For the last three days, I’ve been running around Stockholm giving what seems to be 27 lectures on energy security and/or President Obama’s foreign policy. I’ve spoken at think tanks, the American Embassy (twice!), with MPs, corporate executives, and the guy who wrote the definitive Swedish book about the Obama campaign (“Are you going to have it translated into English?” I asked naively. “Well, I looked on Amazon,” he responded, “and there are already 637 English language books on Obama’s campaign. So I think I’ll start with Danish instead.”) It has been a whirlwind tour thus far but should slow down a bit toward the weekend, which would allow me to enjoy a few days with some good friends in Stockholm.
My energy talks are designed to shed some light on the political framing of energy issues since Obama took office. Since only six out of 10 Americans believe there is solid scientific evidence that the earth is warming, I talk a lot about the $400 tank of gas in Afghanistan and energy independence from power thugs like Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez. As a matter of fact, if you’d like the basic gist of a good chunk of my talk, just read this post.
But beyond gasoline and warzones, I’m also banging the drum about nuclear power, a power source that PPI has long supported even as the left keeps it at arms-length, and that is a critical component of America’s drive towards energy independence. I’ve been telling the story of Barack Obama’s embrace of nuclear power in the State of the Union, which was closely followed by a trip down to Georgia to announce the first construction of a nuclear plant in the U.S. in about 25 years.
Why does all this matter to Sweden? Sweden is facing a general election this September. The Red-Green Coalition of Social Democrats and the Green Party is currently in opposition but stands a good chance of beating the incumbent center-right coalition. And that, in a sense, would be a return to normalcy in this social-democratic mecca. I don’t have the numbers of the top of my head, but only about 15 of the last 90 years haven’t seen a Social Democrat in the PM’s office.
And while SD party leader Mona Salin may get there, it will be with significant help from the Greens. The Greens stand to rocket up from 5 percent last election to near 10-15 percent this year. And guess what? They hate nuclear power, falsely believing that it is unsafe and dangerous. Just yesterday, the coalition presented a plan that would tax “excessive profits” of energy companies, including nuclear.
Political insiders here think energy could be one of the more contentious issues within the Red-Green coalition. In the article I cite above, note how the Green Party spokeswoman says that her faction had to compromise, which implies that the Social Dems were resistant to higher energy taxes. But giving the Greens’ increasing appeal, their policy carried the day.
Penalizing nuclear power isn’t natural for the Social Dems — in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they led the charge to build Sweden’s 10 reactors that today produce nearly 50 percent of its power. Indeed, Sweden draws 90 percent of its power from hydro and nuclear, meaning that nearly all of its power is from non-carbon sources. It is an unfortunate about-face to propose taxing an energy source that is established, clean, and safe.
And that’s where I come in — an American progressive who can talk about creative ways to frame energy issues, and use Barack Obama’s nuclear story to give Swedish Social Dems a few reasons not to turn their backs on power sources that they once endorsed and that continue to make sense.