Issue Date: March 31, 2008
I APPRECIATE the Government Insights "farewell" article by Bette Hileman for presenting a collection of insight and wisdom on the issues of solar and wind energy (C&EN, Feb. 18, page 35). The views expressed and cited in it represent an intellectual jewel in the crown, since solar and wind technologies have been demonstrated as having the best potential to replace a significant portion of fossil fuels. Furthermore, these two renewable energy fields can be technologically feasible and economically practical for large-scale implementation should we have a prudent energy policy that encourages a steady transition to an energy-independent society.
Unfortunately, it is disappointing to see that solar energy research will receive decreased funding in the Department of Energy's 2009 budget, down 7% from 2008 (C&EN, Feb. 18, page 32). Given the looming imbalance between human needs and all the resources available on Earth, the daunting challenges we face today are unprecedented in history. While one can argue that there are still abundant coal reserves, the actual timeline may be getting shorter now based on the latest discovery of the unexpectedly accelerated melting of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (C&EN, Jan. 21, page 9) and the most recent record-high oil price at above $100 per barrel. A sense of genuine urgency matched with a national—and international—plan of solutions is indeed long overdue.
The federal government-and the world community, for that matter-has an obligation to increase funding and to provide more incentives to the research, development, and deployment of renewable-energy technology, with more focus on solar and wind. This vital investment, if made in time and in proper magnitude, would not only help yield endless dividends in the long run but also strengthen U.S. technological leadership in the 21st century. And, ultimately, it is going to make human civilization eternally sustainable.
According to an ancient saying, "With no foresight into the future, one is bound to find trouble at hand." Let's not forgo our future even if we can still make do today.
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