Meredith Angwin

Energy Analyst & Author

The March

The weekend of October 22, 2016, I joined about 70 people in Chicago.  We held a planning session and protest march. The goal of the march was to show visible and effective support for keeping Illinois nuclear plants open.

This event was organized by Environmental Progress and other groups of the Clean Power Coalition

The marchers hoped to visit ELPC, which is an anti-nuclear lobbying organization that proclaims itself as an environmentalist group.  Their offices are at 30 Wacker Drive. The picture above this post shows the protestors outside their offices.  (I went on the march, but did not continue as far as the building.)

Why did Clean Power Coalition decide to target this anti-nuclear group?  I was not involved in the decision-making, but I think I know.

At this point, we have to get back to basics.  Who opposes nuclear power, and what can we do about it?

The main thing we can do is:  Encourage pro-nuclear public opinion.


Nuclear opponents

If we are encouraging nuclear energy, who do we consider to be opposing it?  Unfortunately, there are many groups that have claimed the mantle of “environmentalism” while making it their business to oppose the most effective source of clean energy in the world.

I think we have to stop calling these groups “environmental” groups.  They aren’t.  They are in the business of lobbying and campaigning against nuclear energy.  Many of them get well paid for their efforts: by fossil fuel companies.  Not all are paid by fossil fuel companies, of course.  But some are.

For example, let’s look at the Environmental Progress fact page on ELPC.

Here’s a quote from that page:

Earlier this year ELPC raised at least $137,500 from natural gas, renewables or financial companies that would benefit from ELPC’s efforts to kill nuclear plants. ELPC raised it at its dinner where “recognition from the podium” was given by groups like Invenergy, a natural gas and wind company, for investing $10,000 to $25,000 to ELPC.

“Everybody looks with excitement when a new natural gas plant is build,” ELPC head, Howard Learner said when justifying his efforts to replace nuclear plants with fossil fuels.

And of course, we cannot forget the Sierra Club finally admitting it took $26 million from natural gas companies.  Time magazine has an excellent article about this.


Encouraging Pro-Nuclear Public Opinion

I stated the goal of the march as “encouraging pro-nuclear public opinion.”  In my view, this is the ultimate goal of pro-nuclear activism. It almost doesn’t matter the official description of what is happening: a vote in a legislative body, a public service board hearing, a lawsuit, a referendum.  In all these cases, pro-nuclear public opinion will make a difference.

I remember when I was first starting out in advocacy.  I wondered why local anti-nuclear groups were holding rallies outside a courthouse where a judge was deciding a legal case about nuclear energy.  A man who was much wiser than me explained: “Judges read the papers, too.” After that, I was quite willing to hold rallies outside of courthouses, along the with anti-nuclear groups!


Exposing Opponent Ties to Fossil Fuels.

One way to build pro-nuclear public opinion is to call the anti-nuclear groups exactly what they are: anti-nuclear groups.  Not “environmental” groups or any other green-washed words.  They are anti-nuclear lobbying groups, plain and simple.

Yes, of course, nuclear advocates also have to present our positive vision of a world with abundant clean energy.  But we also need to show that our opponents are not honorable young Boy Scouts.  That’s how the opponents want to be seen.

They aren’t Boy Scouts.  They are lobbyists.  To sway public opinion, we have to show their motivations, as well as our own.

The organizing group
The Chicago event was organized by Environmental Progress and other groups of the Clean Power Coalition. Here’s a group picture from the meeting. (I’m in the middle, in a pink turtleneck with a very visible necklace.)