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Memo to the President-Elect (Part 1)

A clear and present need for nuclear energy expansion.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2008
Figure 2

4 are correct, GCC’s anthropogenic ( i.e., man-made) consequences might include: significant extremes in regional weather events, including droughts and flooding; rising sea levels due to polar ice caps and glaciers melting from the ocean warming; and habitat shifts leading to increased introduction and dispersal of serious diseases 5 and the damaging of foreign species beyond their present-day ranges. (See Sidebar: “Critical Facts for the President-Elect.”)

This administration will need to assume a significant leadership role in order to manage and mitigate consequences to the nation of the BAU future—one where we very well might see increases in both numbers and severity of epidemics, wars over rapidly diminishing resources, weather disasters of biblical proportions, and our citizens choking in the heat and pollution while struggling to find sufficient food and clean water. 6 This is the future of BAU resource depletion from an economy based on irreplaceable fossil fuels, one where we are reacting only to maintain some semblance of the status quo . However, if one agrees that creating a brighter future for America is preferable to the BAU scenario, then the following recommendations offer a roadmap for achieving the first steps.

National Energy Policy

The U.S. needs to develop and implement an integrated National Energy and Environmental Policy (NEEP) to address energy security 7 and environmental degradation arising from energy acquisition and consumption.

The NEEP should focus not just narrowly on ensuring domestic energy requirements are securely and economically met, but should appropriately consider the full range of related factors and issues—including national defense, climate change and other environmental concerns, transportation and its infrastructure, health care, housing and urban planning, agriculture, commerce and international trade. It will need to ensure that all available energy sources are used appropriately in the short-term, including improving domestic energy efficiency, even as the nation transitions to zero-emissions energy supplies.

The NEEP actively should support creating a more flexible, diverse, robust, reliable and higher capacity energy infrastructure. Further, this policy should give due consideration to our international allies and competitors, and serve as a blueprint for the world as a whole to emulate.

Finally, this policy needs to combine holistically the disparate, and often competing, domestic and international priorities into a comprehensive approach, and charge a single entity with carrying this out. As was done with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a single organization needs the authority and resources needed to develop and implement the NEEP.

An integral part of the NEEP should be a clear and strong commitment to using nuclear power, similar to the commitments of France and Japan, as the backbone of our power generation grid. Today, 104 commercial nuclear power plants supply about one-fifth of our electricity, while fossil fuels ( e.g., coal, natural gas and oil) are burned to produce about 70-percent of supplies (see Figure 2) . With some 5-percent of the world’s population, the United States consumes about one-quarter of all global energy resources, and produces about 22 percent of the global GHG total. 8 Committing to