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Energy Secretary Nominee Calls for New Generation of Power Plants and Drilling in Alaskan Arctic

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We take a look at Energy Secretary nominee, Samuel Bodman. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Bodman said he would advocate for oil and natural-gas drilling exploration to take place in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and called for the jumpstarting of the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants. [includes rush transcript]

We take a look atone of the less covered nomination hearings held this week on Capitol Hill. President Bush has tapped Samuel Bodman to serve as Energy Secretary. On Wednesday he said he would advocate for oil and natural-gas drilling exploration to take place in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. He also called for the jumpstarting of the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants.

  • Excerpt of Senate Energy Committee confirmation hearing for Samuel Bodman as Energy Secretary, January 19, 2005.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn for a minute to one of the less covered nomination hearings held this week. President Bush has tapped Samuel Bodman to serve as the Energy Secretary. On Wednesday, he said he would advocate for oil and natural gas drilling exploration to take place in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. He also called for the jump-starting of the construction of the new generation of nuclear power plants. I wanted to play just an excerpt from the hearing where Bodman discussed nuclear power plants and get your response.

SAMUEL BODMAN: There are a number of initiatives that I believe are — that make sense. I think that the next generation nuclear plant, the NGNP, which is a very high temperature demonstration plant that is — at this point in time estimated to be some — upward of $2 billion to get it built. I believe it’s something on the surface makes sense. I have not looked at — and talked to people who are doing the technical work on it, which I would intend to do. There are other initiatives that I think make — that also make sense. The so-called 2010 program, nuclear program. We have built in our country a belief that nuclear plants can’t be built, and that at least within the — there’s a fear of nuclear energy. The chairman has written about it in his book, and with great eloquence. There is a concern about all of this. Therefore, in order to kind of jump-start the licensing program to jump-start the siting program, that’s what this 2010 initiative is all about, and two grants have been made, one to Dominion and the other to so-called a New Start. I’m enthused about both of those but before any of that happen, we’re going to have to get real progress on Yucca, and make that — we have spoken to that already. We’re going to have to overcome the legal and regulatory barriers that are before us in order to move that forward, and I’m committed to do my best to try to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Samuel Bodman, who is having his confirmation hearings. Very little attention on them yesterday afternoon. Your response to what he was saying, Joan Claybrook.

JOAN CLAYBROOK: Well, what he is saying is the position of the Bush administration, straight down the line. They want to open ANWR for drilling, and yet they oppose fuel economy standards for automobiles and SUV’s and trucks. If you had SUV’s and these vehicles subject to stronger fuel economy standards, which would make a huge difference, it would completely swamp that savings, and completely swamp any fuel that we get from ANWR. And we wouldn’t go into the wildlife refuge, and, we would have less pollution in our cars so that would also help. And we would be less dependent on foreign oil. It would last for years and years and years, whereas ANWR is a very short term fix and it doesn’t come online for a number of years to help. The nuclear power issue is — really, it’s just outrageous that they’re proposing to expand nuclear power. First of all, they want the government to subsidize it. So, it’s not like it’s private industry or private enterprise. It’s going to be very heavily subsidized by the industry the way they’re proposing it. Second of all, they have done nothing more about the waste. They have pushed to Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, to store all of the waste, but it’s much too small. It also has leaks and there’s a lawsuit that we have been involved in that’s now stopped it. Public Citizen is very much opposed to this. There are dangers to it. If you have terrorists, they can just bomb a nuclear power plant that would just completely stop the United States for a huge amount of time. It would undermine the electrical grid and also poison land — one nuclear power plant poisons the land the size of the state of Pennsylvania.

AMY GOODMAN: You were Transportation Secretary under President Clinton?

JOAN CLAYBROOK: No, I regulated the auto industry.

AMY GOODMAN: Regulated the auto industry. How have things changed since then?

JOAN CLAYBROOK: Well, they’re deregulating these days, rather than regulating. Attempting not to enforce the law. They are all sorts of proposals on the table by the Bush administration for things called peer review, which is an attempt to glue up the regulatory process and make it regulation impossible to achieve. And they are also actually doing a lot of deregulation in environment areas, and air pollution, for example. They’re not enforcing the law. They’re cutting back on the funding, so they’re starving these agencies to death. They’re insisting on cost benefit analysis before can make a decision, but they don’t collect benefit data, they only get the cost data from industry. This is really harmful to the American public. Drugs. Public Citizen monitors the FDA very, very carefully, and they have been approving drugs at a rapid rate that they’re now having to withdraw them, Vioxx and Celebrex and a lot of other drugs are now having to be withdrawn or special labeling on them about the harm that they can cause.

AMY GOODMAN: Because of the number of deaths?

JOAN CLAYBROOK: Because of the number of deaths and the injuries. And poisoning of people. And this is because they have rushed to approve all of these drugs. And since the early 1990’s, under the first Bush administration, the drug industry is actually paying for drug approvals. So this is tremendous pressure on FDA officials not to irritate the drug industry. Because they might go and propose taking away that money, and —

AMY GOODMAN: You’re saying they pay for the FDA approval process?

JOAN CLAYBROOK: They do. Most people do not realize that. It’s really undermined the integrity of the FDA drug approval process, and also the follow-up. You know, monitoring the drugs after they’re on the market and determining whether or not they have to be withdrawn. That’s been the most controversial issue. An FDA insider doctor, who is named Graham, who has been there 20 years, has suddenly blown the whistle on the whole FDA internal process because it’s been really — he’s really denigrated it because it’s really not working these days.

AMY GOODMAN: And what role did drug industry play in helping to sponsor the inauguration?

JOAN CLAYBROOK: The drug industry has put money in, the auto industry, the energy industry, the investment industry. All of them have had private events as well as public events. Most people don’t understand, the private events are — these are parties that they get hosted by corporations, but they honor — they honor certain officials. So that these officials then come and then other officials come because they don’t want to insult the officials who are being honored. And it’s a very much of an insider game. And they’re small. You know, as one lobbyist said, they’re smaller, they’re nicer. They have better food, they have better liquor and you get to rub shoulders with more important people.

AMY GOODMAN: Joan Claybrook, I want to thank you very much for being with us on this inauguration day 2005, here in Washington, DC. Joan Claybrook is head of Public Citizen. Thank you.


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