"It's not going to work," Mr. Nader said of an emissions cap-and-trade program now being considered in Congress.
Ralph Nader, the unflagging corporate gadfly, perennial presidential candidate, and long-time advocate for environmental and consumer protections, was a driving force behind the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
Green Inc. caught up with Mr. Nader recently to ask him about some of the most pressing environmental questions of the day -- from carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs to renewable energy and nuclear power -- as well as his impressions of the Obama administration's approach to these issues in its first 100 days.
How would you rate Obama's performance so far on issues of energy and the environment?
His rhetoric is a lot better than Bush. But in terms of what he's actually proposing, it remains to be seen. The stimulus package, a section of that is for renewables and green initiatives, but we don't know how it's going to play out. It hasn't really been deployed yet.
The place that's discouraging is nuclear power. His principal flaw is he's trying to be all things to all forms of energy. Like, "We'll, we've got to use all the energy -- renewables, oil, gas, coal, nuclear," and that's not rational. Because some kinds of energy are better for the country, environmentally and in all kinds of ways, than other kinds. There's no priority to his scheme.
If you were in Obama's shoes, what's something you would have done already that he has not?
I would have said no more loan guarantees to nuclear plants in the appropriations bills, and no more subsidies from the executive branch. We're going to phase nuclear plants out and replace them with energy efficiency, which is far more megawatts than nuclear.
I would also declare a national solar energy mission -- solar energy including waves, wind, photovoltaics, solar thermal and passive solar architecture. Open up the whole frontier and make that the priority as we convert our country to renewables.
In December, you co-authored an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that criticized the idea of using a cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon emissions, advocating for a carbon tax instead. So what's your reaction to the Waxman-Markey climate bill now on the table, which calls for cap-and-trade?
I'm really astonished, because I would have thought they would have gone for a carbon tax. I mean, it's not going to work. It's too complex. It's too easily manipulated politically. Right now, they're having a battle over whether they can even auction the credits off for money. The industry doesn't want auctions for money. So, they're already having a battle right from the takeoff. I have to call Markey and see why did he ever buy into that.
Most people who know anything about this subject and its administrative feasibility say that a carbon tax is far better.
How would you define sustainability?
That you take out of the Earth no more than you put into it. That you put into the Earth no more than you take out.