Issue Date: February 23, 2009
Energy Action Now
IT'S ENCOURAGING to read that science advisers will play a new and larger role in the Obama Administration (C&EN, Jan. 5, page 9). Steven Chu, the new secretary of the Department of Energy, has stated that climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed now. As a Nobel Laureate in physics and former director of the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Chu’s credentials will give weight to his energy proposals.
While recognizing the importance of research programs in the long term, we should promptly put into use existing techniques and programs that can reduce our carbon dioxide emissions in the near future. Many such actions can be part of the economic-stimulus program that economists and politicians agree must be undertaken promptly.
Congress should extend for several more years the tax credits for solar and wind power. The current two-year limit is insufficient to justify many investments. Congress should provide funds and mandate that DOE proceed promptly to finance several commercial installations of carbon capture and storage (CCS). With interest in plug-in autos growing, we need to be able to generate electricity with the 80–90% reduction of emissions that CCS offers. We have the technology for more efficient appliances and for buildings that require less fuel to heat and cool; Congress should mandate them. The bailout of the auto industry should require prompt and substantial mileage gains.
Even though some requirements may be painful, waiting for research to provide easy answers is no excuse for avoiding actions now.
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