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  • Thursday Edition: Nuclear. Lawyers. Kamala.

Thursday Edition: Nuclear. Lawyers. Kamala.

Are we lawyering ourselves to death?

1. Nuclear Energy Movement

Nuclear plants are a time-tested way of safely producing clean energy. With the green revolution in full swing, it would make sense to see more. (AP)

The latest: This week Bill Gates’ energy company, TerraPower, broke ground on an advanced nuclear power plant project in Wyoming.

  • Assuming TerraPower's application for a construction permit gets approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the reactor could generate up to 500 megawatts of carbon-free energy, enough for 400,000 homes.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy is funding half of the project's $4 billion cost.

The trend: After a long break, governments around the world are starting to pick up investment into nuclear power.

  • As of July of last year, 486 reactors were planned, proposed, or under construction, according to a Schroders report.

  • Globally, nuclear power makes up just 10% of electricity generation.

  • AI growth may also be driving a nuclear power revival to meet the industry's high energy demands.

In 2023, the U.S. generated approximately 4,178 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.

  • 60% of that came from fossil fuels and 21% from renewables like wind (10.2%), hydro (5.7%) and solar (3.9%).

  • 19% of electricity was generated by the 93 commercial nuclear reactors operating in the country today.

  • A Gallup poll in August found 57% of Americans now favor expanding nuclear power, up from 43% in 2020.

Some clean energy advocates are skeptical of nuclear energy: Critics say the upfront costs of building power plants are daunting, and construction takes too long.

A 2022 report from Greenpeace:

The extra time that nuclear plants take to build has major implications for climate goals, as existing fossil-fueled plants continue to emit carbon dioxide while awaiting substitution.

2. Lawyering Ourselves to Death

The recent convictions of Donald Trump and Hunter Biden underscore how lawyers and lawfare have come to dominate American politics and government. (WaPo)

Washington Post opinion columnist Jason Willick:

Lawfare — the distortion of the legal system to pursue political adversaries — is a growing threat to constitutional government. For Republicans, former president Donald Trump’s election-season conviction in a highly unusual case brought by a Democratic district attorney is strong evidence of the danger.

For Democrats, Trump’s threats to retaliate highlight what could happen if the shoe were on the other foot: “Mr. Trump, if he wins the presidency again, would gain immense authority to actually carry out the kinds of legal retribution he has been promoting,” the New York Times warned.

Trump and Hunter Biden’s prosecutions aren’t some isolated one-offs: The data shows lawyers play an outsized role in U.S. government and political power.

  • Attorneys account for less than 1% of the U.S. population.

  • But 30% of House members and 51% of Senators have law degrees and have practiced law.

  • Half of the last 10 presidents were lawyers.

  • 95 out of 192 government and state executives have law degrees.

All those lawyers have led to government getting bogged down in endlessly complicated administrative rules, regulations and procedures, according to Niskanen Center senior fellow Nicholas Bagley (who is also a lawyer and law professor at the University of Michigan).

Bagley in a 2021 essay: “[Lawyers] not managers, have assumed primary responsibility for shaping administrative law in the United States. And if all you’ve got is a lawyer, everything looks like a procedural problem.”

Bubba’s Two Cents

This isn't about blaming lawyers but highlighting how American society and government are structured. Most people likely want a more transparent government with less red tape. And they probably don't want courts used to target political rivals.

3. A Temperature Check on Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris’ ascension to the vice presidency was framed in the media as a historic milestone, but it’s been nearly four years and she’s yet to really win over the public. (Politico)


Last year:

Now: A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds voters are having “serious doubts about [Harris’] ability to win the presidency herself, or to perform the job well were she to inherit it.”

  • Only 33% of voters think Harris could win if she were the Democratic nominee.

  • Just one-third of independents see the vice president as a strong leader.

  • Harris has a 42% favorable rating and a 52% unfavorable rating, similar to President Biden's 43% favorable and 54% unfavorable ratings.

  • 36% of voters think Biden should replace Harris with another Democrat.

Bubba’s Two Cents

Biden needs all the help he can get going into what promises to be a fiercely competitive presidential election. It’s not clear how much his running mate is helping. One barometer of how Biden and Harris are viewed within their own party is that fellow Dems have floated the idea of replacing both Biden and Harris on the 2024 ticket.

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