‘Issues’ Articles Widen Discourse on Energy Policy
Continued U.S. reliance on overseas oil and the new competitive threat in clean energy make it essential that Congress approve comprehensive energy legislation this year, writes U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico in the Spring 2011 Issues in Science and Technology.
His article is one of three energy policy articles in the latest issue of the award-winning journal of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the University of Texas at Dallas.
“The events that we have seen unfold in North Africa and the Middle East are stark reminders that the world is an unpredictable place,” Bingaman says. “But perhaps more important is the competitive pressure the United States is experiencing from other major world economic powers as they take a very leading role in clean energy markets.” China alone, he points out, invested $51.1 billion in clean energy in 2010, making it the world’s largest investor in this sector.
In another article in the Spring Issues, Nobel Laureate Burton Richter argues that the energy debate in recent years has suffered from a too-narrow focus on climate change. Also, he writes, “The emphasis on ultra-green technologies that are not yet ready for the big time has let the desire for the perfect drive out the available good.” He argues that we are pushing too hard on what is not ready, such as solar and wind power, and not hard enough on what is ready, such as natural gas, which emits far less greenhouse gas than coal.
In “The Smart Grid: Separating Perception from Reality,” Lawrence Makovich of IHS Cera writes about the widespread expectation in the United States and around the world today that the smart grid is the next big thing, a system that can help reduce the need to build new electric power plants and reduce electric bills. But the reality, he writes, is more sobering. Instead of a disruptive technology poised to transform the power sector, he argues, we should expect a more evolutionary change toward a “smarter” grid, with more modest results.
The Spring 2011 Issues in Science and Technology also includes articles on how overregulation of medical devices may be leading to a decline in innovation by medical device firms in the United States, the debate over whether climate change should be considered a national security issue, and President John F. Kennedy’s space legacy and its lessons for today.
Issues in Science and Technology is the award-winning journal of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the University of Texas at Dallas. www.issues.org
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