Renewables Should Receive $ Billions of Support in the U.S.

The federal and state governments in the United States should spend US$20 billion each year to purchase renewable energy, fuel cells, efficient automobiles and other technologies that are not fully commercial, according to two environmental groups.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-12-11 [] Direct subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency should be eliminated as the procurement program is implemented, according to the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research and Friends of the Earth. The procurement should operate consistently and reliably for at least one decade and preferably two, and tax breaks for plants that have been built or are under construction should continue. The energy plan proposed by President Bush will aggravate U.S. energy vulnerabilities, according ‘Securing the Energy Future of the United States: Oil, Nuclear, and Electricity Vulnerabilities and a post-September 11 Roadmap for Action.’ The document is designed to present an alternative approach to accomplish the same economic goals as Bush’s plan, but with fewer risks. “It is stunning that the Bush administration did not review its energy plan in light of the gaping vulnerabilities revealed by the September 11 attacks,” says Arjun Makhijani, author and president of IEER. “If the United States sticks to the course the Bush plan endorses, oil imports will double over the next 40 years. That is an invitation to major problems, given the tensions and instabilities in the Middle East.” The federal government should purchase $10 billion each year of renewable energy, efficient on-site electricity generation, highly efficiency motor vehicles, highly efficient heating and air-conditioning technology. The annual procurement should be based on a performance bidding process similar to that used for leasing tracts for oil and gas drilling. Another $10 billion per year of federal money should be given to state and local governments for their own similar procurement programs. “Tax breaks tend to keep the cost of technology high and retard progress,” says Makhijani. “Targeted purchases of energy efficient products and renewable energy over the next ten to twenty years can provide a strong stimulus to private research and development, help create a manufacturing base, make some cutting-edge technologies commercial, and rapidly reduce costs.” Natural gas should be regarded as the key transition fuel to a renewable energy future, and the central elements of supply is coupling renewable energy sources with hydrogen fuel, as well as development programs to couple hydrogen fuel with renewable biomass sources to obtain hydrocarbon feedstocks for industry. The report uses “vulnerability criteria” to evaluate energy proposals, noting that sudden disruptions of world oil markets and U.S. imports through terrorism or upheavals in the governments of petroleum exporting countries, attacks on nuclear reactors or spent fuel pools, “could create economic, health and environmental damage on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster.” It condemns the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor design that the Bush plan endorses which IEER says is immune to melt-down but could catch fire and spread radioactivity if attacked in a variety of ways. “One drunk with a rifle disabled the Trans Alaska Pipeline a few weeks ago,” adds FOE president Brent Blackwelder.”It is high time that our leaders begin to aggressively explore energy sources that are safe, resilient, and don’t have a bull’s-eye painted on them for terrorists.” In addition to strong support for renewables, the proposal calls for federal regulations to require that new cars achieve an average fuel efficiency of 100 miles per gallon by 2020, a phase out of nuclear power by 2030, a reduction of coal use by 90 percent by 2040, large-scale feed of wind power into electricity grids, creation of distributed grids in which highly efficient local power generation sources are combined with central station power plants, widespread use of high efficiency space heating and cooling technologies such as geothermal heat pumps in combination with local generation, and progressively more stringent carbon emissions standards for electricity generation. It also calls for a re-commitment by the U.S. to the Kyoto Protocol process, starting with a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 40 to 50 percent over the next four decades. “IEER’s plan is highly innovative in that it shows how we can achieve security and environmental goals simultaneously,” says Blackwelder. “Friends of the Earth will do all we can to help change the country’s energy path to the direction of this seminal work.”


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