At the end of July, the Utility Workers Union of America held its 32nd National Convention, and by all accounts it was a great convention. Many topics were covered based on our theme “Essential by Industry, Exceptional by Choice” and our subthemes of “Embracing Our Differences, Leveraging Our Strength, Determining Our Future Together.” A strong focus of the convention was on energy policy and the need for the UWUA — its leadership and its members — to engage in the political process to help shape future energy policy.
The UWUA is not a science denying organization. We accept that global warming is a science-based fact, and we all want a clean environment. However, you cannot only use science when it is convenient for your own agenda and ignore it when it is contrary to that agenda. Although the UWUA acknowledges that emissions from the burning of fossil fuels plays a part in global warming, we are realistic about what needs to be done through energy policy to ensure that the world controls global warming while simultaneously enjoying the comforts of today. The answer to addressing national and world climate goals is an all-of-the-above approach to energy.
The UWUA supports the expansion of renewable energy technologies and views this part of the industry as an extension of the current utility industry and the UWUA’s membership. It is clear that renewable energy technologies, including wind and solar, will play a part in the energy supply and that these technologies do not produce emissions during operation. However, to claim that they are clean energy is merely a buzzword. Both of these technologies require significant energy for their production (i.e. think manufacturing, shipping and construction) and also carry with them significant environmental concerns at end of life. Couple this with the fact that neither of these technologies alone can provide extended base load power without significant advancements in battery storage technologies, which carry their own environmental and safety concerns, and you quickly come to realize that they alone are not the solution to our energy needs.
For years nuclear energy was demonized and nearly driven into extinction, even though it was the cleanest, safest, and most efficient base load power production known to man. After all those years of special interest groups lobbying to shutdown nuclear plants, the tide has turned. In July, Michigan Governor Whitmer signed a state budget that included $300 million intended for the reopening of the Palisades Nuclear Plant. The Palisades Plant was shut down in May 2022 and slated for decommissioning. Science finally caught up to those that wanted the plant shut down. It shows that the State of Michigan cannot meet its climate goals without the clean energy produced by the Palisades plant and that the state will not have sufficient peak load energy without the plant. With the state putting up millions of dollars, it is now up to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to give the final funding and okay to take the plant out of decommissioning — the first plant to do so in the history of the United States.
The UWUA supports an all-of-the-above energy policy and believes that means not only investment in nuclear energy and new nuclear energy technologies, but that same approach needs to be applied to coal and natural gas plants. Coal and natural gas are keys to the United States energy independence and need to be part of any energy plan. The UWUA understands that an energy policy that includes advancements in technologies around fossil fuels is the only science-based solution to the world’s energy needs while still achieving the world’s climate goals.
To many, the saving of nuclear and coal plants seems an insurmountable task; however, the UWUA believes that science will prevail. Once policymakers sift through the rhetoric and hysteria of public opinion and really focus on the science, we will begin to see policies that are focused on advancements in energy production rather than attacking various energy production means. We, the UWUA, are fighting at state, national, and international levels to ensure the focus remains on the science of energy production and the advancement of technologies that will ensure we meet our national and world climate goals without plunging ourselves into darkness.