By Michael Shellenberger
When the utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced last summer that it would close California’s last nuclear power plant, the mainstream news media mostly applauded.
The New York Times gave a loud endorsement of the decision. “Good news from Diablo Canyon,” wrote the paper’s Editorial Board. Diablo’s closure would, “serve as a positive example for other states and nations that may in time need to replace aging nuclear plants without increasing carbon emissions.”
Suffice it to say I found the episode appalling, and asked the New York Times to allow me to write an oped in opposition to the editorial board’s position.
“If the proposal is approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission," I wrote, "California’s carbon dioxide emissions will either increase or decline far less than if Diablo Canyon’s two reactors, which generated about 9 percent of the state’s electricity last year, remained in operation. If this deal goes through, California will become a model of how not to deal with climate change.”
But even after I was published in the gray lady, most serious people viewed my statements as, well, unduly harsh. “Come on, Michael,” many said to me. "We’ll find a way to replace it with renewables!”
It’s now clear that I was right and the renewable energy advocates were wrong, or lying.
In the initial proposed decision to shut down Diablo Canyon, PG&E committed to replacing only a fraction of the clean electricity generated by the plant with zero-carbon sources of energy. The rest, nearly 80 percent, were to be unaccounted for, and likely would have been replaced by natural gas.
And while it was never clear whether PG&E could have met even these meager climate-related goals, the latest draft decision strips out all of the utility’s responsibility to replace Diablo with carbon-free sources.
In many ways, it’s a more honest track—PG&E will take no action to ensure California’s carbon emissions don’t spike when Diablo closes, and they’re telling us loud and clear. The utility’s position is simple: all of Diablo’s emissions-free energy will be replaced by fossil.
It will be all of us who lose if PG&E closes Diablo. It’s the people of California, not the least of whom are workers at the plant and children who attend school nearby, who will suffer at the hands of a different set of corrupt entities, the IBEW, headed by kingpin Tom Dalzell, and San Luis Obispo’s lame politicians.
I said it last year and I’ll say it again: this corrupt deal will not stand. The truth will find a way, and so will Environmental Progress, Mothers for Nuclear, and Californians for Green Nuclear Power as we fight this injustice and drag the government and PG&E’s dirty hands into the light.
The people of our state deserve to know why Lieutenent Governor Gavin Newsom trying to kill our largest source of clean power alongside them. But the reason is simple: he thinks he can get away with it.
He’s wrong. Stay tuned.