Nuclear Matters, the Exelon-formed front group created earlier this year to try to prevent more reactor shutdowns, has been continuing its unprecedented public relations blitz in recent days.
But now there’s a difference: the media has caught on to who they are, and is beginning to reveal their self-serving bias. In the long run, that’s going to substantially reduce their effectiveness. After all, astroturf groups like Nuclear Matters, with its stable of “celebrity” spokespeople, like to pretend that they are independent and perhaps even have some popular support. But when the pretense is broken and their industry backing exposed, they might as well be issuing statements on utility letterhead.
Last week, NIRS issued a press release pointing out that both Nuclear Matters and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), which held a press event last week touting the party line developed by Nuclear Matters, were, let’s say, a little reluctant to reveal that their financial backing comes from the nuclear power industry. In Nuclear Matters case, 100% of it does. For C2ES, an older group with a somewhat broader agenda, it’s not 100%, but it is substantial.
While the NIRS release itself didn’t get a lot of coverage, reporters clearly read it. Because this week, Nuclear Matters and C2ES aren’t getting a free pass.
Consider this piece from today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, titled Campaign aims to boost nuclear power’s flagging fortunes, which reports on a Nuclear Matters’ event yesterday in Philadelphia. In the center of the article:
“The campaign already has attracted opposition from antinuclear activists. The Nuclear Information and Resource Service has denounced Nuclear Matters as an industry ‘front group.’
“Exelon Corp., the nation’s largest nuclear fleet operator and owner of Peco, wrote the initial check to fund the campaign.
“Exelon declined to disclose the amount of its funding, but Christopher Crane, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview last week that Exelon was ‘very supportive’ of the effort.”
This opinion article, which is supportive of Nuclear Matters and C2ES and refused to provide any countering information, admitted, high in the story: “(C2ES is a nonprofit that gets funding from a variety of electric utilities, including nuclear owners.)”
And even Forbes, most (but not all) of whose writers are mere cheerleaders for the nuclear industry, was forced to acknowledge–in the introduction of an opinion piece by Carol Browner, the latest prominent spokesperson for Nuclear Matters: “She is a member of the Leadership Council of Nuclear Matters, an organization that is funded by nuclear-energy concerns such as Exelon Corp.”
In short, the media is catching on. The more objective media will continue to portray these groups as who they really are, and that will help define and undercut their message as the self-serving bullshit (I tried to think of a different word, but that one is the most accurate I could come up with) that it is. And even the media and commentators who support the nuclear industry are now forced, if they want to retain any credibility, to admit who these groups are.
But if you see an article in your local media or on websites, blogs, etc. that doesn’t identify these groups as industry-sponsored, let that media know. Send letters to the editor, send our press release to the editor–there is no longer any reason for these groups to get away with pretending they’re somehow independent. They’re not.
By the way, Carol Browner’s piece begins with this sentence: “I used to be anti-nuclear.” Well, maybe she did–it’s not possible to know what is in any person’s mind, especially opinions apparently held many years ago. We can’t say we did an exhaustive search, but we did spend more than an hour trying to find a single quote from Carol Browner during her professional career, as EPA Administrator, as President Obama’s climate “czar,” that could in any way be described as “anti-nuclear,” or even remotely critical of nuclear power. We couldn’t find a single one.
Browner appears to be in the tradition of Patrick Moore, who left (or was forced out, depending on who you believe) Greenpeace more than 30 years ago and almost immediately went to work for polluting industries (including more than a decade for the nuclear industry); of Christie Todd Whitman, another former EPA Administrator now shilling for the industry’s CASE campaign; of Gwynneth Craven, who claimed to be a key part of the Clamshell Alliance in the 1970s even though we’ve never found a Clamshell person who remembers her; of just about every “pro-nuclear environmentalist” the industry has managed to dredge up and foist on the public (with the exception of the Whole Earth Catalog’s Stewart Brand, who actually was anti-nuke once upon a time). That tradition is one of people who were never actively anti-nuclear, never really examined, researched or spoke on the issue when they were supposedly activists, but now claim a past they didn’t really live which provides them with handsome earnings in the present. Their credibility is less than suspect, it is non-existent.
As we have mentioned before, however, Browner’s current dual position as Nuclear Matters spokesperson and Chair of the Board of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a conflict of interest, a contradiction that sullies the once good name of LCV. If carbon were the only pollutant in the world, and if nuclear power were actually effective at addressing our climate crisis, Browner’s position detailed in the Forbes article might have some merit. But carbon isn’t the only pollutant–nuclear power has a long list of radioactive toxins associated with it that are released by atomic reactors and nuclear fuel cycle facilities on a daily basis, and released in enormous quantities far too often in nuclear disasters. Nor, as we and others have addressed in detail in our responses to Dr. James Hansen and other climate scientists in these pages, as well as on our main website, is nuclear power an effective means of dealing with climate. There are a myriad of reasons why that is the case; too many to go into now; check out the links. The reality is, waiting on nuclear power to save us from the climate catastrophe detailed by the IPCC and today even by the White House, would surely doom us. The planet might survive in that event; it’s people that won’t.
The stakes, if it weren’t clear before, are high. And that’s why taking on industry front groups and their policies based on greed and self-interest is critical for all of us.
May 6, 2014
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