Five Big Energy and Environment Ideas
Suggestions for the New Administration
November 23, 2008
Marry energy and environment
in the popular lexicon.
Make them sound like one word: "EnergyAndEnvironment." Never say one without the other. In every speech, every news briefing and news release, "energy and environment." It does three things:
- With respect to energy, it moves our consciousness away from carbon-based energy.
- With respect to environment, it moves our consciousness away from the tree-hugger mentality.
- It develops consciousness of the inseparability of energy and environment solutions.
At some point (later, after the usage becomes common) perhaps rename the department: Department of Energy and Environment.
An Energy and Environment Education Act
The Energy and Environment Education Act (EEEA) will be modeled on the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (NDEA) —but will be greater in scope. The primary EEEA initiative provides federal educational support at all levels, from kindergarten to post-post-graduate, to develop the physicists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers we need for energy and environmental research and development, now and in the coming decades. The secondary initiative trains the teachers we need to educate those scientists and engineers, developing better math and science skills in new and experienced teachers at every level, especially elementary and secondary. The NDEA provided more hardware than human assets, and specifically avoided curriculum. The EEEA should do it all.
A National Institute of Energy and Environment
The National Institute of Energy and Environment (NIEE) will be modeled on the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It will directly finance and operate major energy and environment research initiatives, will incorporate all existing federally supported energy and environment research, and will coordinate and support corporate and academic research and development. We just copy what NIH does so remarkably well.
NO NEW initiatives to develop
coal and oil resources
NONE. Industry is already doing that, and every dollar—every minute—every human resource applied to coal and oil robs us of those resources being applied to non-carbon energy development. Every gram of carbon we put into the atmosphere exacerbates the global warming crisis. Applying any new resources at all to carbon energy development is suicidal. And it's unnecessary. We are on the cusp of immense growth in non-carbon energy development. Much preliminary work has been done. Concentrated effort now, in non-carbon development, will produce the energy we need—likely as fast and as profusely as anything we could get from coal and oil.
Wind is probably the first priority for new efforts, and exemplifies why we should not spend anything on carbon-based energy. Money dedicated to wind today can produce jobs within six weeks and put energy on the grid within six months. And it can continue to yield results for years to come. Our chief obstacle is manufacturing capacity. But we face major manufacturing cutbacks in other areas. So, we do what we did in World War II; we convert manufacturing capacity from what we don't need to what we do need—from cars and dishwashers to turbines and towers.
Other non-carbon sources—solar electric, tidal, geo-thermal, nuclear fusion, etc, are further from application, but with dedicated effort, they can be brought on line in timely order—and they must be—some earlier, some later.
Massive development. Both passenger and freight. Now. Get as many as 2 million trucks off the highways, replaced by high speed, containerized freight rail. One train can haul as much freight as two hundred trucks, with vast savings in energy, carbon pollution and human resources. We could save 10 billion gallons of fuel per year, perhaps more. We'll provide extensive career re-development for the dislocated truck drivers, and employ them in the logistics, construction, technical and scientific jobs that must be filled if we are to solve the energy environment crisis. We'll build an entire new infrastructure for freight rail.
We'll also build a new and probably separate, or partially separate infrastructure for high speed, long distance, passenger rail. We get passengers out of the sky. With high-speed passenger rail, we replace an hour-and-a-half New York to Chicago flight (and three-and-a-half hours of ground transportation and waiting), with a three-and-a-half-hour rail trip, city-center to city-center.
And we replace a four hour New York to San Francisco flight (and its three-and-a-half hours of additional wasted time) with an overnight train trip, complete with a range of dining and entertainment options, full working facilities, and private, comfortable sleeping accommodations. An east coast business traveler will have a late dinner on the train, and arrive at a west coast, downtown destination at 8:00 or 9:00 AM, rested, fed, freshly briefed by her home office, and ready to work. That traveler will do a day's work in California or Washington State, board a train at 4:00 PM for a restful return trip, and be back at work in her east coast office before the stock market opens.
The motive force for rail can be all-electric or efficient diesel-electric. It will yield massive savings in carbon pollution, and a new rail system will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. If we apply money to it now, we'll create jobs almost immediately, and can have the first new trains on the rails within two or three years.