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The Green Police

Technology advances despite a political conflict.

Fortnightly Magazine - March 2010

Air Act “endangerment finding.”

Just as it appeared the green police were being surrounded by anti-eco opponents, however, Energy Secretary Steven Chu launched a flanking maneuver, announcing $3.4 billion in loan guarantees to support Southern Company’s investment in two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia.

After the announcement, Southern CEO David Ratcliffe pointed out nuclear energy’s importance for improving America’s energy security and addressing climate change. But not surprisingly, Southern and DOE focused more attention on the thousands of construction jobs the new reactors will create, and their role in revitalizing America’s prowess in nuclear technology.

In effect, Plant Vogtle became the equivalent of Audi’s A3 sedan: expensive, prestigious and green. And by championing it in the midst of an ideological struggle, the administration was playing good cop to the green police’s bad cop. Chu might’ve told Ratcliffe, “Clean nuclear … you’re good to go, sir.”

Editor’s Note

In this issue, readers will notice a new department in Fortnightly—“Vendor Neutral .” This department’s purpose is simple: it provides a snapshot of some of the most interesting technology-related developments happening in the industry.

Looking at this month’s “Vendor Neutral,” one can’t help but notice that it’s heavily dominated by items related to renewables, demand response and other green technologies. Some readers might conclude from this fact that Fortnightly’s editors intentionally excluded announcements related to traditional fossil or nuclear power plants, but we didn’t. Indeed, we used every such announcement that we could find in time for our deadline.

Specifically, this month’s “Vendor Neutral” column includes exactly one item related to coal, and it involves carbon capture and sequestration technology. The utter absence of news about traditional energy technologies is telling us one thing, loud and clear: The industry is laser-focused on green energy, to the virtual exclusion of everything else.

In the months ahead, “Vendor Neutral” will show whether the green-tech trend continues, or whether popular and political backlash translates into new business for less-green technologies.–MTB