Last week’s blackout was a much smaller disaster than it might have been. But there’s no assurance that the next one won’t be worse. Yet the Bush Administration and the Congressional Republicans, who for the last two years have been holding transmission-grid upgrades hostage to their pet proposals to drill for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve and subsidize utility companies to build nuclear power plants [*] have announced that they will continue that act of political blackmail, according to the Washington Times [*] (They’re not alone, of course: Tom Daschle, still insisting on more wasteful, environmentally insane ethanol subsidies, also wants a “comprehensive” — that is, log-rolled — bill.)

Naturally, the Post-Modern President has no hesitation in saying that he’s been pushing to upgrade the grid, not mentioning that he and his minions squelched a Democratic move to pass a separate transmission-upgrade bill in 2001.[*] And if the power goes out again, no doubt he will blame it on the Democrats for not submitting to his (or rather Dick Cheney’s) extortion racket.

I’m strongly in favor of subsidies for nukes — I’d rather pay the money than breathe the crap that comes out of a coal-fired power plant, and at the moment that’s roughly the choice we face, and I regard the nuclear-waste issue as almost entirely imaginary — and I don’t actually give a hoot one way or another on ANWR, which is neither an important environmental issue nor a significant potential source of energy. But fixing the grid is a separatable issue, and holding it up to get leverage on unrelated matters, which might have seemed barely tolerable before last week, now looks just too crude for words.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: