Sunday, June 18, 2006
Scientists call for Manhattan Project on Energy
Looming energy crisis requires new
'Manhattan Project': US scientists
by Zachary Slobig Fri Jun 16, 12:27 PM ET
The United States urgently needs an effort similar to the Manhattan Project or NASA's moon mission to confront a looming energy crisis, according to scientists at a high-level energy conference.
Soaring global demand for energy and rapid depletion of resources need to be addressed by a long-term government-led project similar to the World War II-era effort to develop an atomic bomb, University of Southern California scientist Anupam Madhukar said at the annual National Energy Symposium on Thursday.
"A sense of urgency is needed like the Manhattan Project or sending a man to the moon," Madhukar said.
But the scientists spoke of the difficulty of a paradigm shift in the way the United States addresses its energy needs to fend off an energy crisis on the order of the 1970s, scientists and politicians at the symposium said.
They agreed that it would take 50 years to shift energy consumption policies in a more sustainable direction, pointing at how, for most of the 1800s, the United States relied on wood for its energy needs.
After forests were depleted, it took half a century for the country to make the shift to coal, and it will take just as long to shed what President George W. Bush has called "our addiction to oil," according to scientists.
"There has never been a year in history when we have used less energy than the year before, and it would be optimistic to think that we could reverse that trend," said Nathan Lewis, professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology.
[Nathan Lewis is the speaker in this most excellent streaming video presentation:
Powering the Planet: Where in the World Will Our Energy Come From?
While you are there, you should also watch:
Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil,
[Back to our story excerpt:]
Scientists said that to keep up with demand, the country must diversify its energy portfolio by developing technologies in natural gas, biofuel and nuclear, wind and solar power.
Madhukar stressed the urgent need for a concerted state-led effort at diversification.
"Clearly, all possible sources must be pushed to their limits," he said, emphasizing the need for expansion of solar energy in the country's mix. . . .
Analysts agreed at the energy symposium that any tangible change in energy policy will require firm governmental leadership. But some believe that conservation is also driven by localized responsibility.
"Just look at this room," said Debbie Cook, a city council member from Huntington Beach, just south of Los Angeles.
"There's a gas fire in the fireplace in the middle of June and a tremendous amount of unnecessary lights hanging from the ceiling."
"Energy is the engine of growth for civilization," said Lewis. "It is the currency of the world." Scientists just believe the United States is squandering this currency.