Jackson Browne Nails Nuke Power on Colbert

By Harvey Wasserman

Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne nailed the nuclear power industry on the Colbert Show Tuesday, September 23.  Browne is in New York touring for his new album "Time the Conqueror."  He is also suing the John McCain campaign for the illegal use of his "Running on Empty."  McCain placed the song as background in an attack ad against Barack Obama.  (For a full transcript and video, see

Browne is a long-time opponent of atomic energy.  In 1978 he joined Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie before 20,000 opponents of New Hampshire's Seabrook Nuclear Power at what was until that time the biggest demonstration against a reactor in U.S. history.  A year later he became an organizer of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) which sold out five nights of concerts in Madison Square Garden.  On the final day of the concerts, MUSE staged a rally at Battery Park City that drew 200,000 people, again the biggest crowd to ever attend a US anti-reactor demonstration.  Among those also performing were Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Crosby, Stills and Nash and many more.  A triple album that emerged from the concerts went platinum, and the Warner Brothers feature film "No Nukes" is still in video circulation.

Browne has continued to do benefit concerts for safe energy groups over the years.  In the fall of  2007 he helped form with Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash.  They  came together to oppose a proposed Congressional $50 billion loan guarantee package meant to fund new reactor construction.  After an October 23 media conference and lobby day in Congress, the bill was withdrawn, marking what may be remembered as a critical landmark turning point in the fight against nuclear power.  

This fall the nuclear industry came back to Congress with a "blank check" proposal for virtually unlimited loan guarantees to build new reactors.  But amidst the collapse of Wall Street's major financial institutions last week, that proposal was also withdrawn.  The reactor builders have thus far persuaded public service commissions in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas the force ratepayers to fund new reactor construction with raised electric bills.  But the projects may still need federal money, and public opposition is mounting there, as local electric bills have already begun to soar.  .  

After a "discussion" of McCain's use of Browne's "Running on Empty," Colbert raised the reactor issue:

Colbert: So, you're no fan of nuclear energy, are you?

Browne: No.

Colbert: What are your problems with nuclear energy, other than the fact that there might be an accident or a meltdown or fallout from a terrorist attack? Other than those three, 'cause I've named them -

Browne: Other than that, it can't pay for itself. It needs government subsidies, which basically will result in a sort of socialized corporatism that the American people would pay for and Wall Street would profit from -

Colbert: They're getting used to paying for things that Wall Street profits from.

Browne: Exactly.

Colbert: So I think it might be easier in the future, to sell that idea.

Browne: The problem is, they still don't know what to do with all the waste. They act as if, "Oh, we're gonna work that out in the next little while," but it's been 50, 60 years now -

Colbert: Why don't we just spread the waste evenly from state to state? Or do you have something againstmutants now?

Browne: Exactly.

Colbert: "Everybody should be accepted, except people with psychic power"?

Browne: That's it, that's it.