Energy Fairness contributor Dr. David Gattie – an Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Georgia — testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change last Thursday and highlighted the critical role that nuclear energy will play in fulfilling future global carbon reduction targets. Gattie was joined on the panel by three other academics: Dr. Daniel Etsy (Yale), Dr. Noah Kaufman (Columbia) and Dr. Tim Profeta (Duke).
The title of the hearing was “Building a 100 Percent Clean Economy: Solutions for Economy-Wide Deep Decarbonization” with a focus on “…economy wide approaches to address climate change in the United States.
While Professor Gattie agreed that there should be an economy-wide approach to addressing climate change, he argued that the economy-wide approach should be globally focused and the U.S. is in danger of becoming an island unto itself by pursuing carbon reduction targets from an overwhelmingly domestic perspective. During his dialogue with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) he was emphatic in stating “This is global climate change; it’s not [just] U.S. climate change.”
Dr. Gattie noted that the emerging economies of the world want access to affordable and reliable electricity regardless of whether or not the source of this new power is fossil-based. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) noted during his dialogue with the professor that nuclear power currently provides 55% of all the carbon-free power in the U.S. Moreover, he was “excited” in the potential for the U.S. to become a global leader in the next generation of nuclear energy reactors that will not only expand upon the progress of the newest nuclear facilities at Plant Vogtle, but would also enable the U.S. to become the global leader in helping emerging economies meet their carbon reduction targets.
Professor Gattie agreed with Rep. Carter’s point about the potential for future international markets of U.S.-produced nuclear technology, but also reminded the committee about the important long-term national security implications of continued U.S. investment in advanced nuclear technologies.
During his conversation with Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), Dr. Gattie noted that the Democratic and Republican platforms of 1956 were both “competing to be the champion for the U.S. nuclear enterprise to be the world’s premier nuclear base…” Unfortunately, as he noted during a conversation with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the U.S. became complacent in maintaining its lead in advanced nuclear technologies during the 80’s and 90’s and during the fervor to deregulate electricity markets in the Enron era. This complacency has opened the door for countries like China to develop their own advanced nuclear technologies for marketing to emerging economies.
When a developing nation buys this technology, it not only establishes a long-term economic relationship, but also a long-term geo-political relationship. That’s why, in Dr. Gattie’s estimation, the U.S. must step up its long-term investment in advanced nuclear energy technologies to not only cement into place future markets for this critical carbon reduction technology, but also cement into place critical geo-political relationships in the emerging economy world.