When "Pandora's Promise" was released in 2013, Grist attacked nuclear energy, denying the scientific evidence for its safety and necessity. Now, Grist has come out strongly for nuclear — proof that not only people, but also institutions, can change.Read More
Since he was elected in 2010, Gov. Jerry Brown has gained an international reputation as a climate leader. He has spoken at the Vatican, at U.N. climate talks, and promoted California’s policies in China. Journalists routinely praise Brown for reducing emissions by expanding clean energy.
But is Brown’s climate reputation deserved?
A new, two-year investigation by Environmental Progress concludes that no American has killed more zero-emissions energy than Gov. Jerry Brown — and in ways that sometimes benefited his own family financially.
We publish this story on the day the Brown-controlled California Public Utilities Commission has voted to kill Diablo Canyon, California’s largest single source of clean energy, and the state’s last nuclear plant.
They did so despite being under federal and state criminal investigation relating to the closure of yet another nuclear plant, San Onofre, in 2013.
What makes this corruption story matter is that it resulted in rising emissions and electricity costs.
Had the Brown administration’s repeated self-dealing resulted in lower emissions and cheaper energy, this would just be the story of yet another crooked family’s political dynasty.
What makes EP’s investigation even more significant is the crucial role Brown played in legitimizing anti-nuclear ideology, and creating the anti-nuclear movement — one which has replaced nuclear plants with fossil fuels in Germany, Vermont, Japan, Taiwan, and other nations around the world.
The story begins in the 1960s with the construction of Diablo Canyon. The goal of the state’s electric utilities was, at the time, to reduce dependence on coal, oil and natural gas, which were expensive and dirty.
But the same year the Sierra Club endorsed the building of Diablo Canyon, Brown’s family came into extraordinary oil wealth — wealth that depended on maintaining the state’s dependence on imported foreign oil.
On taking power in 1975, Brown and his allies aggressively wielded power in ways that directly benefited Brown’s family, including by killing nuclear power plants.
All of the evidence and sources we cite come from credible newspaper, historical, archival, and court evidence, and none of the facts we present have been, to our knowledge, contested by any of the parties involved.
While little of the evidence we present is new — and most of it is, in fact, decades old — EP has presented comprehensive evidence that the war on nuclear energy has a strong financial component.
We are not suggesting that financial motives alone explain the anti-nuclear movement, but the heavy and sustained involvement of Gov. Brown and others with a direct financial interest in killing the main competitor to petroleum and natural gas can no longer be ignored as a key factor to its rise and continuing power.Read More
Environmental Progress has requested the U.S. Department of Justice to take over from the California Department of Justice the investigation of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for possible criminal activities relating to the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).Read More
Over the last two years, Elon Musk has been lionized as a climate hero for creating a high-performance electric car (Tesla) and a fast-growing solar panel company (Solar City).
Now, Tesla, which absorbed Solar City last year, has come out in favor of *closing* Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, California's largest source of clean energy.
Imagine the outcry if a nuclear energy company tried not just to kill solar subsidies but actually *remove* Solar City panels from rooftops in order to build more nuclear plants.Read More
EP’s work saving nuclear in Illinois, New York, Connecticut, France and South Korea will reduce carbon pollution the equivalent of keeping 22 million cars off the road by 2025
The work of saving nuclear by Environmental Progress will prevent $25 billion in economic damages from climate change damage by 2025, based on the US EPA's social cost of carbon.
If EP were to take just 10 percent of the credit for those victories, every dollar donated to EP resulted in a nearly 2,000-fold impact.Read More
Testimony by Michael Shellenberger, Founder and President, Environmental Progress.
December 4, 2017
Mr. Chairperson and members of the committee: thank you for accepting my testimony.
As background, I am a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” Green Book Award-winner, and president of Environmental Progress, an independent nonprofit organization funded entirely by individuals and philanthropic foundations.
I am here today because I am very concerned by the threat that nuclear plant closures pose to the environment, public health, and jobs.
I was against nuclear energy for most of my life and only changed my mind after confronting key facts about the limitations of renewables.
New Jersey gets electricity from three nuclear plants. If they close, emissions in New Jersey will rise the equivalent of adding 2.7 million cars to the road. Children, the sick, and the elderly suffering from asthma or respiratory diseases will pay the highest price.
The New York-Newark region is already among the 25th most polluted cities in America in ozone and particulate matter. The American Lung Association this year gave 11 New Jersey counties an “F” grade for ozone pollution.
If you allow your nuclear plants to close, electricity prices will rise and high-skill, high-paying jobs will be lost.
My home state of California stands as a stark warning. Our electricity prices have risen from 13 cents to 18 cents per kilowatt hour since 2011. By contrast, electricity rates nationally rose from just 10 to 11 cents during the same period.
High electricity prices have driven manufacturers out of California and we today have the highest poverty rate in the country, according to the US Census Bureau.
What happened to California? It’s simple: we closed one of our two nuclear plants, which generate power at a cost of about 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, and increased the amount of electricity we receive from natural gas, solar, and wind.
The best available peer-reviewed economic research finds that the value of wind drops 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity and the value of solar drops by half when it gets to just 15 percent.
What about the battery revolution we’ve heard so much about? There isn’t one. As a result, Californians have to pay Arizona to take our unneeded solar electricity so it doesn’t blow-out our grid.
What about carbon emissions? They rose in California by 11 million metric tonnes while they declined 174 million metric tonnes in the U.S. as a whole.
The share of New Jersey’s electricity from natural gas already doubled since 2010, and last year provided 56 percent of your electricity last year. Nuclear provided 39 percent of your electricity last year and is the critical bulwark against over-dependence on natural gas.
Natural gas is cheap now, but if it becomes 90 percent of your electricity you can expect prices to spike. Once a nuclear plant is closed it’s closed forever. You can’t just go start it up again once natural gas prices rise.
I encourage you to join New York and Illinois in taking sensible measures to safeguard public health, jobs, and consumers by ensuring the continued operation of your nuclear plants. Thank you.
Like a lot of kids born in the early 1970s, I had the good fortune to be raised by hippies. One of my childhood heroes was Stewart Brand. Stewart is not only one of the original hippies, he’s also one of the first modern environmentalists of the 1960s and 70s. As a young boy, one of my favorite memories is playing cooperative games that Stewart Brand invented as an antidote to the Vietnam War.
I started my environmental career as an anti-nuclear activist and I quickly got involved in advocating for renewable energy. In the early part of this century I helped to start a labor union and environmentalist alliance called the Apollo Alliance and we pushed for a big investment in clean energy: solar, wind, electric cars.
Then, Stewart Brand came out in 2005 and said we should rethink nuclear power.Read More
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.”
But it's now clear that 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. But 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.Read More
This report was born from an ongoing effort by the staff and research fellows of Environmental Progress and other researchers to understand the fastest way to decarbonize national economies (i.e., reduce emissions per unit of gross domestic product) in order to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.
We publish it to fill a gap in the scientific literature and the regularly issued reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which are overwhelmingly focused on modeling future scenarios with little regard for real-world historical trends.
We are more than ever of the view that a future-facing climate policy must be informed by backward-facing energy analysis. The attention given by energy analysts, policymakers, and the IPCC to scenarios ungrounded from history is wildly disproportionate to the attention given to the real world experience of deploying clean energy technologies and their impact, or lack thereof, on carbon intensity and emissions.
Given what’s at stake, this constitutes a grave error. Those who insist on ignoring the past, to modify Santayana, should not be allowed to force the rest of us to repeat it.Read More
Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson has filed a lawsuit, demanding $10 million in damages, against the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and a group of eminent scientists (Clack et al.) for their study showing that Jacobson made improper assumptions in order to claim that he had demonstrated U.S. energy could be provided exclusively by renewable energy, primarily wind, water, and solar.
Jacobson’s lawsuit is an appalling attack on free speech and scientific inquiry and we urge the courts to reject it as grossly unethical and without legal merit.
Further, we urge all environmentalists — including those that support the 100 percent renewables framework, such as Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) — to join us in denouncing Jaconbson’s legal action.
What Jacobson has done is unprecedented. Scientific disagreements must be decided not in court but rather through the scientific process. We urge Stanford University, Stanford Alumni, and everyone who loves science and free speech to denounce this lawsuit.Read More
In another big victory for pro-nuclear forces, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has just signed legislation to prevent that state's sole nuclear plant from closing.
The victory comes just a week and a half after the upset pro-nuclear victory over anti-nuclear forces in South Korea, whose citizen jury voted 60 percent to 40 percent to continue that nation's nuclear build-out.
Environmental Progress was intensively involved in advocating to save the plant, publishing an open letter signed by the world's leading climate scientists and environmentalists — as well as Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes and Harvard's Stephen Pinker — and publishing an in-depth analysis of the environmental consequences that would result from its closure.
This is the fourth big victory for Environmental Progress and our pro-nuclear allies saving nuclear plants. Last year we won in New York and Illinois. This year we've won in South Korea and Connecticut.Read More
Nuclear power is the only energy source that can lift all humans out of poverty while protecting the natural environment. Why, then, is it in danger of going away?
In my keynote address yesterday to the IAEA’s quadrennial ministerial meeting in the United Arab Emirates, I trace the anti-nuclear movement’s roots to a famous essay by the German philosopher (and, yes, Nazi) Martin Heidegger.
Intermittent renewable energies like wind, Heidegger and his anti-humanist, anti-nuclear followers argued, were the key to restraining human ambition.
Should we thus be surprised that the big increases in solar and wind over the last decade still weren’t enough to make up for even the decline of nuclear over the last decade?
Sting said it best last year: “If we’re going to tackle global warming, nuclear is the only way you can create massive amounts of power.”
Nuclear power’s important for something else, I argue: averting thermonuclear war between the US and North Korea.
Atomic humanists must take a page from South Korea — whose “citizen jury” decided to continue that country’s nuclear expansion — and seek our saving power precisely where the danger lies.Read More
Ten South Korean labor, student, and academic leaders will receive the James Hansen Courage Award for their successful defense of nuclear power on Thursday, October 26 in two separate ceremonies in Ulsan and in Gyeongju.
The distinction will be awarded to the 10 South Korean pro-nuclear leaders by Environmental Progress (EP) President and Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” Michael Shellenberger.
The award is “For courageous leadership in fighting climate change with nuclear energy and preserving the Earth for future generations.”Read More
In a stunning come-from-behind victory, South Korean citizens on a special jury voted 60 percent to 40 percent to re-start construction of two halted nuclear reactors.
Environmental Progress applauds the citizens jury for choosing wisdom over ideology, and praises South Korean President Moon Jae-in for honoring their decision.
EP especially applauds the university students, professors, and workers who protested and fought for a re-start to construction.Read More
This morning Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issue a rule requiring payments to nuclear and coal power plants to maintain a resilient electrical grid.
The Trump administration can’t say it, but Environmental Progress can: the rule could be a huge win for the climate.Read More
As the U.S. and other Western nations withdraw from the competition to build new nuclear plants around the world, a new study by Environmental Progress finds that Russia is poised to increase its share of new nuclear builds from 38 percent to 57 percent by 2030.Read More
EP President released "The High Cost of Fear" in South Korea last week, and met with workers at a plant where construction is temporarily halted.
Next week, EP and our friends at Energy for Humanity will travel to Germany, Switzerland, and France to investigate their proposed nuclear phase-out.Read More
“The High Cost of Fear,” a new in-depth Environmental Progress report, uses publicly available data, the best-available peer-reviewed scientific research and simple methods to calculate economic and environmental impacts of a nuclear phase-out in South Korea.
We find a nuclear phase-out would:
- Cost at least $10 billion per year for additional natural gas purchases alone, the equivalent of 343,000 salaries of jobs paying South Korea’s per capita annual average salary of $29,125;
- Almost all of the cost would be in the form of payments for fuel, thereby reducing South Korea’s trade surplus;
- Require a significant increase in fossil fuel use given South Korea’s lack of renewable energy resources;
- Increase premature deaths from air pollution by replacing nuclear plants instead of coal plants with natural gas;
- Damage and perhaps destroy South Korea’s lucrative nuclear export business;
- If measured against the average U.S. car mileage, it would increase carbon emissions the equivalent of adding 15 - 27 million cars to the road, an amount that would prevent South Korea from achieving its Paris climate commitments.