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Oliver Stone is half right regarding nuclear energy and climate change



Filmmaker Oliver Stone would not know me if he tripped over me. That said, he and I did have an enjoyable discussion about politics at Princeton University in 2006, while waiting in the outdoor seating area for his son and my nephew to receive their diplomas.

The fact is, as someone typically a bit more on the conservative side of the equation, I have always had a great deal of respect for Stone’s service to our nation in the Vietnam War and for his creative mind and voice.


Speaking of wars we never should have fought, years ago, when I was arguing the folly of the United States’ invasion of Iraq, I used a quote from Stone: “If [George] Bush had spent three months in combat, he would take a whole different view of war. … He wouldn’t be so light. And that includes [Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld. They’re tough guys, but combat softens you, if anything. It makes you more aware of human frailty and vulnerability. It doesn’t make you a coward, but it does teach you. If any of those guys had seen combat, I don’t think we would have had this gratuitous decision to go to Iraq, which has cost us greatly.”

As I recall, that caused a number of Republicans and conservatives to criticize me, asking basically, “How could you quote that liberal Hollywood guy?” But I did so because Stone served our nation honorably, and with distinction, while in combat operations in Vietnam. His was a voice we needed to hear when we put the lives of U.S. troops at risk. 

This week, The Hollywood Reporter headlined Stone’s latest film project, “Nuclear Now,” a documentary making the case that nuclear energy is the best bet to combat climate change. As the site reported, “Oliver Stone’s new film is once again taking a provocative stance on a hot-button issue, this time tackling climate change.”

Well, yes and no, with regard to “tackling climate change.” Stone does make a strong case that nuclear power is one of the best ways to not only meet the world’s increasing energy needs but also to help offset the negative effects of climate change. As he says in the trailer for the film: “We’ve run out of time to be afraid. We’ve been trained from the very beginning to fear nuclear power. The very thing that we fear is what may save us.”


I couldn’t agree more on that point. But then, with one foot seemingly planted in the “fossil fuels are evil” domain, Stone’s official description of the film says in part: “As fossil fuels continue to cook the planet, the world is finally becoming forced to confront the influence of large oil companies and tactics that have enriched a small group of corporations and individuals for generations.”

So, again, full applause to Stone for putting out a documentary that some are calling a necessary counterweight to Al Gore’s panic-creating, 2006 Oscar-winning global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” As the goal posts for the “world is ending because of fossil fuels” keep getting moved further into the future, we need other voices of reason on this subject.

Why? First, because the existence of humanity does depend on today’s sustainable energy sources — not utopian “green” dreams of tomorrow, but what actually powers our planet right now. And what powers our world are fossil fuels: coal, oil, natural gas. Those three sources supply about 80 percent of global energy and much of electricity generation.

I am all for “green,” renewable energy. But it must be sustainable and not be vampiring off the energy produced by fossil fuels — or massive taxpayer-funded subsidies — for its existence. Like it or not, the world as we know it, with billions of human inhabitants, still depends on fossil fuels.


“Ban fossil fuels to save the planet” may make a nice bumper sticker or fundraising scheme, but the idea flies in the face of our current reality. For one thing, we need fossil fuels to grow crops that feed the world — adding to their contribution to our very survival.

As we have seen in Sri Lanka, with its political unrest sparked by shortages of essential goods; the Netherlands, with its farmers and citizens movement, BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB); the Finns Party in Finland, with its emphasis on the value of ordinary citizens; or the growing unrest among farmers in Europe — more and more working-class people are rebelling against the impact of “green” dictates against fossil fuels that can negatively impact food security.

Such unrest may spread unless educated, unbiased experts speak to the issue in honest, practical and relevant ways now. That means Oliver Stone’s voice is truly needed as discussions of energy sources and climate change become more polarized and politicized. Such a voice cannot cave to the extremes. Stone courageously speaks out in favor of nuclear power — let’s hope his voice stays true as the debate rages on.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.


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