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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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May 13, 2008 10:59 AM

McCain promotes nuclear power in North Bend visit

Posted by David Postman

NORTH BEND - I’m at the Cedar River Watershed Educational Center in the Cascade foothills to hear John McCain and panelists talk about the environment.

The panelists will be Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland; Bruce Williams, chairman and CEO of HomeStreet Bank and vice chairman of Cascade Land Conservancy,; Jim DiPeso, policy director of Republicans for Environmental Protection; REI CEO Sally Jewell; West Mathison, a fifth-generation farmer with Stemilt Growers, Inc.; Chris Bayley, the former Republican King County prosecutor and chairman of Stewardship Partners; Eagle Scout and high school senior Will Mentor; and Mercer Island City Councilman Steve Litzow Litzglow. Former Gov. Dan Evans will moderate.

This is a City of Seattle facility. It’s a nice, rustic, set of buildings above the river.

McCain is also scheduled to hold a media availability after the panel discussion.

There are a host of local Republicans in the small auditorium, including former Sen. Slade Gorton, GOP state Chairman Luke Esser, vice chairwoman Freddi Simpson, Sen. Cheryl Pfulg, and former state Rep. Toby Nixon.

MORE: With a light, cool, rain falling, Evans joked that “we’re looking forward to global warming.”

MORE: Jewell said that members of REI include people from the far left and the far right, but said “the one thing that they all appreciate, I think, is a healthy environment.”

She thanked McCain for his comments yesterday on climate change, and pointed out Gorton to say that he helped secure the public lands around this area. Jewell also mentioned former Democratic Gov. Gary Locke and said bipartisan work is necessary to continue to protect the environment.

(By the way, Evans’ REI number is 1819.)

“I’m not new to this issue. But I’m always learning about this issue,” McCain said. He said that when he first ran for president in 2000, young people would ask him about climate change, but he was then far from an expert.

“I will freely admit … I began to learn and I went back to the Senate and as chairman of the commerce committee had many hearings on this issue, and I traveled. I traveled around the globe, usually at your expense.”

In brief opening remarks, McCain said that fighting climate change and pushing for improvements to the environment are good for the economy.

“Everyone is talking about how harmful it is,” he said. “Look at what’s out there.”

He said that the wind turbine company he visited in Portland yesterday is employing thousands of people and “are contributing to probably as clean a technology as you’ll ever find. … I just firmly and steadfastly reject the notion that somehow this is something that will be harmful to our economy.”

MORE: Jewell said that REI has a goal to be “climate neutral.” She said that is very difficult, but very important to REI members. It involves a difficult balance.

All businesses, by nature, are taking from the planet right now. So how do we reconcile sending out catalogs while we’re hiking in the trees?

She said that businesses and private enterprise “have to play a very, very significant role” in combating global warming.

McCain asked her, “What do you want me to do?”

She said REI is converting 10 stores to solar this year, “in sunnier markets than the one you’re presently sitting in.” She said that some states, but not the federal government, have tax incentives that now make converting to solar financially viable.

Jewell said:

There isn’t anything significant that helps us make the right decisions.

McCain responded:

I’m a little wary of - I have to give you straight talk - about government subsidies. We just saw the impact, I think, of the subsidies for ethanol. I opposed the subsidies for ethanol because I thought it would distort the market. … When government jumps in and distorts the market then there are unintended consequences as well as intended consequences.

He said that happened after the gas crisis in the 1970s. He said there were “too many incentives given to the solar industry” and “we turned out to have some pretty shoddy material.”

MORE: Williams questioned McCain’s call for more nuclear energy. He said that Washington state is still dealing with nuclear waste issues at Hanford. He said:

We’d like to see that taken care of before we make more of it.

McCain said he understands the controversy over nuclear waste at Hanford and knows there is much more to be done there.

All I’m saying is, if other countries are able to make use of nuclear power and address the issue of spent nuclear fuel, then I don’t know why the United States of America can’t.

Again, we’ve sailed ships around the world for 60 years, some of them have come into this state, and we’ve never had a problem. We’ve never had a nuclear accident. …

We ought to be able, as a nation, to address the issue of transportation of the spent nuclear fuel, the storage of it, whether it’ll be reprocessed.

McCain said that if new nuclear power plants are built then no new coal-fired plants will have to take their place. “I’m all for clean coal,” he said, but added that the technology is still too expensive to be viable.

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