TCS Daily

Green Machine

By Christopher C. Horner - March 27, 2002 12:00 AM

A former White House Chief of Staff is popping up everywhere of late. And, though John Podesta's activities are not always on the radar screen, they deserve a close look. Connecting the dots of Podesta's activities and influence presents an interesting mosaic of the left's anti-energy agenda.

The trade publication Inside EPA laid out the curious relationship between anti-energy special interests and the Democrats' so-called "energy bill":

"A report by environmentalists calling for greater use of smart growth and fuel and energy efficiency policies is likely to have greater influence over the Senate Democrats' energy agenda now that one of the report's authors has become a key advisor to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) on the issue. The recommendations are part of a larger report on U.S. fuel consumption presented by the Natural Resource Defense Council's (NRDC) newest climate change lobbyist, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta. The report and its recommendation are likely to figure heavily into Daschle's energy plan since Podesta is reportedly one of the lawmaker's chief energy consultants."

As of last year, Podesta began serving as a lobbyist for the NRDC, a group for whom no fossil fuels are good fossil fuels. About the same time Sen. Daschle decided he could not trust the Democratic-controlled Energy Committee to draft energy legislation. He junked their effort and announced he would draft and bring his own bill straight to the floor.

Whether lobbyist Podesta was a paid "energy consultant" for Daschle is unclear, but last week Robert Novak reported Podesta is being paid by the state of Nevada to lobby against the planned U.S. repository for spent nuclear material.

This rounds out the picture. NRDC aggressively advocates drastically cutting coal use, despite the fact that coal accounts for 51% of our nation's electricity generation and offers centuries more of supply. And NRDC is on record as saying, in effect, "gas, you're next." NRDC's website avows: "[N]atural gas is not sufficiently clean to be considered the long-term answer to America's energy needs. Extracting gas, transporting it to market, and burning it all cause pollution in various forms." Coal and gas account for 71% of our electricity.

The anti-energy special interests have a two-pronged approach to ensure nuclear power - accounting for another one-fifth of our electricity generation, and emitting nothing but water vapor -- does not prosper in the U.S. as it has for other countries such as Japan, France, and South Korea. First is to ensure that it is illegal to recycle spent nuclear material in the U.S. The French, for example, recycle spent material and deal with only approximately 20% of the waste they otherwise would, by returning fuel to the energy production process. This prohibition on recycling guarantees a "waste problem."

The second tactic is to ensure that, since the United States must store the waste it generates, there can be no place to put it. The government has for years developed a safe repository at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert. But some advocates and special interests have prompted an outcry that waste storage at the facility is unsafe. Legislating into existence a "waste problem" while at the same time blocking efforts to store waste safely ensures the ultimate and premature decommission of existing reactors, as their spent material will eventually reach maximum capacity on site. This two-pronged approach, if unchecked, will ensure nuclear power fades from the nation's energy mix.

NRDC does offer the smoke screen of being nominally in favor of nuclear power. But it's hard to square that position with the activities of Podesta or its ideological allies, activities that, if successful, will further reduce the role nuclear can play in the nation's energy mix.

Energy is the key to economic activity, and therefore wealth creation. Wealth creation facilitates that which all green groups have as their common bogeyman - population. Why? Because population requires resource consumption. As a result, 'people are pollution' has become an informal rallying cry of this political movement.

Every economic downturn directly correlates with a preceding increase in energy costs. The question before Congress is the choice between minimizing human suffering through expanding opportunities, and strangling economic growth by choking the fuel necessary to drive the economic engine. With so much at stake, the bridge between the environmental lobby and the Senate Majority Leader - in the person of President Clinton's former chief of staff -- bears watching.

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