Around this time last year, I founded a new organization with a big ambition and a simple strategy: protect and expand access to cheap and clean power, a critical driver of environmental progress.
I'm writing now to reflect back on an extraordinary year, give you a peek into what's coming in 2017, and invite you to become a founding member of Environmental Progress. Here's a look back at the year.
1. We saved the nukes
Our biggest achievement was helping to save 20 percent of U.S. nuclear power that was at risk of being replaced with fossil fuels.
Those victories were far from certain. In both New York and Illinois, we faced deep-pocketed adversaries — including ones funded by energy companies with a financial interest in closing nuclear plants.
Our strategy paid off. Facing a serious loss of credibility on air pollution and climate change, anti-nuclear groups were forced to compromise.
2. We sounded the alarm.
Against the hype about a clean energy revolution, EP was the first to document that clean energy has been on the decline — in large measure due to the decline of nuclear power.
We published the first detailed count of nuclear plants at risk of closure, and helped put the issue on the front-pages of the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, and in hundreds of other newspapers and columns.
With the steadfast support of climate scientist and EP science advisor, James Hansen, EP organized 10 open letters by dozens of conservationists, economists and climate scientists to Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Jerry Brown and many others in-between.
We co-founded the Clean Power Coalition, an alliance of pro-nuclear groups and students, in Chicago, to fight to save and expand nuclear energy.
And we supported the creation of three new ecomodernist organizations — Mothers for Nuclear, Generation Atomic, to organize pro-nuclear students, and Environmental Hope and Justice, a new, pro-nuclear environmental justice organization that will launch next year.
4. We changed minds
After my TED talk went viral last September, hundreds of people emailed me to say it changed their mind about nuclear. It's now been viewed by over one million people.
After the Wall Street Journal made favorable notice of our efforts to save nuclear, the actor Robert Downey, Jr. gave a statement later the same day saying, "It’s like half the people who were saying ‘No nukes!’ are now realizing nuclear is the best way to go for energy for the future."
Then a couple of days after our Illinois victory, the musician Sting declared that he too had changed his mind.
The Future of Environmental Progress
As proud as I am of what we achieved, none of it is nearly enough. Consider that:
- The nuclear plants we helped save were only given a temporary reprieve. There is no plan to replace those plants when they retire in 2030.
- One-quarter to two-thirds of our nuclear plants remain at risk of being closed prematurely, according to our latest estimate.
- California's famously corrupt utility regulator is moving ahead with plans to hike electricity rates and close our last nuclear plant.
- And after cutting a deal to close Palisades in Michigan, Entergy appears to be in negotiations with Governor Cuomo to close down Indian Point in New York.
But with the momentum we built up in 2016, and with your help, we can achieve more critical victories in 2017. Here's how.
1. Keep fighting for clean power.
EP will build on our victories by taking our efforts to other states — and to Washington, D.C.
This work is already underway: last week our coalition of scientists, scholars and conservationists sent an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him to save the nukes, and use nuclear to revitalize the manufacturing industry at home while reducing energy poverty abroad.
2. Create an inspiring and realistic vision for nuclear's future.
I was pleased this year to receive two invitations. The first was to join MIT's "Future of Nuclear" advisory board. The second was to give the keynote address at the annual conference of the American Nuclear Society's (ANS), the 11,000 member organization founded in the 1950s to advocate for nuclear, which will be held in San Francisco next June.
To properly honor those commitments, EP will in the Spring publish our own Future of Nuclear report, which will include a hard-nosed assessment of global trends. Our ambition is, as usual, immodest: align pro-nuclear environmentalists, professionals and industry leaders around an expansive new vision for our most important environmental technology.
3. Grow the ecomodernist movement.
EP wasn't the only pro-nuclear group to enjoy big wins in 2017. Our friends at Energy for Humanity defeated a referendum in Switzerland that would have shuttered that nation's nuclear plants. And our friends at Bright New World in Australia have built a powerful coalition and made critical progress toward reversing that coal-heavy nation's opposition to nuclear.
EP will be working with both groups in 2017 to grow our national efforts into a truly global movement.
EP's has partnered with a team of creative and ambitious UC-Berkeley students to build on my TED talk and our made-for-social-media infographics by creating a series of explanatory videos about the environment for Facebook.
Finally, I'm happy to announce that in the early spring, EP will open a 5,000 square-foot, street-level space that will not only serve as our office but also a center for ecomodernist research and action. Located just three blocks from UC-Berkeley, our aim is to attract talented and inspired students into our growing movement.
Everything we've achieved was only possible thanks to individuals like you. I hope you'll consider becoming a founding member of Environmental Progress. If you join before January 1, we'll send you a special gift.
With love and gratitude,
P.S. Come and visit us on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley in the new year!