Top U.S. Scientists Back Greater Use of Renewables

More than 300 top scientists in the United States have signed a letter to encourage more research into renewable energy technology.

BOSTON, Massachusetts, US, 2001-05-29 [] “The cost of electricity from wind turbines and photovoltaics has plummeted in the last two decades, making power from these systems increasingly cost-competitive with conventional sources in some regions of the country,” says the open letter published by ‘Scientists for a Sustainable Energy Future.’ “Compared to oil and coal, renewable energy produces small amounts of the pollutants that presently impair the health of people, degrade our lakes and forests, lower crop yields, and damage buildings, bridges, and other structures. Most notable is their near absence of greenhouse gases, pollutants that contribute to climate change.” Members of the group are natural and social scientists who study energy and the environment, and signed the letter “out of grave concern with the turn the nation’s energy policy has taken,” they explain. “The current direction of the nation’s energy policy is inconsistent” with the large body research on energy that has been developed since the OPEC energy crisis of 30 years ago. The emphasis placed by President George Bush on conventional forms of energy is “misplaced and, ultimately, counterproductive,” they explain. The United States produces less than half of the oil it consumes, and that level will drop to 35 percent by 2020, defeating the goal of any policy to encourage domestic oil extraction and raising prices and hurting the economy. “Nuclear power faces formidable obstacles” including the expense and the high level of radioactive waste. “These are high costs to impose on future generations,” and the letter states that funding to increase technological, economic, environmental and public safety problems of reactors “should not come at the expense of an aggressive campaign to develop energy conservation and renewable energy sources.” “The efficient use of energy must be front and center in our energy future,” but the group notes that “energy efficiency and conservation are painted as a return to the Stone Age, conjuring images of people huddling in the cold of their living rooms in front of lifeless TVs.” “A lot of misinformation has obscured the scientific research” on climate change, and the group says the “overwhelming majority” of scientists conclude that the earth is warming faster than in the past and that human use of energy produces most of the greenhouse gases that contribute to this warming. “The costs of adjusting to a warmer world could be large and unpredictable, and they would be disproportionately borne by the poorer nations.” “We are now viewed internationally as an environmental pariah” because of the government decision to reject the Kyoto protocol on GHG reductions, and the U.S. “must face its responsibility by engaging the international community on the climate change issue, and by reducing our emission of greenhouse gases.” “This means more energy from natural gas, renewable hydrogen and geothermal sources, and less coal and oil,” it adds. “Above all it calls for an accelerated development and adoption of energy conservation and renewable technologies.” “There has been a lot of talk in Washington about the need for renewables and conservation, but action seriously lags behind the rhetoric,” concludes the letter. “The budget submitted to Congress last month calls for a large cut in funding for these technologies while proposing greater incentives for conventional fuels. This would speed us in the direction opposite from one that would improve our energy security, reduce pollution, help stabilize the earth’s climate, and maximize our economic flexibility. We urge you to join us in the campaign for a sensible and sustainable energy future.” Signatories to the letter include a large number of scientists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences.
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