By: E&P Staff
In their regular “Freakanomics” column which will appear in this Sunday’s edition of The New York Times Magazine, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, pose this question: “If you were asked to name the biggest global warming villains of the past 30 years, here’s one name that probably wouldn’t spring to mind: Jane Fonda. But should it?”
The authors observe that Fonda’s antinuclear thriller “The China Syndrome,” which opened just 12 days before the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, helped stoke “a widespread panic.” Fonda became a high-profile anti-nuke activist in an already-strong movement. The nuclear industry halted plans for expansion. “And so,” they continue, “instead of becoming a nation with clean and cheap nuclear energy, as once seemed inevitable, the United States kept building power plants that burned coal and other fossil fuels. Today such plants account for 40 percent of the country’s energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions.
“Anyone hunting for a global-warming villain can’t help blaming those power plants — and can’t help wondering too about the unintended consequences of Jane Fonda.”
Of course, there were many other factors in the nuclear industry decline, including cost over-runs, disposal of nuclear waste, the threat of terrorism and numerous other accidents beyond TMI. Then there was, ahem, Chernobyl. But the columnists cite the “big news” that with global warming fears mounting, “nuclear power may be making a comeback in the United States,” with plans for two dozen reactors on the drawing boards.
Will they get built? The authors conclude that “it may all depend on what kind of thrillers Hollywood has in the pipeline.”