The American Physical Society, a leading organization of physicists, presses congressional leaders to increase research investments for future energy technologies that will strengthen energy security and reduce the likelihood of disastrous effects associated with fossil fuel exploration as evidenced by the BP oil spill.
The Gulf oil spill -- the worst in the history of the nation -- has caused extraordinary environmental and economic damage to the communities along the Gulf Coast. Out-of-work fishermen are wondering how they will provide for their families; oil-drenched birds are struggling to live; and globs of oil are washing ashore on area beaches causing tourists to look elsewhere for vacation.
Current technologies exist to begin the job of achieving true security. But to dramatically reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil and domestic drilling and to meet the nation's 2030 target to substantially reduce greenhouse gases, advanced technologies are needed. And that means a greater investment in long-term research.
The U.S. House cap-and-trade (Waxman-Markey) bill shortchanged that kind of research. The Senate must do better. Legislators should start by including in the bill the president's Clean Energy Technology Fund, an investment of $15 billion per year over 10 years to develop affordable, low-emission energy technologies.
Energy efficiency, an APS Study Panel concluded, is the easiest and least inexpensive way to significantly reduce the nation's demand for imported and domestic oil and its greenhouse gas emissions without causing any loss of comfort or convenience.
"Energy efficiency reduces demand, and energy we do not use costs nothing, emits nothing and does not pollute the Gulf," said Nobel Laureate Burton Richter, who chaired the APS energy efficiency study and authored the newly released book, "Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century."
Numerous technologies already exist to increase the efficiency of U.S. vehicles and buildings that will save consumers money. But, as the panel's report, Energy Future: Think Efficiency noted, realizing future gains, as with other energy technologies, will require a larger and better focused federal research and development program on energy efficiency than exists today.
The APS report also noted that consumers often are not provided with information that allows them to make informed decisions on energy consumption. The cap-and-trade legislation should include a provision to help consumers save money by requiring energy audits at the point of sale for new homes. The audits would give home buyers valuable information regarding energy efficiency upgrades to lower their utility costs.
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