WORLD FUTURE FUND
THE NEED FOR A MANHATTAN PROJECT
ON RENEWABLE ENERGY
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Since 1980 America has slashed its research funding for renewable energy by over 75%. It was part of a long series of missed opportunities in US energy policy going back to the failure to act on a presidential commission calling for more a major commitment to renewable energy back in 1953.
The results have been grim. The lack of safe renewable energy has forced the world to adopt energy policies that have totally disastrous environmental consequences. The crisis of climate change is a direct result of a lack of safe renewable ebergy sources. 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.
American dependence on foreign oil hit record levels although it has since pulled back. This "success" remains a question mark since it is dependent on a environmental destructive practices such as fracking.
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.
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.
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 (Bipartisan Policy Center)
SENATOR ALEXANDER'S ENERGY PLANS
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) has recently called for a "New Manhattan Project" for clean energy research and development in a 2020 budget hearing. His plan received backing from Energy Secretary Rick Perry on March 27th, 2019. Perry voiced support on Alexander's push to double spending on clean energy research across the Office of Science, which is largely presented as a climate change alternative to the more progressive Green New Deal.
"It's a step in the right direction," Perry said in response to a question from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on whether he supports Alexander's action plan. "Obviously without seeing all the crossed t's and dotted i's, I, generally speaking, don't mind going down the road with Lamar Alexander."(Alexander Senate Site)
Alexander has taken to the Senate floor to outline his vision of a five-year action plan to address 10 areas of clean energy that are needed to better unleash an energy technology future that aligns with the need for greenhouse gas emissions.
Watch Senator Lamar Alexander Senate Speech
Energy and Environment News: Perry backs 'New Manhattan Project' (Senator Alexander Official Site)
Perry backs 'New Manhattan Project' (E&E News Daily)
Alexander Offers “One Republican’s Response to Climate Change” (Senator Alexander Official Site)
Democrats back Republican Lamar Alexander's 'Green New Deal' alternative (Washington Examiner, 3-27-19)
US Sen. Alexander proposes ‘New Manhattan Project’ for clean energy (Oil and Gas Journal, 3-27-19)
On May 9th, 2008, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), also proposed a New Manhattan Project for clean energy research.
He told a gathering of scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory that “instead of ending a war, the goal will be clean energy independence – so that we can deal with rising gasoline prices, electricity prices, clean air, climate change and national security – for our country first, and – because other countries have the same urgent needs and therefore will adopt our ideas – for the rest of the world.”
“By independence I do not mean that the United States would never buy oil from Mexico or Canada or Saudi Arabia. By independence I do mean that the United States could never be held hostage by any country for our energy supplies.”
“In 1942, many were afraid that the first country to build an atomic bomb could blackmail the rest of the world. Today, countries that supply oil and natural gas can blackmail the rest of the world.”
His plan in 2008 also focused on doubling federal funding for energy research. He expressed an interest in new sources of cheap, clean energy to “raise family incomes at home, strengthen our economy and show the rest of the world how to reduce carbon emissions – because the rest of the world is where the carbon emissions problem has to be solved.”
Alexander Proposes “New Manhattan Project For Clean Energy Independence” (Senator Alexander Official Site)
TESTIMONY BY BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER