McCain’s jobs program comes mostly in the form of nuclear plant construction. He wants to see 45 new plants built by 2030 and, ultimately, 55 more nationwide.
“We can work on nuclear power plants. Build a whole bunch of them, create millions of new jobs,” he said during the Nashville debate.
It’s a plan that experts say would surely reduce carbon emissions nationally and help combat global warming.
Its practicality is another matter.
The nuclear industry is heavily regulated, and it can take nearly a decade to simply get all the permits and paperwork done to break ground on a new plant.
And McCain skips over the prickly problem of where to put the plants’ radioactive waste or how it would be reprocessed. He also dismisses safety concerns, noting that the Navy has been safely operating nuclear-powered ships for decades.
Light says McCain’s campaign rhetoric glosses over troubling realities. “There have been accidents on U.S. ships,” Light said. “There has been environmental damage. And there are ample examples from other countries that show loss of life.”
Michael Lubell, professor of physics at the City College of New York, says the best and fastest way to improve our financial and environmental situations may be to do something that doesn’t cost a penny: use less energy.
The American Physical Society, an organization of physicists, issued a report last month concluding that energy efficiency “offers the cheapest, fastest way to wean ourselves off foreign oil and reduce global warming.”
And Lubell notes the other benefit is that “you are not putting money into technologies in which we are simply generating more energy. You are saving the supply you have.”
The downside to that, of course, is that a candidate can’t boast about jobs and, worse, could face real risks of ridicule.
That’s what happened to Obama when he urged town hall attendees to save gas and money by keeping their tires properly inflated. (The Bush administration urges the same thing.)
McCain supporters began handing out tire pressure gauges labeled “Obama’s Energy Plan.” For a time, the campaign was even using them to raise money: an Obama tire gauge for every $25 contribution.