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Ron Kirk talks America and nuclear energy

Stephon Johnson | 7/7/2014, 2:26 p.m.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency officially called for requiring the country's existing power plans to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The effort would help President Barack Obama address climate change, a priority of the administration in lip service but not in actual practice yet.

According to the EPA, states will have until June 2018 to submit final plans for complying with the rule, meaning some of the decisions would take place when Obama's no longer in office.

Ambassador Ron Kirk, who served in the Obama administration (as his U.S. Trade Representative and as the President's principal trade adviser, negotiator and spokes person on trade issues) is looking to help address energy in his own way.

Back in January, Kirk was named to Co-Chairman of Clean and Safe Energy (CASEnergy) Coalition. He's one of two national co-chairs along with former New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman.

Entergy is one of the members of the CASEnergy Coalition.

In his role, Kirk plans on advancing the Coalition’s message on the benefits of nuclear energy and its importance in the country's future energy portfolio.

"Part of our work, our mission, is that we celebrate Earth Day every day," said Kirk to the AmNews.

While working as a U.S. Trade Representative, Kirk helped oversee the approval of free trade agreements with nations like Panama, Columbia and South Korea.

But Kirk's life in the public sector started way before he made his way to Washington.

Kirk also served as the first African-American mayor of the city of Dallas from 1995 to 2001 where he also specialized in trade programs and trade missions. From overseeing the creation of new jobs (45,000) and investment in Dallas ($3.5 billion during his time there), Kirk's leadership also helped lower the city's crime rate to its lowest in over two decades. He also served as the Texas Secretary of State to Gov. Ann Richards and chaired the Texas General Service Commission.

Now with the CASEnery Coalition, Kirk spoke to the AmNews about the group's mission and how it plans on accomplishing it.

"We have, as our goal, to educate Americans about the unique role that nuclear energy plays in producing non-carbon emitting energy. It is the cleanest source of energy in our country's energy supply system. In the context of Earth Day, nuclear energy punches above its weight."

While reports have surfaced that CASEnergy is simply a front for the industry trade association the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which hired public relations firm Hill & Knowlton to create the coalition, Kirk pointed out what he felt was a neglected resource in nuclear energy and admitted that people are frightened by the concept.

"You have coal, fossil fuels, natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar," said Kirk. "Nuclear is 20 percent of the national energy base load, but we contribute 60 percent of the clean-air emissions and most Americans don't know that. What most Americans know about nuclear is a little mysterious to them, maybe even frightening."

"Nuclear energy is always operating. And is always at a low cost."

Low cost doesn't always mean safer, however, and Kirk understands that there's a lot of difficulty when it comes to advocating and promoting nuclear energy when Fukushima is still fresh in some American's minds.

"When I was mayor, we lived by one mantra: 'the truth is an option,' said Kirk. "We want to demystify some of the misinformation around nuclear energy. "

Some of that demystification includes going into neighborhoods and talking to businesses groups and environmental groups about nuclear energy's production process and contributions to clean air. Only time will tell if Kirk and CASEnergy are successful.