The Biden administration shouldn’t underplay nuclear power in its clean-energy investment push

By James Pethokoukis

“The science is clear,” according to an Earth Week report from President Biden’s economics team, “climate change poses a dire threat to humanity.” If one believes in the serious nature of the threat, then the logical approach would be one that adopts an “all of the above” stance towards meeting the challenges. Give everything a try. This should be an easy concept for Democrats to understand. The greatest Democratic president of them all, FDR, famously called for America to tackle the Great Depression through “bold, persistent experimentation.”

But the Council of Economic Advisers seems to recommend a far less imaginative path forward. The report, “Innovation, Investment, and Inclusion: Accelerating the Energy Transition and Creating Good Jobs,”  talks a lot about solar power, 27 mentions in all (plus three more in the references). Such emphasis isn’t surprising. A lot of good stuff has been happening in the sector over the past decade, both in terms of cost and deployment, as this CEA chart shows:

Of course, none of these advances change the fundamental drawback of solar, its intermittency. It’s also a problem that so much of the focus on solar and wind ignores the probable future need for vastly more energy overall. Just making current production and use levels cleaner is not enough. So I’m thankful the CEA report makes this mention of nuclear energy: “Government support is needed for the first several commercial scale deployments of complex, large-scale technologies such as carbon capture, utility scale energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen, and advanced nuclear energy projects.”

Still, I just wish that instance wasn’t the only mention of nuclear energy in the report. The case for nuclear is this simple, via The Economist: “Nuclear provides [reliable] capacity with no ongoing emissions, and it is doing so safely and at scale around the world.” (A few references to geothermal would have been great, as well.)

The CEA report concludes: “The United States’ ingenuity put a person on the Moon. It must now lead in preserving a livable planet.” I love shoutouts to the Space Age. But in the immediate postwar decades, it went hand-in-hand with the Atomic Age. Government should do what it can to facilitate both, again.