Solar, wind, and nuclear power all produce energy without carbon emissions, but government policy often favors the first two, encouraging their use with large subsidies. Some members of the public, nervous in the wake of high-profile nuclear accidents and the thorny problem of where to locate waste, support such a renewables-first approach.
If we really want to reduce carbon emissions, though, the exclusive focus on boosting renewable energy—which includes hydropower and biomass in addition to wind and solar—may actually pose a grave danger, argues Eduardo Porter in the New York Times. He writes that “renewables are helping to push nuclear power, the main source of zero-carbon electricity in the United States, into bankruptcy.” That’s a problem, because when nuclear power plants go under, the energy they were producing is usually replaced with fossil-fuel-based sources like natural gas and coal, which spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and warm the planet.
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