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Green Energy is the One

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Green energy should be our foremost focus. Image courtesy of Flickr user Loozrboy.

After President Obama’s State of the Union Speech, I blogged about his call for innovation and doing "big things," technologically speaking. He called attention to President Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the moon and many analysts have since done likewise. After going back and rereading the address, I get the feeling that he framed the challenge in an inspiring way that many would respond to. But then, when he got to the specifics, the address simply became a laundry list: energy, medicine, electronics, and other emerging technologies. 

Fostering increased innovation in the U.S. as a general principle is hard to oppose and I’m sure we’ll see a government-sponsored program to fund and encourage a wide range of innovations. But to do something big and inspiring with near-term impact you have to concentrate your efforts. That’s the message of the Moon Program. It was headed by a significant person (Vice President Lyndon Johnson); it assembled a broad team from industry, academia, and government; it got preferential funding; and it set a reasonably short-term, concrete target.

I argue the foremost focus should be on green energy, or more specifically, non-carbon producing energy. An open letter recently written by a group of distinguished scientists to all members of the 112th Congress reinforces the point. In it, they once again state that the data is clear: climate change is occurring, posing challenges to our economy, national security, and public health. Also it is driven by human activity, namely emissions of carbon dioxide. They use the analogy of our national debt: it seems like such a daunting problem that we are tempted to wish it away. But the longer we put it off, the more difficult that wish becomes as our carbon debt increases every year.

Of all potential areas for a new Moon Program, what could meet our most important objectives better than green energy? Developing and implementing non-carbon producing energy alternatives would build new industries and secure the future of existing ones. In addition, we would be addressing a moral imperative: the long term reduction of the impact of climate change on the world and its peoples.

Posted In: History | Policy

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