Monday, April 18, 2011

Looking for Nuances in the Nuclear Debate

The must frustrating thing about politics in America is that every issue becomes a debate between black and white, right and wrong, Democrat and Republican.  Or maybe it's blue and red.

The fact is that most Americans are far more nuanced in their views on almost any subject.  And most solutions to our biggest problems are not binary.  The solutions are not either/or, yes/no.  The problems are far too complex for such simplistic thinking.

Take nuclear power.  It offers an abundant, low-carbon source of electricity without using up acres upon acres of land.  It can reduce our dependence on dirty fuels such as coal and oil.  It could make us energy self-sufficient at a time of great global unrest and uncertainty.

The question is how to we keep it safe?  More to the point, how do we keep it safe at a time when the debate in America is over which party will impose deeper cuts in government regulations and spending?

At least with nuclear power, we cannot have it both ways.  Nuclear power is not financially viable without government subsidies, guarantees, and/or free insurance in the form of liability limitations.  And nuclear power can turn catastrophic without vigorous safety regulations and enforcement.

If we want nuclear power, then we need to accept that it is sui generis (Latin, meaning unique in its characteristics).  We cannot just lump it into the overall black and white debate over the size and role of government in society.  Whatever we do with any other program or policy, we need a more nuanced approach with nuclear power.  Because if we're not willing to create unique solutions to the unique and potentially catastrophic risks of nuclear power, then we shouldn't go there at all.

John Howley

Sunday, April 10, 2011

About John Howley

John Howley is an internationally recognized expert, educator and thought leader in the field of sustainable energy. He founded a global energy management company with operations in the US and Asia, and he edits a monthly newsletter read by more than 10,000 business leaders around the world.

John's professional focus has been at the intersection of technology, competition, and government policy for more than 30 years. He has advised energy and technology companies on intellectual property and competition policies and strategies. He has also advised the governments of the United Kingdom, India, Mongolia and the Philippines. He is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the US-China Green Energy Council

Throughout his career, John has played a leadership role in education. He has served as Vice Chair of the Skidmore College Board of Trustees and as Chair of its Presidential Search Committee, Chair of its Infrastructure Committee, and Co-Chair of its Strategic Planning Committee. John has also served on the Board of Trustees of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York, as a Trustee of New York Law School, and as Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Financial Policy Committee of the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts.

John speaks frequently on sustainability issues at corporations, universities, and conferences around the world. He has been invited to speak at the Harvard Business School, the Asian Institute of Management, the Global e-Services Conference, Elliott Masie's Annual LEARNING Conferences, and the Asia Society, among other well-known conferences and institutions.

John is known as an approachable speaker, blending humor, intellectual substance and story-telling with high levels of audience involvement.