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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 08/22/2008

Freedman: Hot Weather, Heated Political Rhetoric

By Andrew Freedman

With high gas prices this summer, a bitter political debate erupted regarding drilling for oil and gas in offshore areas in order to increase the supply of gasoline and lower prices at the pump.

Since climate change is inextricably tied to how we generate and use energy, it's worth briefly exploring the following question: What does it say about the public's support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions when high gas prices can push climate issues onto the back burner to such an extent that a majority of the country now supports drilling for more oil and gas, which will only lead to more emissions?

Keep reading for more insight into the link between climate change and gas prices. For local weather, see our full forecast.

At first glance the drilling debate would seem to fit other indications that support for taking action on climate change is broad but shallow, and that climate change concerns are no match for traditional pocketbook issues when it comes to getting to the top of the national political agenda.

However, as a recent article in the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media points out, the public opinion data on drilling is more nuanced than is often reported. Pollsters, the Yale article states, don't always frame their questions on drilling in a way that allows people to state where drilling falls on their list of energy priorities. When respondents are given the opportunity to weigh drilling against pursuing alternative energy technologies, the alternatives may actually come out ahead.

"It's a rough reality check for the climate change movement: the American public increasingly seems willing to walk -- or drive -- away from climate change concerns, as high gas prices trump principle," the article states. "But as with all polls, the framing is paramount and the media's interpretation crucial."

For example, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that when asked to weigh several energy priorities, a majority of likely voters in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania chose developing alternative energy sources as the "best way to help solve the energy crisis and make America less dependent on foreign oil." In Ohio, 57 percent of likely voters said renewables are the best option, compared to 20 percent who favored drilling as their top choice.

However, when asked about drilling independently of their views on the broader energy portfolio, a significant majority of likely voters in all three states said they support offshore drilling.

By Andrew Freedman  | August 22, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Environment, Freedman  
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Since we're already talking politics, how about the carbon footprint of those 4, er 7, um my staff will get back to you on the number of houses?


Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 22, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the truth is very simple.

Perhaps people believe that [begin quote] developing alternative energy sources as the "best way to help solve the energy crisis and make America less dependent on foreign oil." [end quote] is the best long term strategy. *And* perhaps people believe that drilling is the best short term strategy for bringing down high energy costs.

Is it not possible to simultaneously think short term and long term? Is it not possible that what is best long term is not what is best for the short term?

But the best question of all is, why do we need to develop "alternative energy sources" rather than expand our existing nuclear production? Are the pollsters even asking that question?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | August 22, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I should have taken the time to look at the actual poll prior to my last post. I could have answered my own question. :)

They did ask about nuclear power!
Question number 16 - "do you support or oppose - Building new nuclear power plants?"

62% of likely voters in Florida SUPPORTED building new nuclear power plants.
56% of likely voters in Ohio SUPPORTED building new nuclear power plants.
58% of likely voters in Pensylvania SUPPORTED building new nuclear power plants.

I wonder how the poll would have turned out if they had read these three short sentences PRIOR to starting the poll --
1. Solar power does not work at night time.
2. Wind power does not work when there is no wind.
3. There are not enough farmable acres to have a significant impact on our oil consumption.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | August 22, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Right on, Mr. Q.

However, the radical left climo-marxism so well represented here by "CapitalClimate" and Mr. Freedman are not interested in reasoned debate.

Posted by: Artjohn | August 22, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how the poll would have turned out had the question on nuclear power included respondents agreeing to have a nuclear waste disposal site located in their community.

I am a supporter nuclear power provided the disposal issue is adequately addressed and only as one component of a carefully weighted mix of other other prospective sources of energy.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | August 22, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Offshore drilling is at best a temporary fix, subscribed to by the McCain camp and their right-wing allies.

As for a nuclear waste site in this area, forget it! Too much risk that radioactive waste will leach into area aquifers.

Posted by: El Bombo | August 22, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

New drilling isn't a "short term" fix. Why is there a need to open new areas for drilling when the areas that are available haven't been drilled.

All energy sources have limitations including nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc. People want power but don't want to deal with the consequences locally. Noise from the turbines, space for the solar panels, radioactive waste, smog emissions, etc.

So when an area wants a nuclear plant AND wants to deal with the waste start locally I say start building them. I don't see too many communities looking for that deal.

Posted by: John - Burke | August 23, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse


The nuclear disposal solution is easy if our politicians will show some spine. Yucca Mountain. done. problem solved. What's your next objection to this reliable carbon-free energy source that provides over 70% of France's power?

Posted by: RM | August 23, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

RM: "Problem solved"

Hardly! Even proponents of opening and expanding the capacity of Yucca Mountain acknowledge that's not sufficient. That includes the conservative Heritage Foundation, to wit:

"Yet even with the expanded capacity, Yucca Mountain could not hold all of America's spent fuel if the U.S. adds nuclear capacity. According to one analysis, assuming 1.8 percent growth in America's nuclear capacity after 2010, the U.S. would fill a 120,000-ton Yucca by 2030. At this growth rate, the U.S. would need nine Yucca Mountains by the end of the 21st century."


Posted by: Steve Tracton | August 24, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Amazing how fast the regressives can change their diet from Freedom Fries to red herring. Here's how the French love their nuclear waste:
"Things were going very well until the late 80s when another nuclear issue surfaced that threatened to derail their very successful program: nuclear waste.

French technocrats had never thought that the waste issue would be much of a problem. From the beginning the French had been recycling their nuclear waste, reclaiming the plutonium and unused uranium and fabricating new fuel elements. This not only gave energy, it reduced the volume and longevity of French radioactive waste. The volume of the ultimate high-level waste was indeed very small: the contribution of a family of four using electricity for 20 years is a glass cylinder the size of a cigarette lighter. It was assumed that this high-level waste would be buried in underground geological storage and in the 80s French engineers began digging exploratory holes in France's rural regions.

To the astonishment of France's technocrats, the populations in these regions were extremely unhappy. There were riots. The same rural regions that had actively lobbied to become nuclear power plant sites were openly hostile to the idea of being selected as France's nuclear waste dump." (From Frontline, PBS)


Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 24, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

One can always come up with objections to everything. The sun only shines at night. Wind blows erratically. Nuclear is clean and reliable and storage of the waste is a problem already being coped with successfully today.

The undeniable fact remains that there is no other technology today that is capable of replacing our current level of demand for energy from fossil fuels apart from nuclear. No other viable substitute exists with the state of current technology. Thats the fact Jack.

So if our environmental extremist friends really believe their doomsday scenarios about man-made global warming threatening our very existence, then it's incredibly hypocritical of them not to embrace Nuclear power with open arms because no other technology is close enough to stave off armageddon.

Oh yeah - they have been railing against nuclear for years, so to accept it now would cause them to lose face. I guess that's worse than cooking our planet. What a bunch of self-serving hypocrites.

Posted by: RM | August 24, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Fill Yucca Mountain by 2030? Aren't our sea levels supposed to be 20 meters higher by then? Thats the best you can come up with? Sorry, not buying.

Posted by: RM | August 24, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

"Aren't our sea levels supposed to be 20 meters higher by then?"
No, there is absolutely no basis for that statement.


Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 25, 2008 12:24 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

I followed the url you provided and read the article at Heritage Foundation. At the end of the paragraph that you quoted, it directs you to footnote 6.

This is footnote 6 -
Phillip J. Finck, Deputy Associate Laboratory Director, Applied Science and Technology and National Security, Argonne National Laboratory, statement before the Subcommittee on Energy, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, June 16, 2005, at (January 17, 2008).

Unfortunately, the url provided in the footnote does not work. But it only took a couple of seconds to locate Dr. Finck's testimony. You can read his entire testimony here -

In his testimony, Dr. Finck's advocates nuclear fuel reprocessing. *Without* nuclear fuel reprocessing, Yucca will exceed its maximum capacity sometime around 2030, and the quote you provided is true. However, with nuclear fuel reprocessing (Full Recycle), Yucca Mountain's storage capacity should be sufficient.

--begin quote--
The full recycle approach has significant benefits:

* It can effectively increase the utilization of the repository space by a factor in excess of 100.
* It can effectively increase the utilization of natural uranium by a factor of 100.
* It eliminates the uncontrolled buildup of all isotopes that are a proliferation risk.
* The fast reactors and the processing plant can be deployed in small co-located facilities that minimize the risk of material diversion during transportation.
* The fast reactor does not require the use of very pure weapons usable materials, thus increasing their proliferation resistance.
* It finally can usher the way towards full sustainability to prepare for a time when uranium supplies will become increasingly difficult to ensure.
* These processes would have limited economic impact: the increase in the cost of electricity would be less than 10% (ref: OECD).
* Assuming that demonstration of these processes is started by 2007, commercial operations are possible starting in 2025; this will require adequate funding for demonstrating the separations, recycle, and reactor technologies.
* The systems can be designed and implemented to ensure that the mass of accumulated SNF in the U.S. would always remain below 100,000MT, (Note: less than the technical capacity of Yucca Mountain ) thus delaying, or even avoiding, the need for a second repository in the U.S.
--end quote--

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | August 25, 2008 1:03 AM | Report abuse

Mr Q,

Do you really expect Capital Climate to present a balanced picture? They are just shills for the far-left "environmental" cult. If such folks were really concerned about our environment, they would not dismiss nuclear power the way they do.

Posted by: RM | August 25, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Isn't 20 meters higher sea level what Al Gore was hawking in his movie? Or was that 20 feet?

Posted by: RM | August 25, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

First, as mentioned initially, I favor nuclear power production as long as the problem of nuclear waste disposal is adequately resolved. I highlight the storage issue not as an argument against nuclear power, but rather as a problem that must be overcome in some way. Yucca is not THE answer. Even if it's capacity were greatly expanded and/or other geologically safe locations can be identified for permanent storage - and even accounting for recycling - decades of interim storage is recognized as necessary for "cool-down" before material is moved to a permanent site.

This can be at cooling pools on site of the reactors (as currently done, but limited) or some off site facility. The danger of either is obvious, whether it be leakage accidentally or by terrorist design. So, the question again becomes for proponents to find locations where communities are agreeable to having a storage site in their backyards.

As it turns out, my second home is located just a few miles from the Lake Anna nuclear power plant in north central Virginia. Yes, this is rather disconcerting, but there would not be a Lake Anna for myself/family and thousands of others to enjoy its tremendous recreational offerings and community development. On the other hand this development was after the fact exploitation of an existing state of affairs, but plans for expansion of the Lake Anna plant have been vigorously opposed.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | August 25, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

I am tempted to provide a logical counter-argument to your last comment, but I suspect it would be futile.

What is your solution?

I am sure you are opposed to existing coal fired plants and the CO2 the emit. So what do you advocate as an alternative? A realistic alternative that can replace all existing coal fired plants. An alternative that will reliably supply electricity to millions of homes 24 hours a day.

Sometimes there is no perfect solution. Heck, I will go as far as to say there is seldom a perfect solution/answer. Sometimes we have to pick the best answer/solution from our available choices. That is just the way it is. That's life.

I look forward to your reply.

RM, the answer to your question to me is "no".

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | August 25, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, I'll take the bait this one last time. Agreed, there is no perfect solution!

About the only thing I'm sure of is that there is no SINGLE best solution, whether it be nuclear, solar, wind, etc - and that there is no short term answer (~5-10 years). What's necessary is a composite of possibilities, the relative contribution of each weighted by capacity, cost, environment, societal impacts, international relationships, and more. These factors are probably the easier to appraise objectively - relative that is to balancing the politics of vested interests.

Achieving the necessary compromises requires leadership at the top, which looks much more promising with whoever wins the presidential election. More uncertain is the willingness to compromise by the politicos on the Hill.

The normal state of affairs where politics trumps science and most everything else, including common sense, must be reversed. On this I'm not overly optimistic, nor totally pessimistic. There are vehicles to influence government policy, which commentary here most certainly will not do. Want to discuss further, offline (at least for now) and contribute more meaningfully to the cause? Contact me directly at:

Posted by: Steve Tracton | August 25, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Since the 20 foot/meter Tidal Wave Straw Man From Hell keeps coming back, for anyone who missed it the first several times, here is what was actually said on the subject (scroll down to Hype-ocracy). Note in particular the use of the word "if" at least 3 times in the quotation and the complete lack of any specific date.


Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 25, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

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