Guest column/Closing Ohio’s nuclear plants would hurt
Bad government decisions are crippling Ohio’s most important and reliable energy source, jeopardizing thousands of jobs and the quality of our air along the way.
In recent years, nuclear energy has been placed at a competitive disadvantage by outrageous corporate welfare handouts lavished on other energy producers.
Excessive regulation by the federal government is preventing construction and renovation of nuclear power plants. Over the past decade, plans for more than 30 new nuclear reactors have been scrapped. To make matters worse, the federal government began pouring tax dollars into subsidies for unproven and unrealistic solar and wind projects. During President Obama’s tenure in office, the federal government spent more than $300 billion on handouts to green energy schemes — many of which never got off the ground.
The government’s cold shoulder toward nuclear is particularly problematic here in the Buckeye State. Nuclear energy is responsible for 90 percent of Ohio’s carbon-free energy. The state’s two nuclear power stations — Davis-Besse and Perry — produce enough electricity each year to power 1.7 million homes.
Ohio’s nuclear power plants contribute half a billion dollars to the state’s economy annually, according to the Brattle Group, an economic research firm. The plants also generate more than $30 million in tax revenue for the state and local governments that goes to fund essential services such as local law enforcement and first responders.
Further, the Brattle Group estimates that having low-cost nuclear energy in the state’s electric mix reduces power bills for Ohio’s electric customers by $400 million a year, leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Ohioans.
Perhaps most importantly, 4,300 Ohio families rely on jobs supported by the state’s nuclear power industry. Those jobs would be lost if government policies force the state’s nuclear power stations to close.
The plants that would replace Ohio’s two nuclear plants if they close in the next two years would not come close to replacing the number of jobs that we would lose. According to the Energy Information Administration, a nuclear plant with 838 megawatt capacity employs about 600 people, while a natural gas plant with 627 megawatt capacity employs less than 5 percent of that: 22 employees. Once a gas plant has been built, the bulk of the jobs they produce disappear as construction workers move on.
If we allow Perry and Davis-Besse to close, we’d be replacing hundreds of high-paying, high-skilled jobs with something that equates to a small fraction of that amount. Or even worse, that energy may be imported from outside of Ohio, and other states would see the benefit of our failed policy approach.
That being said, the importance of saving these plants is not just about jobs and the economy. Nuclear power also allows Ohioans to breathe a little easier — literally.
While electricity generated from natural gas may be better than coal-burning power plants, it is still much worse than nuclear energy. Natural gas is lauded for emitting about half of the carbon dioxide as coal, but nuclear power produces no carbon dioxide emissions at all, and no air pollution whatsoever. The only byproduct of nuclear power is water vapor.
Clearly, nuclear energy is dramatically cleaner than fossil fuel-burning power plants and provides many more jobs. And despite receiving billions of dollars in subsidies, renewables are not close to matching the scale of nuclear energy. In fact, only 1.7 percent of Ohio’s electricity is generated from hydroelectric, solar and wind power combined.
Despite the undeniable economic benefits of nuclear energy in Ohio, unreasonable regulations and unfair subsidies have pushed the state’s two nuclear power stations to the brink of closing. If these plants close, electric bills for average households are expected to increase as well. Ohio residents can’t afford to pay more money and lose thousands of jobs.
Federal and state lawmakers must stop only rewarding the forms of energy that do more harm than good.
Ohio’s economic future depends on it.
(Pullins is an Ohio attorney, consultant and political writer. He is the founder of the Ohio Taxpayers Association. This piece originally appeared in the Toledo Blade.)