Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: The high price of nuclear fantasies

The enduring Tallahassee myth that nuclear power is always cheaper has cost Duke Energy customers billions of dollars with nothing to show for it. A new analysis of the long-term cost of the proposed nuclear plant in Levy County — the kind that ideally would have already been done by regulators — should finally change the conversation. The Florida Public Service Commission, long the lapdog of utilities, will soon have clear authority to halt advanced fees for a nuclear plant that will likely never be built. If commissioners don't take action, they do not deserve reappointment.

The analysis in today's Tampa Bay Times, as explained by Ivan Penn, should leave no question in any regulator's or elected state official's mind that in today's energy economy, it is only the utilities that benefit from the 2006 state law that allows them to shift preconstruction nuclear costs to consumers.

The Times found that under no reasonable assumption does building the nuclear plant in Levy County make economic sense over the next 60 years compared with building two natural gas plants, each with a 30-year lifespan. None.

Even when the volatility of natural gas prices is taken into consideration, including Duke Energy's higher-than-government estimates of fuel costs, the nuclear plant is far costlier. Even when the price of adding pollution controls — which are not yet required — to the natural gas plants is included, the nuclear plant is still more expensive. And even lowering the rate of return utilities can earn from the advanced nuclear cost recovery fee — as the 2013 Legislature has proposed — doesn't span the gap.

As suspected, the only real winner from building nuclear instead of natural gas? Duke Energy and its investors, who could enjoy up to 10 times the profit over 60 years than they could from operating two consecutive natural gas facilities producing the same power.

The only way nuclear ever looks cheaper is if the construction costs are ignored. That's like saying a family should pick a new car based strictly on the cost of gas, not the sticker price.

With the aid of the Legislature, Duke Energy, which bought Progress Energy last year, has already shoved more than $1.8 billion in fees onto its customers for two projects: a proposed Levy County plant that Wall Street believes will never be built; and a planned expansion of the Crystal River plant that was ultimately shuttered after a botched do-it-yourself repair job.

Yet Duke Energy, along with Florida Power & Light, once again thwarted efforts to repeal the fee in the 2013 legislative session. Tampa Bay lawmakers did win a change that opens the door for more scrutiny by the PSC. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the law that expressly gives the PSC authority to deny requests for fee collections if the project's long-term economics make no sense.

It's time for elected officials in Tallahassee to be honest about who is benefitting from the nuclear fee and stand up for the Floridians who put them in office. It's time for the PSC to embrace its role as a protector of consumers, not industry. It's time for the fleecing to stop.

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Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

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Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Itís time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the courtís operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. Itís time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season ó when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18
Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

The St. Petersburg City Council has listened to the concerns of constituents and forged a compromise on where to install a signature public art piece in the new Pier District. Plans had called for an imposing aerial net sculpture to soar above Spa Be...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18