Oct 082008
Authors: Caleb Thornton

Last week we got a chance to look at both presidential candidates’ policies regarding taxation in this nation.

This week, I would like to consider an issue that is just as important (if not more) to both our economy and our national security: energy.

Now, we all know what the issue is when we think about energy, but let me illustrate the problem that we have with a little experience that I had last week.

Driving back from Denver over the weekend, I realized that, as seems to happen far too often, my car was running out of gas. Pulling over at the nearest exit, I found that I had two options — I could pay $3.54 a gallon at the Conoco station, or I could pay $3.46 a gallon at the local semi-sketchy station.

Being the cheapskate that I am — especially when it comes to gas — I chose the local station.

But here comes the sad part — I thought it was a steal.

$3.46 a gallon as a steal? What has this world come to?

The problem is pretty obvious; we are paying way too much money for energy these days, and we are getting way too much of it from countries that could at best be described as under “shaky” leadership (see Venezuela, Iran).

Of course both candidates have again had plenty to say when it comes to this issue, and on a broad scale they agree — responsibly increases domestic energy production, while expanding renewable energy sources here both in the hopes to drive down demand for oil and gas and, in turn, to reduce that dependence on foreign oil.

However, if you take a look at specifics you are going to see quite a different picture. It is pretty clear to me (and both candidates) that if we are to truly lower our dependence on oil and gas in this country, then nuclear energy is absolutely going to have to play a part in the future.

Now, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is not opposed to the nuclear energy that we have in place now, but look up any answer that he has considering the expansion of nuclear energy and all you will find are vague notions about nuclear energy being an important part of our future, while discussing no actual plans for expansion.

Sen. John McCain, on the other hand, has proposed that we build 45 new plants here in the U.S. by 2030.

Now, I know just the thought of building more nuclear power makes some people’s stomach’s turn, especially those worried about the effects that nuclear waste might have on the environment, but consider this: Nuclear power is a clean, efficient source of energy that, if implemented throughout the U.S., would not only reduce our increasing dependence on gas and oil, but would also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And when it comes to safely disposing of nuclear waste, it can be done, just ask the French who have been using nuclear power as their main source of energy for years now.

Overall, if we want to change our energy situation here in the U.S., then we must start by taking a serious look at nuclear power — something that John McCain has shown he will do and Barack Obama has shown he will not.

Of course, moving toward energy independence does not stop with increasing nuclear energy — renewable energy sources and domestic oil and gas production must be considered as well, and next week I will take a look at where each candidate stands on both of these important topics.

Caleb Thornton is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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