Sanders: Drop Nukes, Go Solar

Photo by <a href="">lcrf<a>, via Flickr.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Senators on both sides of the aisle—as well as President Barack Obama—are calling for a massive increase in government-backed loans for nuclear power. In fact, one of the only politicians in Washington who isn’t cheerleading for the industryis Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

In an interview with Mother Jones on Thursday, Sanders, chair of the green jobs subcommittee in the Senate, lambasted the president’s decision to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into loan guarantees for the nuclear industry instead of other, more cost-efficient forms of low-carbon energy.

“The most expensive-to-produce new energy in America is nuclear,” said Sanders. “The reason our pro-nuclear friends are trying to get the loan guarantees is the private sector is not willing to put money into nuclear.”

Sanders also had some harsh words for some of his GOP colleagues, suggesting that their support for a climate change solution was a disingenuous ploy to win more government handouts for nuclear interests. “Many very conservative Republicans who have never really worried terribly much about global warming are suddenly becoming great environmentalists when it comes to nuclear power,” he said. “Suddenly they are trying to capture the concern about global warming and turn that into a pro-nuclear effort.”

His alternative? A significant investment in solar power. Sanders introduced new legislation on Thursday—called the 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act—which aims to do exactly what the name implies. It would provide rebates covering up to half the cost of new solar systems, eliminating a major barrier to increased deployment of solar power systems, which is the upfront cost. It’s modeled after successful rebate programs in California and New Jersey, which have the first and second most solar installation in the US. The boost for solar would create 30,000 additional megawatts of solar electricity, distributed at homes and businesses around the country.

“One nuclear power plant is perhaps a thousand megawatts, so you need 30 nuclear power plants to do what we’re doing,” said Sanders. “Solar has great potential. It’s becoming more and more cost effective, it’s easy to install, and it can create a whole lot of jobs.”

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) are cosponsoring the bill.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend