McClaughry: Bill McKibben backtracks on nuclear

By John McClaughry

Bill McKibben, the climate activist at Middlebury College and the leader of, now appears to be tiptoeing away from his ardent anti-nuclear views of yesteryear. In a journal article that appeared two weeks ago, McKibben says this:

“The shift away from combustion is large and novel enough that it bumps up against everyone’s prior assumptions—environmentalists’, too. The fight against nuclear power… was an early mainstay of the green movement, because it was easy to see that if something went wrong it could go badly wrong. I applauded, more than a decade ago, when the Vermont legislature voted to close the state’s old nuclear plant at the end of its working life, but I wouldn’t today. Indeed, for some years I’ve argued that existing nuclear reactors that can still be run with any margin of safety probably should be, as we’re making the transition—the spent fuel they produce is an evil inheritance for our descendants, but it’s not as dangerous as an overheated Earth, even if the scenes of Russian troops shelling nuclear plants added to the sense of horror enveloping the planet these past weeks.”

Well, thanks for that, Bill. He and I have radically different views of the supposed climate emergency, and I have little concern about the safe management of spent nuclear fuel, but he finally dares to say that nuclear power is essential to avoiding an overheated earth, that he thinks is coming. That’s progress.

4 replies »

  1. If I remember correctly, Yankee was slated by Vermont law, the law that allowed its creation, to close after a certain number of years. When that date came the company that owned Yankee went to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (the feds) and got an extension. The State stopped buying power from it, but it still ran, until it was deemed not profitable by the company, and then it was shut down, by the company. It closed in the shadow of Fukushima. I also remember that the Yankee plant leaked all kinds of radio active substances and was not always forthcoming to authorities about its workings. McKibbin is responding to the lack of progress in dealing with a crisis that McClaughry, a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry, refuses to acknowledge, and belittles those who are concerned about it. The Ethan Allen Institute is founded and funded by billionaire dark money, much of it coming from fossil fuel interests like the Kochs. It would not exist with out it. In dealing with climate change effectively, we need to end Corporate Personhood, and get money out of politics. Particularly dark money that has enabled the fossil fuel industry to reap billions in corporate welfare, push for wars for oil (Iraq), and tax cuts that at some points to cost more in lost revenue, than the two wars did. At the expense of regular people’s basic needs, like education, health care, housing, meaningful and adequately paying work, etc. It is important to note that the US military is one of world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels, and largest emitters of greenhouse gas. Little wonder the ghouls at EAI have little or nothing to say about the now $800+ billion a year we spend on the military budget. Half of which would fund Medicare for all. A fact the Koch interests own study revealed. But hey let’s pick on Bill Mckibben!

    • Getting rid of dark money is one thing we can agree on. Unfortunately, entrenched politicians of both parties and even Vermont’s savior, bernard sanders will vehemently protect their cut of “dark money”. While you say Koch, others say Soros and a plethora of rich elitists throwing money to insatiable politicians. Got a plan B that has a chance of working?
      This opinion piece is about one activist’s seeming reversal on nuclear power. McKibben and his ilk seem to scorn all power production methods, save wind and solar- forgetting the raw materials and energy required to produce such things. Fiberglass wind turbine blades are not created from unicorn droppings, likewise lithium and cobalt are messy things to mine.
      As Vermont chases the ideological impossibility of altering alleged climate change, just what types of energy will you tolerate? Environmental groups seem to place wind and solar at the top of their wish lists, with batteries. Just how do you propose to effectively heat, cool and power Vermont?
      As all the legislatively required committees clutch at pearls about what needs to be done- and impose deadlines for elimination of hydrocarbons- these committees offer no substantive solution.
      Maybe heat pumps? Well, weatherization will solve our problems… Wood pellets and solar….Hydro? there seem to be many objections to that. Where is a workable plan?
      And still these people debate and impose ridiculous constraints upon Vermont’s residents- without clear alternatives. Should a homeowner need to replace their heating system in 2022, what options are available that some government committee won’t ban in 2023? Hard to react and plan when the hoop is moved as one attempts to jump thru it. In the battle between environmental evangelists and physics, physics remains undefeated.
      Once again, above the cacophony of environmental evangelism, opinion pieces from the members of EAI remind us of the foolish ways of our elected officials.

  2. A Progressive speaking of tradeoffs? Remarkable. Now, will he also admit the fact that his stupid virtue-signalling electric car is causing more harm than good when you consider all the externalized factors?

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