Unusual politics


February 19, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Angry screams from environmentalists greeted the announcement that the Southern Co. would be eligible for $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to build two nuclear power plants. Southern had worked hard to defeat the climate change bill urged by President Obama to fight climate change. Why would the president reward his “enemy,” they asked.
“It’s shameful,” Georgia-based Sierra Club lobbyist Neill Herring said. “They gave a big wet kiss to their very worst opponent.”
The administration’s answer was straight to the point. Southern will get the loans because its plans for nuclear plants were farthest along. The goal is to reduce production of carbon dioxide and depen-dence on imported oil, not to reward political friends or punish political enemies.
Southern is the largest producer of electricity in the country. Helping it produce at least some of its power with non-polluting nuclear plants is a practical way to move toward energy indepen-dence while reducing production of greenhouse gases. Moreover, guaranteeing a loan is not the same as making a grant. With its size and profitability, Southern is a good bet to pay back the borrowed money. And the sooner the plants come on line, the sooner the benefits will begin to accrue.
So President Obama went for the results he wanted and didn’t play politics as usual. As a consequence, he got hammered.
Sierra Club’s Herring and the other thousands of lobbyists who infest Washington should take heed.
This country is in a world of hurt. What is needed at state and national levels is problem-solving, regardless of the petty political points won or lost.
Putting country first gave the loans to Southern. Lobbyists who have trouble with that set of values should be guided into other work.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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