How many decades has it been since President Nixon declared that the United States would be energy independent in six years? Every president since has made creating a more secure energy supply a priority. We’d already forgotten the oil spill last summer when the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the instability in the Arab world showed us yet again how far we are from achieving that goal. The Bush administration had no idea other than to keep drilling, and the current gridlock in Congress has prevented us from even having the discussion. Once again the oil supply is threatened, but there seems to be no national will to do anything about it other than to open our wallets and pay whatever the price at the pump is today.
The United States has been moving steadily toward building a new generation of nuclear power plants, with the blessing both of conservatives, liberals and environmentalists, a seemingly happy convergence of interests to generate clean renewable energy. Then the Japanese earthquake and tsunami hit, renewing doubts about nuclear safety that have largely been forgotten as memories Chernobyl and Three Mile Island fade. This has been quite a wake-up call.