Why Are Greens Fiddling While Coal Burns?

Conn Carroll /

Great article by John Tierney in The New York Times contrasting the ‘soft’ Barack Obama vs ‘hard’ John McCain approaches to America’s energy future yesterday. The soft path includes “energy conservation and power from the sun, wind and plants” while the hard path is more “about building nuclear power plants.” Tierney does a great job making the case for the hard approach over the soft approach, so read the whole thing, but his conclusion is the best part of the piece:

By scaring people about the tiny levels of radiation emitted during the normal operation of a nuclear plant, Mr. Tucker says, greens have effectively encouraged the construction of coal plants that actually release more radiation because of the traces of uranium in coal dust. He argues that the risks of terrorist attacks and nuclear waste have been exaggerated, particularly by the environmentalists who objected when the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste depository was being designed to guarantee a level of safety for only 10,000 years.

They successfully sued to enforce a safety standard extending one million years — which, in an ideal world, would be a very nice standard. But if you believe global warming is a planetary crisis that must be addressed immediately, should you really be obsessing about hypothetical dangers near one mountain in A.D. 1,000,000? If there’s already a proven technology that doesn’t spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, why fiddle while coal burns?