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THE NEED FOR A MANHATTAN PROJECT

ON RENEWABLE ENERGY

(UPDATED 2016)


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Since 1980 America has slashed its research funding for renewable energy by over 75%.

The results have been grim.  American dependence on foreign oil hit record levels although it has since pulled back a bit.  It still remains near 50%.    (At the time of Pearl Harbor we were a net oil exporter.)

Meanwhile, the lack of safe renewable energy has forced the developing world to adopt energy policies that have totally disastrous environmental consequences.  A key cause of deforestation is the use of fuel wood for energy in many key Third World states.  This has had particularly grim results in arid areas, where there is little rain.   In China and India air pollution levels are far above minimum safe standards for human health.

Without a technological advance in renewable energy, it will simply not be possible for the poor nations of the world to develop in a safe and sustainable manner.  It will not be possible for the world to cut its carbon emissions without damaging economic growth.

Fortunately, there have been great technological advances in many areas in spite of a total lack of government leadership in America.  The cost of wind and solar power has dropped dramatically in recent years.

There is, thus, strong reason to believe that a major national commitment would produce desired results.

At the moment renewable energy makes up a tiny part of world energy production.  Without major efforts in government action this will not change due to hundreds of billions of dollars of  government subsidies to polluting energy technologies over the last 50 years.

In 1990 "expert" predictions said that only a tiny number of Americans would use the internet in the year 2000.  Obviously, these predictions were nonsense.

We have the most advanced technology the world has ever seen.  We have the money.  In light of the near total neglect of renewable energy research in the last 20 years there is every reason to believe that a major national effort would produce dramatic results.

The following steps are needed:

I.    REVIEW OF WHAT IS NEEDED

In order to make efficient use of government money there needs to be review of what is needed.  A key question should be the nature of government incentives.  Specifically,  how much should go to tax incentives and how much should to government funded research?

A key priority is battery research.  Solar could be the dominant form of energy if there was a better way to store the energy at night.

II.    PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP

The President needs to bring together major business leaders and seek information as to what is needed to mobilize business for this task.  The President must communicate to business in the strongest terms the urgency of this task and the commitment of the administration.

III.    PERMANENT EXECUTIVE FOCUS

Presidential focus must be continuous.  The appointment of a council on renewable energy in the White House might be a good idea.

IV.  ADEQUATE FUNDING

This is national security priority of the first order.  It should be treated as such in the government's budget.

CONCLUSION

People claimed that we could never win the Cold War.   When there is a mobilization of the national will, major achievements can be attained.  In the quest for a national and global renewable energy revolution, defeat is not an option.  This is something that must happen.  America needs to devote at least one billion dollars a year on this for the next ten years and make this a top national priority for both the public and the private sector.


SIGNS OF HOPE

While the official response from the US Government has been totally inadequate, there are signs of hope elsewhere.

The most important step forward has come from Bill Gates and other forces in business in 2015.   Bill Gates recently announced his plans for the 'Breakthrough Energy Coalition' at the climate change summit in Paris.

"We need to bring the cost premium for being clean down," Gates said Monday in an interview with CNN's New Day. "You need the innovation so that the cost of clean is lower than the coal based energy generation."

The fund represents billions in money to seed promising ideas in large-scale clean energy production. Gates has teamed up with other tech billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and many others to make this happen.

In this partnership, the group's members have committed to use a substantial portion of their hundreds of billions of dollars in collective net worth to invest in early stage clean energy companies.

They say they will fund startups in a range of industries, from agriculture to transportation to electricity storage. They’ll also focus the investments on the countries that are part of Mission Innovation—a consortium of 20 countries, including the US, that have committed to doubling their investment in clean energy over the next five years.

Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Tech Billionaries Team Up To Take On Climate Change (Wired, 11-30-15)

Bill Gates launches multi-billion dollar clean energy fund (CNN Money, 11-29-15)

The following organization also has some positive programs in terms of public policy research.

American Energy Innovation Council | America's Energy Future

 


RELATED DOCUMENTATION

OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESS IN DEFENSE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY FUNDING
 BY FORMER TOP MILITARY LEADERS
   (From 1999 but still relevant.)

Renewable Energy Internet Links


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