Category Archives: Energy Party

Promising first step on lifting SC’s solar cap

State House

This was good to see yesterday:

The Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition (PCSC) today applauded a South Carolina House Judiciary subcommittee for its unanimous passage of H. 4421, a bill that would bring more free market solar energy choices to South Carolina consumers.

“In just a few years, South Carolina has become a leader in solar energy growth. I’m thrilled that House members recognize how H. 4421 will continue this positive trend by giving consumers even more free market energy choices,” said Matt Moore, Chairman of the PCSC. “Now the bill moves to the full the Judiciary Committee, where we are confident that despite big power’s objections to energy freedom, House members will support sending H. 4421 to the full South Carolina House for passage.”

That’s James Smith’s bill, called the “SC Electric Consumer Bill of Rights,” that lifts the ridiculous cap on solar energy in South Carolina. The one I wrote about Wednesday.

Moore, the former GOP chair, made a point of thanking Smith along with Republican backers Peter McCoy and Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney.

It’s a smart piece of bipartisan legislation — I’ve yet to hear a good reason why it shouldn’t pass — and while subcommittee passage is just a start, I’m encouraged by the unanimous vote.

The conservative case for clean energy

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

There’s something odd about that headline, isn’t there? One shouldn’t have to make such a case, seeing as how “conservative” and “conservation” derive from the same root.

But our modern politics are sufficiently strange that the case must be made — and increasingly, more conservatives are prepared to make it.

They did so this morning over at the convention center Hilton, at a breakfast co-sponsored by the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions out of Washington.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

The program started with a brief keynote by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent (and formerly of RedState), who came to say, “We conservatives don’t have to be afraid of clean energy.” Mind you, “We don’t need to subsidize it” the way he says folks on the left want to do — it’s more about getting out of the way and letting markets do the job.

The main thing standing in the way of that is the owners of the current infrastructure. Erickson, who lives in Macon, says he keeps hearing from Georgia Power, telling him that solar might burn his house down, and anyway, it’s not efficient — it doesn’t work on a cloudy day.

“Why are you so scared of it, then?,” he asks.

After Erickson sat down, Matt Moore — new head of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and former chairman of the S.C. GOP — gave out awards to some conservative friend of clean energy, including my own Rep. Micah Caskey. Others recognized were Rep. Nathan Ballentine, and Sen. Greg Gregory.

Gregory got credit for passage of Act 236 in 2014 — the legislation that allowed net metering in South Carolina. Which was a start toward putting solar on a firm footing in the state.

But the main order of 2018 for these organizations is repealing a problematic provision of that legislation — a 2 percent cap on the amount of energy allowed to be generated by solar, something the utilities insisted on in 2014.

So we heard a lot, during a panel discussion featuring Ballentine and three others and chaired by Moore, about H. 4421, which would remove that cap and let solar compete freely — an idea suddenly quite popular, with SCANA and Santee Cooper in the political doghouse.

We’re getting close to that 2 percent cap, which Ballentine said would cause the disappearance of 3,000 jobs in South Carolina in the installation business (also represented on the panel). That’s one of the reasons he’s for lifting the cap.

He praised H. 4421, saying how good it is to see a “bipartisan effort” behind it.

And it does have bipartisan support. What Nathan did not say, with so many Republicans in the room, is that the bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. James Smith. He was concerned, apparently, that some in his party might oppose it just to keep James from having a big win when he’s running for governor.

Which would be really petty of them, but that’s the state of party politics in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and eighteen. For some people, anyway.

Frankly, I’m having trouble imagining any good reason why anyone would oppose such commonsense legislation. Maybe you can think of one, but I can’t.

The bill is supposed to come up in subcommittee again Thursday…

the room

Harry Reid’s leaving. So can we open Yucca Mountain now?

That was my first thought when I heard that at long last, Harry Reid will be leaving the Senate.

By Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the place the nation decided long ago would be our permanent repository for nuclear waste MAY open, with its chief obstacle retiring. It’s long past time that Yucca Mountain provide South Carolina (and other states) some relief on this. That was the plan, and it was always a good one.

So now it can happen.

Hey, I can hope, can’t I?

But beyond that, can you think of anything about Reid’s tenure as majority/minority leader that was good? Neither can I. His name just conjures up a lot of unpleasantness for me. He’s not alone in that; I have similar impressions of names such as Boehner, Pelosi and McConnell. Together they’ve presided over a particularly ugly and unproductive period in congressional history.

Dare I hope he’ll be replaced by someone who will turn that around?

Ummmm… Maybe I should just stick to hoping for the Yucca Mountain thing. That’ll be tough enough…

Krauthammer bravely pushes the Energy Party line

Enjoyed this Charles Krauthammer piece over the weekend:

For 32 years I’ve been advocating a major tax on petroleum. I’ve got as much chance this time around as did Don Quixote with windmills. But I shall tilt my lance once more.

The only time you can even think of proposing a gas tax increase is when oil prices are at rock bottom. When I last suggested the idea six years ago, oil was selling at $40 a barrel. It eventually rose back to $110. It’s nowaround $48. Correspondingly, the price at the pump has fallen in the last three months by more than a dollar to about $2.20 per gallon.

As a result, some in Congress are talking about a 10- or 20-cent hike in the federal tax to use for infrastructure spending. Right idea, wrong policy. The hike should not be 10 cents but $1. And the proceeds should not be spent by, or even entrusted to, the government. They should be immediately and entirely returned to the consumer by means of a cut in the Social Security tax….

A $1 gas tax increase would constrain oil consumption in two ways. In the short run, by curbing driving. In the long run, by altering car-buying habits. A return to gas-guzzling land yachts occurs every time gasoline prices plunge. A high gas tax encourages demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Constrained U.S. consumption — combined with already huge increases in U.S. production — would continue to apply enormous downward pressure on oil prices….

Quixotic, yes. But I stand up and cheer whenever anyone has the courage to speak sense on the gas tax.

I don’t know whether his FICA rollback is the best thing to do with the money. I’d like to see some serious investment in infrastructure. But it doesn’t matter. Raising the gas tax and using the money unwisely is actually better than not raising it at all, for the reasons Krauthammer cites.

By the way, in praising Krauthammer for being so Energy Party, I don’t mean to claim he got the idea from me. As he says, he’s been pushing this uncommon sense idea for 32 years. The Energy Party has only been around for a fourth as long.

But of course, the odds against us are as great as ever. Too many on both the left and the right hate the idea of gas tax increases. But at least there’s something afoot in Congress…

Tom Ervin won’t say how HE’D pay for roads, either

Well, we know that Nikki Haley wants to fix SC roads, but doesn’t want to say how she’d pay for it — at least, not until after the election.

Vincent Sheheen at least says he’d issue bonds for pay for part of our infrastructure needs. Beyond that, he’s vague. From his website:

South Carolina is too dependent on the “gas tax” and needs to diversify how it pays for roads and bridges. In addition to the $1 billion Vincent helped secure for road reconstruction in 2013, he believes we should continue using South Carolina’s bonding authority to make long-term infrastructure investments, dedicate more General Fund revenue from surpluses to roads, and look at new revenue sources to help make our roads safe again. All options must be on the table for discussion.

What I’d like to see from Sheheen an elaboration on what he means when he says SC is “too dependent on the ‘gas tax’,” and therefore must go on some grail-like quest for mysterious “new revenue sources.” I suspect what he means is that SC is simply unwilling, politically, to raise our extremely low gas tax. He certainly can’t mean that he thinks it’s too high.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Tom Ervin takes the governor to task for not saying how she’d pay for roads, and then declines to say how he would do it:

Greenville: Independent Republican candidate Tom Ervin issued the following statement:

Governor Haley’s “secret plan” to fund improvements for our roads and bridges is nothing more than a “secret tax increase” and another blatant example of her lack of transparency and accountability.20140525_0138-300x300

Call Governor Haley now at (803) 734-2100 and demand that she disclose the details of her secret funding plan.  When Nikki Haley hides the ball on funding, that’s her political speak for taxpayer’s having to foot the bill.  Haley’s secret plan shouldn’t surprise anyone.  It’s Haley’s lack of leadership that has forced a county-by-county sales tax increase to make up for her failed leadership.  This has resulted in a back door sales tax increase on top of her “secret plan” to raise taxes next year.

And I’m shocked about Governor Haley’s stated approach.  We are a legislative state.  For Haley to say she will “show the General Assembly how to do it” confirms just how irresponsible Haley’s approach is to our serious infrastructure needs.

If South Carolinians want to maintain or roads and bridges and invest in our infrastructure, it’s going to require a change in leadership.  When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding for our crumbling roads and bridges. And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate.  The legislative process is a deliberative process.  We already have a dictator in Washington, D.C.  We don’t need another one in Columbia.

Tell, me — in what way is the governor’s promise to come out with something after the election different, practically speaking, from “When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding?” Yeah, I get that he’s saying he’d respect lawmakers more than the incumbent does. But beyond that, he’s doing the same thing she is — declining to say what he would propose until after the election.

Are we supposed to read “And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate” as some sort of code that the one responsible plan, raising the gas tax, will be part of his plan? Maybe. But why not come out and say it? It’s not like he’d be endangering his chance of getting elected, because that chance does not exist. (When one is tilting at windmills, why not go for broke and propose the right thing, rather than being cagey?)

So, having surveyed the field, one thing I must say in Todd Rutherford’s behalf is that at least he’s proposing something, even though it’s a really bad idea.

Conservation voters want you to know they’re all for the solar bill

This release came in a little while ago:


Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee cleared the path for the state legislature to give us the sun with solar energy legislation.

The vote was 19-1 in favor, which is unheard of for a piece of legislation like this and a testament to the hard work of our negotiators and a resolve by all the stakeholders to find consensus. As for the sole vote against, we can only assume that the legislator had his judgment temporarily blocked by the bright glare of the sun.

Because the legislation is currently under attack by solar industry groups from out of state, we want to be clear: we wholeheartedly support this bill. We hope this is the beginning of a new era in energy independence for South Carolinians.

Thank you for being a supporter of solar in South Carolina. We still need your help to push this legislation through the Senate and House and to Governor Haley’s desk. The Senate takes its first vote on S.536 this week. Learn more about this issue and contact your elected officials to encourage them to vote YES. To contact your legislator click HERE and just type in your address.

Once S.536 gets through the Senate it moves to the House, so let’s keep up the “heat” to assure that South Carolina’s brightest days are ahead.

Thank you for all you do.


Shawn Drury
Field Director, CVSC

I thought it interesting that the out-of-state industry group is headed by Barry Goldwater. Junior. If he manages to pose a problem to passage of the bill, maybe CVSC could do an advocacy ad featuring a little girl and a daisy

Another great Brooks column, on the nature of moderation

In response to my praise of David Brooks’ column from earlier in the week, Cindi Scoppe Tweeted this:

.@BradWarthen It’s a very good column, but if it’s the best you’ve seen in years, you obviously missed THIS one 

Well, she knows what I like to read, which shouldn’t be surprising, since I first became her editor in 1987.

The column, from Oct. 25, 2012, was headlined “What Moderation Means.” Excerpts:

First, let me describe what moderation is not. It is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Only people who know nothing about moderation think it means that.

Moderates start with a political vision, but they get it from history books, not philosophy books. That is, a moderate isn’t ultimately committed to an abstract idea. Instead, she has a deep reverence for the way people live in her country and the animating principle behind that way of life. In America, moderates revere the fact that we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream — committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.

This animating principle doesn’t mean that all Americans think alike. It means that we have a tradition of conflict. Over the centuries, we have engaged in a series of long arguments around how to promote the American dream — arguments that pit equality against achievement, centralization against decentralization, order and community against liberty and individualism.

The moderate doesn’t try to solve those arguments. There are no ultimate solutions….

The moderate creates her policy agenda by looking to her specific circumstances and seeing which things are being driven out of proportion at the current moment. This idea — that you base your agenda on your specific situation — may seem obvious, but immoderate people often know what their solutions are before they define the problems.

For a certain sort of conservative, tax cuts and smaller government are always the answer, no matter what the situation. For a certain sort of liberal, tax increases for the rich and more government programs are always the answer.

The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right. Situations matter most. Tax cuts might be right one decade but wrong the next. Tighter regulations might be right one decade, but if sclerosis sets in then deregulation might be in order….

Very, very good stuff. I can see why Cindi would like it, and not only because Brooks uses the trick of an inclusive “she” rather than the traditional inclusive “he” to indicate a hypothetical person whose gender doesn’t matter, which is something Cindi does.

More to the point, it should be easy to see why I would like this column as much as the one I praised earlier this week. Both of them speak for me, and the way I see the world. (Which is an argument for why Brooks should have used “he” instead of “she.” Hey, there are bits where he should have just gone ahead and written “Brad.”) There are particularly sharp insights in both columns, expressed in ways that had not yet occurred for me. Some of the highest praise I’ve gotten from readers over the years is when they say, “You write what I think, but don’t know how to say.” Brooks did a better job of explaining some things that I believe than I have been able to do.

I particularly appreciate this statement: “The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right.” That’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to say in everything I’ve written about the UnParty and the Energy Party and the Grownup Party. (Brooks later says that moderates are misunderstood because they don’t write manifestos. Well, I’ve at least tried to do so….) This is such an important point because there are so many deluded souls out there who fervently believe that there are policies that ARE right in every instance. Promising, for instance, always to vote against tax increases (or, as Brooks said, for higher taxes for the wealthy) is as arbitrary as promising to vote “yes” on all bills that come up on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I don’t know that I like that column from October better than the Snowden one. But they are both really, really good, and I wish everyone would read them. They say things that are profoundly true, but counterintuitive for too many Americans. These things need to be said as often as possible, and by someone who says them as well as Brooks does.

Yes, a conservative party would be good to have

Vice President Thomas R. Marshall famously said, “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.” Which is debatable.

Less questionable is what Tom Friedman asserted in his latest column, in which he argued that what this country could really use is an actual conservative party. I agree. (In fact, it’s sort of what I’m getting at when I talk about my Grownup Party.)

Nowadays, what was once a home for conservatives has been almost completely commandeering by radicals, he says, and he’s right. Conservatives, true Tories, don’t despise and tear at the basic fabric of civil society. On the contrary, they defend and maintain institutions (of which government is but one). They don’t attend rallies waving snake flags. That’s what revolutionaries do, which is where these latter-day folks got their flag, and the name of their movement. That’s fine if you want to be a revolutionary; it takes all kinds to make up a world. Just don’t call yourself a conservative. And don’t label actual conservatives as “in-name-only.”

Friedman suggests that a real conservative presence in our politics could help us deal meaningfully with the four great issues of the day, which he deems to be “the nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements…[;] how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet our energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are here illegally humanely, while opening America to the world’s most talented immigrants, whom we need to remain the world’s most innovative economy.

He notes that there are real conservatives out there, with useful ideas to contribute with regard to these issues. Such as our own Bob Inglis, so recently ridden out of his party on a rail:

Imagine if the G.O.P. position on energy and climate was set by Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina Republican congressman (who was defeated by the Tea Party in 2010). He now runs George Mason University’s Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which is based on the notion that climate change is real, and that the best way to deal with it and our broader energy challenge is with conservative “market-based solutions” that say to the fossil fuel and wind, solar and nuclear industries: “Be accountable for all of your costs,” including the carbon and pollution you put in the air, and then we’ll “let the markets work” and see who wins.

I told Bob last time I saw him that a new party, a way of running effectively for office outside of the present ideological madness, is exactly what this country needs, so that we can elect more people like him. He listened politely enough, but I fear he’s had his fill of electoral politics for awhile.

Anyway, Friedman definitely is onto something here.

Bob Inglis and market-driven environmentalism

Inglis blowing bubbles during his speech. Yes, he was making a point, but it would take too many words to explain it here. You had to be there.

Don’t know whether you read Bob Inglis’ op-ed piece in The State the other day or not. An excerpt:

There is important work to be done in order to realize the full potential of South Carolina’s advanced-energy sector. We need less government and more free enterprise. Some clean-energy technologies are more cost-effective than fossil fuels, and others are not there yet. But even the most cost-effective clean fuels still routinely lose out to more expensive fossil fuels. Why? Because the energy market is not a free market.

Speaking at the Clean Energy Summit is timely for me because, a few days ago, I launched the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, a national public-engagement campaign to promote conservative solutions to America’s energy challenges. One of our first efforts will be to convene forums around the country, much like the summit, that bring together economists, national-security experts, climate scientists and interested citizens to explore the power of free enterprise to solve our nation’s energy challenges. We’re going to be saying that, given a “true cost” comparison, free enterprise can deliver muscular solutions to our energy and climate challenges — solutions far better than clumsy government mandates and fickle tax incentives…

The day that appeared, he was speaking to the South Carolina Clean Energy Summit at the convention center. I attended the event, which was sponsored, understandably enough, by the South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance.

In case you wonder how Inglis gets to being an environmentalist from the perch of a dyed-in-the-wool conservative (which shouldn’t be puzzling — conservatives should by their nature want to conserve the environment, if words have meaning), here’s an example of how it works for him: The problem now, he explained, is that different sources of energy don’t compete on an even, market-driven playing field. For instance, the true cost of gasoline is hidden. If the full costs of our military operations in the Mideast were attached directly to the price of gasoline (as we in the Energy Party think it should be), “we’d beat a path to the Prius dealership.”

Some views of the Moore School that is to be

This is a story from the “drive-by” beat that I always wanted The State to create, but it never did. The idea would have been to satisfy people’s curiosity about things they drive by every day and wonder about. Today, we answer the question of, “What’s that thing coming out of that hole in the ground next to the Carolina Coliseum?”

That was the subject of Hildy Teegen’s talk today to the Columbia Rotary Club. (Disclosure, to the extent that it means anything: I invited Hildy to speak to the club, and introduced her.)

Speaking to Rotary. That's Club President J.T. Gandolfo in the foreground.

It’s the new Moore School of Business, of which Dr. Teegen is the dean. It’s intended, among other things, as the gateway to the Innovista, and should go a long way toward helping people understand that Innovista is NOT those two buildings everybody keeps obsessing over, but will constitute a transformation for that whole underdeveloped urban expanse from this location down to the river.

Innovista is conceived around the “live, work, play” concept, and the new Moore school has been designed to complement that. The key word Hildy keeps using to describe it is “permeable.” That goes from the literal sense of the rooftop garden, to the fact that it will be open to the whole community 24/7. In fact, she pointed out, it is architecturally impossible to close off the building.

One of the goals is for the building to achieve “net-zero” status, meaning its energy and carbon impact on the surrounding community will be nonexistent.

The building, which is to be completed in December 2013, will house the nation’s No. 1 international business master’s program and all of the school’s other business education programs — such as the night school that has just entered the top 25 in the U.S — except, of course the multiple distance-learning opportunities the school offers across SC and in Charlotte.

You can see the entire PowerPoint presentation here. And here are some pictures:

SC politician uses ‘communitarian’ in a sentence!

A friend brought to my attention this interview with Bob Inglis, who will be in Columbia next week to speak at the SC Clean Energy Summit. An excerpt:

Q. So you think the main thing driving the current conservative attitude toward climate science is economic anger?

A. I think that’s where the explanation starts. Yesterday, in my class [Inglis is a Visiting Energy Fellow at the Nicolas School of the Environment at Duke University], I assigned J.M. Bernstein’s great piece “The Very Angry Tea Party.” It starts with economic dislocation, but his point is, at a very deep emotional level, it shows that our self-concept as autonomous beings is inconsistent with our reality of interdependence, and to some extent dependence, on a social network of support from Medicare, Social Security, and other ways that we have formed community.

The thing where I’m obviously out of step is, I think it’s possible to be a conservative who wants to build community. That it is consistent with the ethical teachings of Jesus — to be a communitarian, to care for the sick. But right now what we have is anger and rejectionism. On energy and climate, there’s an element that just rejects action, rejects the science, rejects anything and anybody with a PhD.

I think you should respect people who have given their lives to learning about climate systems and listen to them carefully. They know a lot more than I do. But this is not where we are right now.

If you look at the history of this country, there was something called the Boston Commons. Savannah, Ga., was a planned city and has beautiful parks; Charleston has some beautiful public spaces. The idea being, we can build a community here. We’re going to care for one another. Now, there’s a big difference of opinion about how far that goes in terms of the role of the state. But you start with the notion that we’re going to build community.

Another reason for rejectionism has to do with an assumption of technological progress, that they, whoever they is, will come up with something. It’s not a strategy as far as I’m concerned. The unnamed they will come up with something faster if we set the economics right.

And some of the rejectionism is based on a sort of recoiling from the apocalyptic vision of some advocates of action on climate change. That apocalyptic vision actually hurts us because it drives the sense that, well, we’re all toast anyway. We may as well eat, drink, and be merry. If I believe that I’ve got some control over my destiny, I might rise up and exercise responsibility. But if I think it’s all predetermined and I’ve got no hope, denial is a pretty good coping mechanism.

If I accept the science, and that leads to the conclusion that something’s up, and I’m a responsible moral actor, I should change my behavior. But if I’m not willing to change my behavior, it’s better for me, not to admit that I’m selfish, but to attack the science. Attacking the science is an easier way to dispense with the question.

And here you can see, of course, why the Tea Party essentially rode the congressman out of office on a rail in 2010: He thinks too much.

Related to that is the main reason this was brought to my attention: This may mark the first time in the history of our state that a present or former South Carolina officeholder actually used the word “communitarian.” And even used it in a way that indicated he identified the concept with himself!

Maybe I’m just missing the purpose…

Speaking of Twitter, here’s something I sent out yesterday…

It’s a conundrum.

Is the purpose to help the planet, or to save gas? Either way, a hybrid something else would get the job done better. I mean, why buy a Tahoe, and then spend extra to make it a hybrid (I’m assuming, perhaps erroneously, that the hybrids cost more).

Or is it just to send a message to the world: I care about the planet, I really do! I just can’t help myself — I gotta drive a dreadnought through the city streets!

Or is it something else? Such as sheer irony?

Graham favors ‘rebate’ on Yucca Mountain

This came in earlier today:

Graham Legislation Provides ‘Rebate’ to Consumers, Utilities, and Communities for Obama Administration’s Refusal to Open Yucca Mountain

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), one of the strongest supporters of nuclear energy in the Senate, has introduced legislation, The Nuclear Waste Fund Relief and Rebate Act.

Electric utilities have been paying into the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund to construct and operate a permanent federal nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.  The utilities have been charging their costumers a monthly fee in each electricity bill to make these payments.  According to the latest information, South Carolina residents alone have already contributed more than $1.3 billion to the fund, which has collected a total of more than $35 billion in fees.

The legislation introduced by Graham would rebate these monies back to electric utilities and consumers.  Seventy-five percent of the amount rebated to utilities would be returned to their customers and the remaining portion will be used to make upgrades to on-site storage facilities.

Additionally, the legislation authorizes payments to states currently housing defense nuclear waste scheduled to be transferred to Yucca Mountain.  These payments begin in 2017, the date in which Yucca Mountain was to set to receive shipments of defense nuclear waste.

“No one should be required to pay for an empty hole in the Nevada desert,” said Graham.  “The decision by the Obama Administration to close Yucca Mountain was ill-advised and leaves our nation without a disposal plan for spent nuclear fuel or Cold War waste.  It was a political, not scientific, decision.  It is incumbent on the Administration to come up with a disposal plan for this real problem facing our nation.”

The major provisions of the Graham legislation include:

·         Presidential Certification: The Department of Energy has spent billions of dollars and decades studying the suitability of Yucca Mountain as the nation’s repository for spent nuclear fuel and defense waste.  Consistently, the science has borne out that Yucca Mountain is the best site to dispose of nuclear waste.  Within 30 days of passage, the President must certify that Yucca Mountain remains the preferred choice to serve as the federal repository for spent nuclear fuel and defense-related nuclear waste.

·         Failure to Certify Leads to Rebates: If the President fails to make the above certification, or revokes the certification at a later date, all funds currently in the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund shall be rebated back to the utilities.  Seventy-five percent of the amount rebated to utilities would be returned to their customers and the remaining money will be used to make security and storage upgrades at existing nuclear power plants.

·         Defense Waste: Currently, there is at least 12,800 metric tons of defense-related waste at nuclear weapons complex facilities around the country.  Unlike commercial spent fuel, this waste has no potential future defense or civilian uses.  In many states, the accumulated waste poses the largest potential public health threat.  In order to help mitigate the risk associated with the indefinite storage of defense waste, the legislation authorizes payments of up to $100 million per year if defense waste has not begun to have left the states by 2017.

·         Waste Confidence: In order to continue to renew or issue licenses for civilian nuclear power plants, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must have reasonable confidence that the waste will be disposed of safely.  The legislation includes waste confidence language that allows for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue to license nuclear reactors in the event the Presidential certification is not made.

“Our nation needs real options as a result of the uncertainty created by the Obama Administration’s change in policy,” said Graham.  “I will push this legislation forward and hope to have the full Senate on-the-record on this important issue.”

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), John McCain (R-Arizona), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin).


I don’t know what y’all think, but personally, I don’t want a rebate. I just want want the president to shove Harry Reid aside and put the national repository where it belongs, at Yucca Mountain.

I sort of think that’s what Sen. Graham really wants, too.

Wow. Can you get more simplistic than this?

The eagerness of both ends of the political spectrum to demagogue on gasoline prices is a powerful force. But I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite as simplistic as this before:


Gas prices are too high, and we need President Obama to listen.

With an 8% gas price spike last month and prices expected to rise further this summer, it’s time to solve our energy problems, provide real energy solutions for the American people, and get our economy focused on creating jobs. The president’s energy policy isn’t helping and begs the question: is the president even listening? We need the entire Keystone XL pipeline built, we need to drill domestically, and we need to stop depending on foreign oil. If we can lower gas prices, we also can grow our economy and create jobs for the American people.

Welcome to my new Rally page – where you can rally behind my pro-jobs, pro-growth campaign. Leave comments, donate, and support the campaign.

Let’s get this economy back on track.

What precisely does that mean — “President Obama: Will you listen?” What are we to suppose the president hasn’t heard? That there’s an uptick in gas prices? Hasn’t the predicted advent of $4-a-gallon gas been done to death over the last couple of weeks — even before it arrives?

And what, pray tell, is it that we’re to assume the president should do about the global market forces and geopolitics that are causing this momentary uptick?

And do you really believe that lower gas prices are in the long-term interests of the United States?

I was momentarily encouraged two weeks ago when I saw this headline on a release from Joe Wilson: “Wilson Supports All-Of-The-Above Energy Bill.” I thought maybe Joe was moving toward an Energy Party stance. But then I saw it was just more pandering about the gasoline prices that he and others are always so eager to exploit.

Yep, people don’t like paying more for gas; it’s true. I don’t. Present gas prices are hard for me to pay already. But I also know that Joe’s right when he says we need to “stop depending on foreign oil,” and that keeping prices low is the OPPOSITE of a policy that would encourage that.

A true, all-of-the-above energy policy would include, among other things:

  • Further development of domestic sources of fossil fuels.
  • A crash research and development program to get us OFF fossil fuels as soon as possible.
  • A gasoline tax increase that not only pays for research, but discourages overuse of the resource.
  • Conservation.
  • Public transit.
  • Expedited construction of nuclear power plants.

There was a bill, awhile back, that moved in the right direction. Unfortunately, Lindsey Graham withdrew his support for it when Republicans of Joe Wilson’s ilk persecuted him for the “sin” of working with a Democrat.

A rational policy aimed at energy independence would include elements that Republicans hate, and others that Democrats hate — and would require some general sacrifice. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Joe Wilson to push for anything like that. He’d rather pander to us.

Energy Party position on Keystone pipeline

Meant to post about this yesterday, but there’s just so much going on…

You know the Democratic position on the Obama Administration’s rejection of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. And you know the Republican position.

But what, I’m sure you’re wondering, is the Energy Party position? It’s not all that complicated. You can break it down into three elements. The Energy Party:

  1. Wants this project to happen. Not for the jobs everybody is talking about, although the jobs are great. Encouraging the development of domestic, or at least friendly, sources of energy is key to the nation’s strategic security, and therefore of the highest priority to the Energy Party.
  2. Is deeply disappointed that the permit has been rejected at this time. Were this decision to stand, it would be bad for the nation. Fortunately, there appears to be time to reconsider, as there are other obstacles to the project that will take time to work out.
  3. Is much encouraged that the permit was not rejected on the merits. The fact that the president cited a technicality — Congress not giving enough time to properly consider the permit — is highly encouraging. Maybe he can turn this around and get it right.

See how matter-of-fact things can be when you’re not blinded by the ideology of either the left or the right, and you don’t care whether Democrats or Republicans have the upper hand?

And now, a few words from the Grownup Party

The ATV discussion caused me to invoke the Grownup Party (which was my third effort to start my own party, after the UnParty and the Energy Party), which caused me to go back and reread the party’s founding document, and I think this passage is always good to keep in mind:

Which brings us to something else about Grownups — they understand that in America, the government is us, rather than being some menacing thing out there, and that we’re very fortunate to live in this country at this time rather than in Russia under the czars — or under Vladimir Putin, for that matter. And we’re especially fortunate not to live in a place where there is no government, such as Somalia under the warlords.
When the government does something we don’t like — which is pretty often, political immaturity being rampant — we don’t stamp our feet and talk about taking our ball (or  taxes, or whatever) and going home. Instead, we take responsibility for it, and try to bring it along. Yes, it’s a thankless task, like picking up after one’s children, or explaining to them why they can’t stay out late with their friends. But someone has to do it.
The task may seem hopeless as well — but only to the sort who gives up. Grownups know they don’t have that option, so they keep putting forth ideas that make sense, day after day, just like Daddy  going to work…

Amen to that. The Founder of the Grownup Party knows what he’s on about…

Before you fill up, here are a few safety tips…

When I was leaving the Marionette Theatre the other day, I decided to swing by Columbia’s Hydrogen Fueling Station, since I was close by and had never seen it before.

The good  news was that, had I been driving a hydrogen car, there would have been no waiting.

The bad news was the really scary series of warnings posted at eye level.

But then I got to thinking — such warnings would have been a good idea at the very first gasoline fueling station in a community, back in the days when folks weren’t accustomed to working with that extremely volatile substance.

Come to think of it, we DO have such warnings at gasoline stations — along with those that tell us not to operate our cellphones, and to place a container on the ground before pumping into it. We just tend not to notice them any more.

There’s a tradeoff with so many things that pack a lot of energy — gasoline, hydrogen, coal, nuclear. Once you get the economics to work — which tends to be tougher with the lower-risk sources such as wind and solar — it becomes a matter a matter of engineering things to minimize risk. Or so it seems to my nonexpert mind.

Here’s what the future looks like (and yes, Doc Brown, we’ll still need roads in 2015)

Last night, I saw “Back to the Future” for the first time in many a year. And I had to smile at the end. In 1985, it was still credible that we’d have flying cars in 2015. The shocking thing is that that leaves us only four years now. Well, at least it doesn’t take laying down much infrastructure, so I suppose it is conceivable (especially if we’re fueled by a Mr. Fusion).

But today, I saw something that is more likely to be our future — a plug-in electric car. In routine use.

I was visiting Mike Couick over at the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina in Cayce. As it happens, we were talking about sustainable energy (ADCO is working with the Central Midlands Council of Governments and a couple of private partners on a project for local governments). And when we walked outside after the interview, there was some right in front of us.

This Nissan Leaf belongs to ECSC, and is used to drive around the state on co-op business, which surprised me — I assumed it was for local use. How does it manage that sort of range? Mike said all the co-ops have charging stations.

Very cool, I thought.

Mike reminded me that this was really sort of retro, since the original automobiles were electric, before the internal combustion engine decided to eat the world (my wording, not his).

With that in mind, I can’t wait to get back to the future and drive one of these myself. And I’ll pass on the gullwing doors, Mr. DeLorean.

Do Lieberman and McCain have a new best bud?

Speaking of stuff in The Wall Street Journal today, Joe Lieberman had a good piece on the Opinion pages about the importance of the upcoming Tunisian elections.

You should read it all (if you can get past the pay wall), but what grabbed my easily-distracted attention was this:

Third, the U.S. should recognize that the foremost challenges for Tunisia’s new government will be economic, in spurring growth and reducing unemployment. While the U.S. cannot offer billions of dollars of direct aid, given our own economic challenges, there are other actions we can take. These include establishing a robust Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with Tunisia and expanding the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to operate there. Congress should also pass legislation, which I co-sponsored with Sens. John Kerry and John McCain, to establish a Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses, and modeled after similar efforts in Central Europe following the fall of communism.

For the longest time, it was Lieberman, McCain and Lindsey Graham doing everything together, including road trips. Then, there was a sort of transitional trio when Lieberman, Graham and Kerry worked together on trying to push an actual, coherent, comprehensive energy policy for the country (one that looked pretty good from an Energy Party perspective).

Then, Graham took all kinds of horrific grief from the most hateful ideological extremists in his own party from having had any dealings with a Democrat, and pulled out of the deal — tragically, thereby collapsing it.

Now, it’s Lieberman, McCain and Kerry? Is Kerry the new, replacement member of the Three Amigos? Is he Ringo to Graham’s Pete Best?

The USC biomass “travesty”

Hats off to Wayne Washington (and his editor — I always like to remember the editors) for a rather overwhelmingly thorough report today on the mess that is the University of South Carolina’s biomass-to-energy project. An excerpt from the lengthy package in The State today:

On June 28, 2009, an explosion rocked the biomass-fueled power plant on the campus of the University of South Carolina.

The force of the blast sent a metal panel some 60 feet toward the control office of the plant at Whaley and Sumter streets, according to documents obtained from USC by The State newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request.

No one was hurt, but USC officials were concerned enough about the “potentially lethal accident” that they ordered an independent safety review and, in a strongly worded letter to the company that had built the plant, made it clear that university staff would not be allowed back into the building until the review was completed.

The blast underscored what some USC officials privately grumbled about for years: That the plant has been a $20 million disaster, a money pit that was poorly planned and built by a company that had never constructed such a cutting-edge “green energy” power plant before.

Interviews with USC officials and a spokeswoman for the company as well as a review of more than 1,800 pages of documents show that…

Rich material for a discussion. Here’s how it is likely to go, although I look forward to unanticipated variations:

Some of you: Yet another example of USC wasting time and money on unproven, pie-in-the-sky energy alternatives and leaving us in a financial hole with little or nothing to show.

Others of you: What a classic case of the private sector not delivering — a Fortune 500 company that takes millions from a  public institution and doesn’t get the job done…

To me, the whole mess is too complex for simple conclusions, but here’s a stab: Some USC officials under the last administration made an unwise, expensive deal, while at the same time trying to insulate us from loss by getting the company to guarantee savings. Then after that, everything went wrong.

But tell me what y’all think.