Last week’s column focused on Obama’s wars in the Middle East. This week’s topic is his environmental policy. There are few surprises in this area – anyone who read Obama’s campaign platform during the election knew that the only plans he would put forward regarding environmental policy would have superficial results at best. In his recent State of the Union address, Obama said, “To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” Obama announced Tuesday that the government will provide more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to Southern Company, headquartered in Georgia, to build two new nuclear power plants. Southern Company and its employees have given over $6 million to the Republican Party since 1990 and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to both of George Bush’s presidential campaigns. According to The Independent, “Haley Barbour, one of the main lobbyists for Southern Co. when President Bush took office, played a crucial role in persuading him to back away from his original campaign promise to reduce CO2 emissions when he first ran for president in 2000.” Several executives of Southern Company were also major contributors to Obama’s presidential campaign. Two vice presidents within the company gave the maximum contribution amount of $2,300 and others gave over $1,000. Southern Company, a longtime opponent of cutting emissions, will begin constructing the first new nuclear power plant to have been built in the past 30 years. Nuclear power is not a clean source of energy. Thousands of tons of nuclear waste are created each year by the 104 plants currently in operation and there is no place to store this waste safely. Each nuclear power station is now storing its own waste in canisters, but that method is not a permanent solution, since the waste will remain radioactive for thousands of years. The present 104 plants are in disrepair, and accidents are commonplace. Regulation of safety and the condition of the stations is nearly nonexistent. In August 2009, a radioactive leak of tritiumpolluted water from a station in New Jersey contained 500 times the accepted radiation levels for drinking water. As many as 7,200 gallons were leaked daily. Of course, nuclear power plants are outrageously expensive, and Southern Co. would never build the plants if it were not for the loan guarantees. There is no reason to spend billions on new nuclear power plants when old plants are dangerously falling apart and other energy sources such as wind and solar power are cheaper, cleaner, safer, easier to maintain and much, much faster to implement. There are zero benefits to nuclear power – zero. Yet Obama and his administration support it fervently and are planning to use $8 billion of taxpayer money to subsidize the industry. Obama has failed on the international stage as well. In December, after being questioned about the Copenhagen Summit results, he said, “I mean, I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen. What I said was essentially that rather than see a complete collapse in Copenhagen, in which nothing at all got done and would have been a huge backward step, at least we kind of held ground, and there wasn’t too much backsliding from where we were.” The Copenhagen Accord is not legally binding, does not set emission reduction requirements, and strongly favors rich nations over developing nations. The accord accomplishes nothing. Lumumba Di-Aping of the Republic of Sudan, chair of the G77, which represents 130 developing nations, said of the accord, “It represents the worst development in climate change negotiations in history. And I say this because gross violations – gross violations have been committed today against the poor, against tradition of transparency and participation on equal footing by all nations and parties to the convention, and against common sense, because the architecture of this deal is extraordinarily flawed.” The Copenhagen Accord was drafted by the U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa in a series of private meetings. Obama was heavily involved in its drafting; he personally participated in the talks which resulted in the accord. Then, Jan. 28, the Obama administration made formal its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This figure of 17 percent might seem, at first glance, disappointing, but not too far from the 25 to 40 percent reductions other countries are making. However, there is a crucial difference: Every other country is using 1990 levels as a benchmark. Obama’s plan will reduce emissions by a mere four percent below 1990 levels by 2020. With other countries reducing emissions by 40 percent, it’s difficult to consider the barely noticeable four percent reduction proposed by Obama as anything other than a distraction from actual progress. By changing which year to use as a baseline to make the figure appear less pathetic, Obama has only underscored his inability to effect real change. Next week: The conclusion to my three-part column on Obama’s first year.