Ronnie Dugger’s new book .. . OUR INVADED UNIVERSITIES: LITet te Z=7; Published by W. W. Norton Co. at $14.95. Observer subscribers may order Our Invaded Universities at the customary 20% discount on titles stocked by the Texas Observer Bookstore: 11.90 plus, for Texas residents, 609 , sales tax. No charge for postage if remittance accompanies your order. superport would be 11.01 cents in 1980. Using the same estimated volume of traffic, the tariff for that year at a superport owned by the state would be 6.85 cents per barrel in 1980. The difference is accounted for by the tax-exempt status of governmental bonds \(meaning that investors don’t have to be wooed with 8 percent interest on corporate bonds, as opposed to the 6 percent they can make a profit margin would be figured into calculation of the tariff at a corporate facility. Supporters of a privately-owned superport like to point out that the difference would amount to only a few mills per gallon at the gas pumps. Their opponents would rather put it in terms of the estimated 1980 figures of $42 million in extra tariffs that would be charged to users at the superport and passed on to consumers. One of the problems with public financing would be the arrangements for paying off the bonds. If oil companies agreed to sign “take-or-pay” contracts, under which they would guarantee a certain tariff payment whether or not they used the facility to the guaranteed extent, bond sales would be no problem. If the oil companies are balky., a legislative statement of “moral obligation” to finance the bonds would almost certainly be necessary to make the bonds attractive. That situation leads observers to conclude that supporters of public financing will have to compromise with the companies at some point. The question is, of course at what point? J. F. Image is everything’ By Kevin Horrigan Kansas City Clark Councill’s problems were a refreshing change of pace for the audience at the Atomic Industrial Forum’s “Nuclear Power and the Public” conference recently in Kansas City. For three days, speakers had discussed the best means of convincing the power-hungry public that nuclear is the way to go. This is becoming harder and harder to do, with people like Ralph Nader and the Union of Concerned Scientists running around the country sounding warnings about dangers associated with pressure vessel integrity, emergency core cooling systems and atomic waste disposal. At the conference, approximately 200 public relations-types worried about the possibility that hit-and-miss nuclear opponents finally are beginning to meld into an organized front. These nuclear flacks have problems with groups like the Friends of the Earth and Businessmen for the Public Interest asking difficult questions about nuclear safety. But not Clark Council, public relations manager for Central Power and Light of Corpus Christi. Councill’s still selling nuclear power as the greatest thing since shirt pockets. Councill’s talk was titled, “The Last Frontier Texas Goes Nuclear.” He said the title was based on the surprise some people exhibit when they learn that Texas has gone nuke, and gone in a big way. “Two years ago I was bragging that Texas had all the oil and natural gas it needed to 12 The Texas Observer produce electricity,” Councill said. “But what a change two years make.” What a change, indeed, especially when one considers that utility companies are famous for their long range projections. Councill didn’t say what made CP&L decide it needed to buy into the Matagorda plant with Houston Lighting and Power and the San Antonio and Austin municipal utilities, but it’s a sure thing that there wasn’t serious public debate about the decision in Corpus Christi. Councill trotted out a public opinion survey CP&L did in March, 1973, throughout its service area. The survey indicated that given a choice of coal, oil, gas or nuclear power 49 percent of those polled said they preferred nuclear power. Only 17 percent opposed nuclear plants. Plans for the Matagorda plant were already well under way at the time of the poll. In November, 1973, CP&L did another survey, this one involving its own employees, a focus group of 300 persons throughout the service area, and 100 telephone interviews in seven cities in the area. Exactly what the confidence percentage of this survey is, statistics-wise, wasn’t disclosed, but it showed 60.8 percent in favor of going to nukes, and only 6.2 percent opposed. By November, CP&L had decided to include its nuclear pitch in a series of two-minute television spots. The nuke spot showed a helicopter flying over an innocuous-looking environmental tower raised over the Matagorda plant site. An announcer told viewers that nuclear power was a “tried and proven” power source. He failed to mention that last year nukes accounted for only 1 percent of the total power generated in this country, that the 1 percent has already accounted for an awful lot of radioactive waste no one can figure out what to do with, and that even though nuclear plants won’t blow up, they can be equally deadly in a quiet, sneaky way. This comes down to the core of what all those atomic flacks were doing here in Kansas City in a well air-conditioned meeting room in a new hotel that comes complete with its own waterfall. They were deciding to confront the nuclear critics \(whom they all characterized as mostly and completely. “Life in a goldfish bowl” was the overused metaphor used during almost every conference panel. The nuclear flacks were told that they have a valid product to sell and that they should confront critics openly and fearlessly. Hiding behind closed doors is no good, they concluded, since that would only allow their critics to go unanswered. Much head-shaking was done over the critics’ more spectacular and less-valid potshots. \(“We gotta tell the people the mention was made of problems like waste disposal and emergency core cooling systems. No one had any suggestions handling questions about nuclear waste, perhaps because no one has yet figured out any answers. Councill and CP&L didn’t tell the whole nuclear safety story to the public in their media splurge. In fact, he said they didn’t receive a single question about nuclear safety in the 3,000 responses they got to their television energy conservation pitch. Public relations men marveled at this their toughest problem doesn’t even exist as far as Councill is concerned. “You’ve got to have the good image,” Councill said. “Image is everything to our industry.” “I get the distinct impression,” the moderator of the conference said, “that things are in good hands in Texas.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER BOOKSTORE 600 W 7 AUSTIN 78701 The author is an environmental writer for a Kansas City newspaper.
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