Senator John McCain [R-Arizona] is calling for an energy policy right out of an industry textbook from the 1970s: more offshore oil drilling and more nuclear power. Offshore oil drilling, while posing a clear threat to our beaches and coastlines, wouldn’t produce any oil for 20 years, would be the proverbial drop-in-the-bucket, given rising world oil demand, and would do nothing to help us meet current high prices at the gas pump. A more far-reaching oil policy would be to accelerate and strengthen new vehicle mileage standards. Since burning oil is a chief cause of the climate crisis, this would be a two-fer: Less demand means we’d be paying less at the pump and spewing less carbon into our atmosphere.
Because of nuclear’s skyrocketing costs, by the time any new atomic reactors could be built, solar power will be cheaper than nuclear. Wind power already is cheaper. Combine solar and wind generators with geothermal, energy efficiency technologies, smart electrical grids, and distributed generation—none of which produce radioactive waste or offer the threat of atomic meltdown or terrorist attack—and you get a 21st-century energy policy that will provide us with safer, cleaner, and cheaper electricity, without carbon emissions, than nuclear power.
Going back to the 1970s might be a nostalgia trip for some. As an energy policy, the days of disco, polyester, oil spills, and nuclear accidents should be left behind for good.