I guess the WaPo doesn't like the Sanders energy strategy

From three days ago, Washington Post editorialist and Council on Foreign Relations member Fred Hiatt tells us:

How Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both reject the reality of climate change

In this piece of WaPo hatchet job (NB: the WaPo has already declared Sanders the principal loser of the South Carolina debate), we are told of Bernie Sanders' besetting sins on climate change:

He would prosecute oil executives “for the destruction they have knowingly caused” (he “welcomes their hatred”) and phase out carbon-neutral nuclear power. The Vermont independent would ban the fracking of natural gas, which is — if you control the methane emissions — a useful transitional fuel from dirty coal to clean wind and solar.

Let's start with "Nookz!" Nuclear power can't really be a comprehensive solution to the world's energy and climate change woes. Carbon emissions are involved in all phases of the process of generating nuclear power. So it's not "carbon neutral." Most important, though, are the carbon emissions generated in the extraction and preparation of the nuclear fuel, the first two steps. As Keith Barnham points out:

Nuclear fuel preparation begins with the mining of uranium containing ores, followed by the crushing of the ore then extraction of the uranium from the powdered ore chemically. All three stages take a lot of energy, most of which comes from fossil fuels. The inescapable fact is that the lower the concentration of uranium in the ore, the higher the fossil fuel energy required to extract uranium.

But you might say, "couldn't we use nuclear energy to prepare nuclear fuel?" And the answer is: to a point. This last sentence of my quote of Barnham illustrates that point. As the world uses up its high-grade ores and moves on to the low-grade ones, it will encounter the problem that Ugo Bardi and others identify:

It’s true that there are large quantities of uranium in the Earth’s crust, but there are limited numbers of deposits that are concentrated enough to be profitably mined. If we tried to extract those less concentrated deposits, the mining process would require far more energy than the mined uranium could ultimately produced [negative EROI].

Extracting and refining ores does not encounter a supply problem (what they call "peak uranium") at this time. The problem will arise, however, if there is a significant ramp-up of nuclear power as part of any attempt to move the world off of the direct combustion of fossil energy. So it's easy to imagine a scenario in which a ramp-up of nuclear power causes a shortage of adequately-concentrated uranium deposits, with the extant ones requiring greater and greater investments of fossil power to use -- and meanwhile the world gets stuck with a toxic nuclear-power infrastructure it has to use fossil fuels to decommission, and a lot of ore that has uranium -- if it can be found -- but that can't be usefully mined.

Of course, both problems -- the problem of uranium ore shortage and of uranium-using infrastructure -- become less onerous if the world converts to thorium-using breeder reactors. The question remains, however, of why there are so few thorium-using breeder reactors in the world today. Anyone?

(Please note that I haven't really said anything just yet about the safety problems of nuclear power, a subject well-covered elsewhere. Suffice it to be said that the plants can't be 100% safe, which is what the public is going to want. Also, nuclear power is not a local, nor a democratically accountable, power source.)

As for the fracking of "natural gas," scientists have already linked the rise in methane emissions to a rise in fracking. Methane, as you might already know, is a far more powerful greenhouse gas per unit mass than carbon dioxide, although it dissipates from the atmosphere after only a few years. So, no, fracking is not going to magically eliminate its carbon emissions.

So, to sum up: the Washington Post uses a three-point strategy to disrespect Sanders' energy strategy:

1) Claim that Sanders relies upon "magic" to get his plan accomplished.

2) Claim that dangerous sources of energy are "necessary" or "essential components of a transition strategy."

3) Blame Sanders for not endorsing said dangerous sources of energy.

It also bears mention that Fred Hiatt has an alternative solution for weaning the world off of fossil energy. Here it is, in his own words:

Which brings us back to the plan, put forward this month by the Climate Leadership Council, that would actually work. Supported by energy companies (including Total) and environmental groups alike, it would impose a steadily rising tax on carbon. That would lead to reduced consumption and increased innovation in alternatives, including battery storage for solar and wind power. To get buy-in from industry, the plan would do away with a lot of regulation — but only so long as emissions were, in fact, going down.

The "steadily rising tax on carbon," it might be considered, will be effective to the extent to which it prohibits people from commuting to work in their fossil-burning vehicles. Are the fossil-extraction industries to provide everyone with solar-powered electric cars to get to work? And, as for magic, let's consider the magic powers of the steadily rising tax: it's going to magically promote "increased innovation in alternatives." Is that what taxes do? I had thought that taxes magically promoted the taxed industries' antipathy to being taxed, with the end result that political power is exercised, regimes change hands, and the taxes are removed.

The Australian example is a case in point: Australia had a carbon tax, from 2012 to 2014, with the end result that the carbon tax was rescinded and the Australian government is still even today against a carbon tax even though Australia just recently suffered climate-change-induced wildfires that destroyed a fifth of its forests.

Which brings me to the real path to climate change mitigation. It begins with utopian dreaming, as was pointed out in this article (password: AddletonAP2009). First we need to imagine a world in which climate change mitigation is possible, then we need to figure out how to get to that world from the world we currently inhabit. Bernie Sanders is not there yet; but he's closer than Fred Hiatt or his buddies on the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Wally's picture

Eugene Robinson opines:

Deal with it: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is not even a Democrat, is leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. And it looks possible that none of his rivals will be able to catch him. If you want to get rid of President Trump, prepare to get behind Sanders and do everything you can to make him president.

Now hold on to your hats and sit down if you are already taken aback and woozy:

Commentators have warned ominously that the party will be committing “political suicide” if it nominates Sanders. I admit to having flirted with that theory myself. But democracy, done right, can be messy. The whole point of having primaries and caucuses is to allow voters to select the nominee they want, rather than let party insiders make the choice.

24 users have voted.
longtalldrink's picture

@Wally "Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is not even a Democrat"
But of course not one peep about Repub Bloomberg. I'm surprised he didn't say: "not a Democrat AND had a heart attack"

16 users have voted.

Well done is better than well said-Ben Franklin

@longtalldrink Robinson, by saying "not even a Democrat", is referencing the ineptitude of party bosses. Someone who is not a party member can lead the pack at this point, and also performed well in 2016. A rebuke to party leaders. To many voters it seems that "not a Democrat" is a badge of honor.

14 users have voted.

"When my wife makes Harvard beets they taste like they went to Brooklyn College. "-Henny Youngman

earthling1's picture

a former Republican?
And we know Her was a Goldwater Girl. And Bill legislated like a Republican.
Could it be possible the Repubs decided to stop battling the Dem Party and just buy them out, lock, stock, and barrel?
You know, like the corporate world. If you can't beat the competition,do a hostile takover. Strip them of their assets, like pension funds, then close them down. Or at least run in the red as a tax loss.
Would explain a lot.

15 users have voted.

After six years, still getting robo-calls from Marriot Hotels.
They're like herpes.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally The first seven minutes of this video are Krystal Ball doing Carlin-level stand-up.

18 users have voted.

"Neither time nor cognitive decline has, however, has calmed (Biden's) blood lust or a lifelong commitment to planetary collapse." -- Jennifer Matsui

Anja Geitz's picture


On sooooo many levels.

8 users have voted.

There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

earthling1's picture

@Anja Geitz
"Hillary a shoein."
"Hillary has this sewn up."
All those pundits had the same faces on election night 2016. If you turned down the sound and just looked at their facial expressions, they were identical.

9 users have voted.

After six years, still getting robo-calls from Marriot Hotels.
They're like herpes.

Anja Geitz's picture


Couldn't happen to a nicer group of toadstools.

6 users have voted.

There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Anja Geitz's picture


Inquiring minds want to know?


Yesterday the official @Mike2020 Twitter account tweeted out a series of ostensible jokes riffing off of a 60 Minutes interview with Bernie Sanders this weekend. Sanders was questioned about some 35-year-old comments where he said that Fidel Castro might’ve done some good things for the Cuban people, which is apparently one of the worst political sins an American can commit. Bloomberg’s campaign spun that into a series of embarrassing jokes, at least one of which dipped its toes into homophobia, that were all eventually deleted. Fortunately the internet knows to screencap everything, so here they are.



11 users have voted.

There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Seems the pundits are keen to hang it
around Bernie's neck.

Problem is, it doesn't stick.

11 users have voted.

May we be united and strong -- laurel

Steven D's picture

@QMS of people who already dislike him, but I think it's been counterproductive with others who know a smear campaign when they see one this obvious. For younger generations who don't watch cable news it has little impact at all. And it certainly energizes his base of support, who are far more fervent than supporters of any other candidate.

20 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

Steven D's picture

and argument. The policy Hiatt promotes would do nothing to slow climate change, but then it's a corporate plan, so no surprise there.

And the idea of fracking as a "Bridge" fuel has been debunked. No one has been able to stop methane "leaks" so even implying it can be done voluntarily by Big Oil is a lie by omission.

But WaPo is a Bezos rag at this point, so this is exactly what I expected.

18 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

PriceRip's picture

          Without a firm control of practices and procedures Nuclear Energy is a non-starter. As sloppy as you could be wind turbines will not cause harm (outside the zone of collapse) to the environment, but Nuclear Power Facilities are quite a different story.

          Oh, by the way, coal fired plants release radioactivity.


10 users have voted.

"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

edg's picture

I guess the WaPo doesn't like the Sanders energy strategy

As for nuclear energy, the people have spoken. We have soundly rejected nuclear energy as a power source. They might be able to build a new nuclear plant somewhere in the U.S., but it would require them having a lot of guns and locking up a lot of protesters.

9 users have voted.
Mark from Queens's picture

Robert Reich:
Calm down, establishment Democrats. Bernie Sanders might be the safest choice (“Moderate” candidates won’t be electable if they can’t speak to middle- and working-class frustrations.)

Some background: In the fall of 2015, I visited Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina, researching the changing nature of work for my book, “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.” I spoke with many of the same people I had met two decades prior, when I was secretary of labor, as well as some of their grown children. I asked them about their jobs and their views about the economy. I was most interested in their sense of our system as a whole and how they were faring in it.

What I heard surprised me. Twenty years before, most said they had been working hard and were frustrated that they weren’t doing better. Now they were angry — at their employers, the government and Wall Street; angry that they had not been able to save adequately for retirement, and that their children weren’t doing any better. Several had lost jobs, savings or homes during the Great Recession. By the time I spoke with them, most were employed, but the jobs hardly paid any more than they had years before.

I heard the phrase “rigged system” so often that I began asking people what they meant by it. They spoke about the bailout of the banks, political payoffs, insider deals and out-of-control CEO pay. The resentments came from self-identified Republicans, Democrats and independents; white, black, Latino and Asian American; union households and non-union. The common thread was that everyone was either middle or working class...

With the 2016 primaries on the horizon, I asked which candidates they found most attractive. At the time, party leaders favored Democratic former secretary of state Hillary Clinton or former Florida Republican governor Jeb Bush. But the people I spoke with repeatedly mentioned Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. They said Sanders or Trump would “shake things up,” “make the system work again,” “stop the corruption” or “end the rigging.”

The next year, Sanders — a Jewish, 74-year-old Vermonter and self-described Democratic socialist — barely lost to Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, beat her decisively in the New Hampshire primary, garnered 47 percent of the caucus-goers in Nevada and ended up with 45 percent of the pledged delegates from Democratic primaries and caucuses.

Trump, then a 69-year-old egomaniacal maybe-billionaire and reality TV star who had never held office and never had any previous standing in the Republican Party, won the GOP primaries and then went on to beat Clinton (though not, of course, in the popular vote), one of the most experienced and well-connected politicians in modern America.

It was seismic, and it cannot be fully explained by Sanders’s or Trump’s appeal to their core base voters. It was a rebellion against the establishment. Clinton and Bush started with all the advantages, but neither could credibly convince voters they were not part of the system.

A direct line connected decades of stagnant wages, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of the tea party and the occupy movement and the emergence of Sanders and Trump in 2016. The people I spoke with no longer felt they had a fair chance to make it. National polls told much the same story: According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who felt most people could get ahead through hard work dropped by 13 points between 2000 and 2015. In 2006, according to Gallup, 59 percent of Americans thought government corruption was widespread; by 2013, 79 percent did.

Wow. More people though the country was corrupt under Obama than under Bush. That's saying a ton, but hardly anyone seems to refer to this.

Then he states the obvious, but what needs to be stated over and over and over again:

The best way for Democrats to defeat Trump’s fake populism is with the real thing, coupled with an agenda of systemic reform. This is what Sanders offers. For that reason, he has the best chance of generating the energy and enthusiasm needed to regain the White House.

He will need a coalition of young voters, people of color and the white working class. He seems on his way: In Nevada, according to entrance polls, he won with Latino voters and white voters, women and men, college and non-college graduates. He was the first choice of every age group except for over-65. Nationally, he is narrowing former vice president Joe Biden’s edge with African American voters.

In a general election, Republicans would surely do everything they can to tag Sanders with the “socialist” label. But that hasn’t hurt him so far, partly because it doesn’t come with the stigma it once did.

And worries about a Nixon-McGovern-like blowout in 2020 seem far-fetched. In 1972, the middle class was expanding, not contracting. And polls currently show Sanders tied with or beating Trump: A Quinnipiac poll released last week shows Sanders beating Trump head-to-head in Michigan and Pennsylvania (but shows Trump beating all Democrats head-to-head in Wisconsin). A CBS News-YouGov poll released this week has Sanders beating Trump nationally.

Instead of hand-wringing about Sanders’s electability, maybe establishment Democrats should worry that a “moderate” Democrat might be nominated instead.

As for me right now I'm sitting at the kitchen table sipping coffee on this lovely grey overcast day, with my little daughter napping away, making phone calls to NC for Bernie.

Nice support for Bernie everywhere, with more having already voted early or interested in doing so than not.

One call went like this:

Caller's identity pops up as 30yr male, says he's voting for Bernie. I notice he's occasionally slow to answer to which he says he's at a restaurant working.

I follow the script until the end to when I ask if he'd be willing to sign up to volunteer, then ad lib a little to make it more real:

"Every little bit counts, man. We got 'em on the ropes."

Him: a pause, then "You believe this guy Bloomberg?"

"Yeah. Ugh, he's such a..."

"Piece of shit? I can't believe this."

"I'm calling you from NYC. I hate this guy. He epitomizes everything that Bernie stands against."

"Um, yeah. I gotta go now; I'm getting called back to work. But thanks for what you're doing. I'll see if I can volunteer too."

13 users have voted.

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:


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