President George Bush says he has put the USA on a path to slow, stop and eventually reverse the growth of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 - and promoting the use of nuclear energy will help achieve that goal.
In an announcement made in the Rose Garden of the White House, Bush said the new national goal to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 was building on his 2002 commitment to reduce the country's greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by 2012. The work done towards reaching that commitment would provide the foundations for a new "economy-wide strategy" that would encourage the development and deployment of new clean and efficient technologies through a blend of market incentives and emission reduction regulations.
The power generation sector now faces a particularly steep challenge: the President's goals call for it to slow its greenhouse gas emissions even faster than it is currently doing, so that they peak in the next 10-15 years and are "well below" the targets announced in the 2002 strategy.
Nuclear the right way
"There is a right way and a wrong way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Bush noted in his speech – and to abandon nuclear power would be the wrong way. "The right way is to promote more emission-free nuclear power," he said, and called for regulatory and political barriers facing new technologies including new generation nuclear plants to be addressed. He pointed to the billions of dollars that the country has already invested in next generation nuclear technologies.
Abandoning coal and nuclear would jeopardise US energy and economic security, he said, and the nation must also encourage investments to develop emissions-free coal-fired generation. The existing "complicated mix" of incentives to develop and commercialise new lower-emission technologies should be consolidated into a single, expanded incentive program which would make lower emission power sources less expensive relative to higher emissions sources, while remaining technology-neutral. Bush said "the government should not be picking winners and losers in this emerging market."
Reiterating comments made in January's State of the Union address, the President called for all nations to work together to combat climate change. The USA would be willing to include its national plan in a binding international agreement, he said, as long as other major economies would be prepared to do the same with their plans. Many developed countries have in fact already made specific commitments to reduce their emissions to below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012 under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but Bush described this approach as "flawed", as it allows developing nations to continue increasing their emissions.