Energy accord excludes nuclear power

Nuclear power, which generates no greenhouse gas emissions, was deemed too divisive to include in an energy and climate-change platform that 11 Midwestern governors endorsed Thursday.

Nuclear power, which generates no greenhouse gas emissions, was deemed too divisive to include in an energy and climate-change platform that 11 Midwestern governors endorsed Thursday.

Climate policy experts have said that a range of policies is needed to address rising greenhouse gas emissions. The policies include a major investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as a surge in nuclear and other forms of power generation such as ultra-clean coal-fired power plants that would bury underground the carbon dioxide produced from burning coal.

But nuclear power was "too controversial" to include in the regional plan, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said. Also absent: regulations that would regulate emissions of global warming gases from vehicle tailpipes.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, said additional nuclear power would make the most sense -- except that it wasn't a policy he could endorse because there is no national plan to deal with radioactive waste from reactors.

In Wisconsin, Doyle has opposed repeal of a state law that bars construction of reactors in the state. But the Democrat stressed Thursday that he told his global warming task force "nothing should be off the table" as the group, made up of representatives of utilities, environmental organizations and businesses, formulates its recommendations.


A bill to lift the ban has won the support of the Republican-controlled Assembly.

A task force subcommittee has recommended that Wisconsin consider lifting the ban, though that panel was "sharply divided," a report to the task force says.

Wait and see, Doyle says

Nearly a dozen new reactors have been proposed across the nation, most of them in the South. Doyle said Wisconsin would do well to wait and learn from the experience of reactor construction in other states before committing to build another plant.

Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, said the Midwestern platform was far more detailed than similar plans governors have crafted in other regions, although it doesn't address nuclear power or regulating auto manufacturers.

The Midwestern governors have set so many ambitious targets that they risk leaving themselves open to criticism if not every policy is enacted by the deadlines that have been set, said Cohen, whose group lobbies for cleaner-burning power plants.

The accord did the right thing by emphasizing next-generation clean-coal plants, he said.

Given rising demand for energy, some have called for tripling the amount of power the world generates from nuclear power over the coming decades.


"Is it doable? Maybe," Cohen said. "But the point is, it doesn't get you where you need to be. The fossil-fuel system is going to be the backbone of our energy sector for the next several decades."

Governors of every Midwestern state except Missouri endorsed the platform. It includes planks aimed at boosting the supply of renewable power from wind turbines and solar panels, as well as renewable fuels such as ethanol that would be made from non-food products such as wood chips, timber or switchgrass.

'Breaking logjam'

In addition, six of the 12 governors signed a greenhouse gas accord that would set up a cap-and-trade system to reduce the gases over the coming decades. The governors haven't agreed yet on how much emissions will be lowered, but several states are developing plans to cut emissions 60 percent to 80 percent.

Environmental groups hailed the agreement as significant because it would put the Midwest in a position to capitalize on its strength in renewable energy, such as wind and biofuels, as movement builds to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Midwest is now breaking the logjam when it comes to changing global-warming policy in this country," said Howard Learner, director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Congress will take notice that states that rely heavily on coal are ready to reduce emissions, he said

That includes Illinois, where Gov. Rod Blagojevich this week made the "difficult" decision to sign on to the accord, Learner said; the task was tougher for Blagojevich than for most Midwestern governors because Illinois is a coal-mining state with coal-mining jobs and 60 coal-fired power plants.


Work now turns to groups that plan to hatch proposals for renewable energy, transmission-line planning and other studies.

Over the next year, the states also plan to work to design a regional cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions.

"A lot of the hard work is yet to come," said Keith Reopelle, program director at Clean Wisconsin.

Organizers of the event said it was inconceivable that a region so dependent on the auto industry would sign on to an accord that would force tough greenhouse-gas and gas-mileage standards on automakers. But with cars and light trucks being the second-largest source of emissions after power plants, backers seeking more investment in mass transit and smart growth said the plan didn't go far enough.

"If the governors aren't targeting reversing the steady growth in the amount of driving people do across the Midwest, then that's a hole in their plan big enough to drive lots of cars and trucks through," said Steve Filmanowicz, spokesman for the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism.

-- Copyright © 2007, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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