Harry Reid's Power Plays

Sometimes, it's good to be Harry Reid. You get to announce that the Department of Energy is loaning your state $350 million to create a geothermal power plant, which draws energy from water heated deep in the earth. It also creates jobs! (OK, not too many jobs, but 330 temporary construction jobs and more than 60 permanent jobs.)

Also, your former staffer now chairs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and can help derail that pesky and unpopular Yucca Mountain project.

A report from the NRC's inspector general says that this staffer, Gregory Jaczko, did not break any laws, but kept information from his fellow commissioners that would have clued them into the impact of a budget guidance directive he had issued. The directive told staffers that since Congress hadn't passed a FY11 budget, they should look for guidance to the president's budget, which argued Yucca Mountain should not go forward. Kimberley Strassel at The Wall Street Journal also thinks that Jaczko kept a vote in favor of Yucca Mountain quiet so that his former boss could win re-election.

Neither of these policies are unworthy on the surface. Geothermal power is extremely climate-friendly: The DOE claims the project will keep the country from producing nearly 580,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. And Yucca Mountain is not necessarily the best place to dump spent nuclear fuel. But we need to dump it somewhere, and if Harry Reid were not Senate majority leader (and if Nevada hadn't been such an important Obama '08 target), there's a stronger chance Nevada would have been it.