far blocked the Yucca Mountain site, but the Japanese crisis, which also involves on-site storage problems, is causing the Obama administration to reopen the issue.



In the meantime, recycling or burial and storage on a plant’s site are the only alternatives. We can only hope the unspent hot nuclear rods left in place at St. Vrain are safely contained.

I do understand nuclear power’s advantages of a more environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels; I only want nuclear energy used safely. While the U.S. has not had any major accidents since Three Mile Island, and gas and oil drilling and coal all have their risks, that still is no excuse not to mitigate the threat of damage as much as we can.



Our foreign policy regarding the Middle East is held hostage by our heavy reliance on their oil. Much of the cause of jihadist terrorism can be traced to angry reactions toward U.S. policy of supporting oppressive governments to ensure our continued supply. President Obama’s shift to more support of democratic movements there should help, but it also raises uncertainties about who will control our access to oil.

In the meantime at home, our energy policies are politicized. The tension between the energy industry and environmentalists remains. Some react by denying a relationship between energy policy and climate change; others place environmental concerns over U.S. economic wellbeing. There must be a middle ground somewhere.

Conflict is being played out in Grand County, too, as county commissioners oppose proposed oil and gas leasing on environmental grounds and the town of Kremmling supports, seeing a potential to their economic development.

These energy vs. environment vs. safety vs. economics issues tend to end up as partisan political footballs with mostly Democrats supporting environmental legislation and mostly Republicans opposing. Decisions should be based on science and engineering, not on party affiliation.

President Obama has been an advocate for alternative energy sources and has set aside funds in stimulus bills and made it a spending priority. He has also embraced nuclear energy as one of those alternatives, and no doubt much will be learned from the Japanese disaster. His next challenge will be to replace old standards and regulations based on what we have learned and to overcome industry objections to changes.

The controversy over fracking to spring loose natural gas has pinpointed conflict between environmentalists and searchers for cleaner fuels. It has fallen to partisan politics. Democrats support requiring fracking to meet standards of clean air and water acts. Republicans do not. Yet gas has its advantages as a fuel source since it is less environmentally damaging than petroleum, while solar/wind are the least environmentally damaging.

Both are abundant in the U.S. and would get us off dependency on foreign oil and the consequences of our foreign policy decisions so harmful for our national security.

In addition to fracking’s controversial impact on air and water quality, drilling for gas is still a threat to the pristine Colorado mountain areas and we should insist that the most fragile areas should be protected. Our Colorado economy is heavily dependent on eco-tourism, hunting and beauty. We humans have a responsibility to be wise stewards of a beautiful state. We must not foul our own nest.

Economically speaking, we need a responsible policy that balances these two competing economic generators, our air and water clean, protecting as much wilderness as we can, yet allowing natural gas production to succeed as a viable alternative until wind and solar can dominate.

– For more commentary, visit http://www.mufticforum.com


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