I find it ironic that a nation that rose to greatness based on its technological innovation and imagination is willing to settle for a tired, unimaginative and outdated energy status quo (“An Energy Call To Arms,” Oct. 2001, p. 3).
While the answer to this nation’s energy needs must obviously be broad-spectrum, I am disappointed that the editorial arrived back at the same tired old non-solutions that have done nothing so much as set Americans at each others throats for 30 years: coal and nuclear.
As a resident of Los Alamos, with its national laboratory, I know well the deep concern many scientists here feel about global warming, especially as a national security and environmental issue. To them, the debate over whether it is happening is ancient history. The only point of contention is to what degree human activity is causative. Most agree we should err on the side of caution and assume the cause to be human in origin, since a wait-and-see attitude could be profoundly dangerous. That said, I believe heavy reliance on coal, unless it can be made a “clean” energy source, is irresponsible.
Granted, because of the need to reduce fossil fuels consumption, nuclear, despite the legacy in wastes it will bequeath to future generations, is something we must turn to in some measure.
But I find it profoundly disturbing that fuel cell technologies, which here at Los Alamos have been ready to go for five years or more, do not even get mention. These await only a national commitment to install the necessary infrastructure and car manufacturers willing to make them. They will rewrite the book on fuel efficiency and air pollution emissions. The fact that they will also knock the bottom out of the fossil fuels industry as it exists today is obviously the reason why they remain largely gathering dust on shelves rather than powering this nation’s new generation of automobiles and a new move toward energy independence.
Only when we decide national security, environmentally and strategically, are more important than the value of coal stocks or Exxon shares, will we return to the type of engineering leadership and innovation that made America great.
Los Alamos, NM