Former Sen. George Allen talks to Cybercast News Service. (CNSNews.com) - Alarmism over global warming, if properly channeled, can help spur innovation, sharpen U.S. competitiveness, and re-adjust energy policy in sensible ways, former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) told Cybercast News Service in an interview.
Looking ahead, Allen envisions nanotechnology, advanced nuclear technology, clean coal, and natural gas incorporated into a new energy strategy that advances U.S. energy independence and allays environmental concerns.
Instead of adopting the regulatory-laden and expensive Kyoto Protocol to battle global warming, he said, the U.S. should better exploit its own resources at home while embracing new technologies.
A study from Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates, for instance, shows that Kyoto would cost the average American family $2,700 a year, while exerting marginal influence on global temperature. The overall cost to the U.S. economy would amount to at least $300 billion a year, the study concluded.
"Kyoto is just nonsense," said Allen. "The alarmist approach would throw people out of work, have us give up our cars and make us less competitive. These are counterproductive, harmful measures."
The alarmism can, however, push policymakers and industry officials to advance and expand existing energy technologies in practical and cost-effective ways, said Allen.
Vision for the future
Over time, batteries could become more feasible thanks to nanotechnology making fuel efficient hybrid vehicles a viable option in the marketplace, said Allen. (Nanotechnology concerns devices and technologies at the molecular level, such as polymers made at the molecular level and the design of computer chips.)
Another energy option is nuclear. It has "no impact on the atmosphere," Allen said.
While some members of the public and environmental groups maintain doubts that reach back to the Three Mile Island incident in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1979, important technology improvements have been made, he said. Furthermore, America can learn much from the nuclear power industries in France, Japan, and Sweden, said Allen.
As for Three Mile Island - the subject of the sensationalized movie "The China Syndrome" - there are a number of myths related to it that continue to distort the debate over energy policy, Mitch Singer, a media relations manager with the National Energy Institute (NEI) in Washington, D.C., told Cybercast News Service.
Even so, recent polling data show that more and more Americans are receptive to the idea of nuclear power as are some key environmental figures, such as Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore. In recent congressional testimony, Moore expressed strong support for nuclear energy as a viable, environmentally safe option.
But his sentiments are not widely shared by many of the current members of the liberal Greenpeace. This past May, the organization touted a report from an international team of energy and environmental experts who continue to raise questions about the merits of nuclear power.
There have been 200 cases of "near" accidents at U.S. reactors since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986, according to Greenpeace. Furthermore, in case of an accident, radioactive material could spread across 40,000 square miles, the group claims.
But critics are overlooking significant technology changes in recent years that make it possible for nuclear plants to be built on time and under budget, nuclear experts contend.
Adrian Heymer, senior director for new plant development at the National Energy Institute (NEI), told Cybercast News Service that recent upgrade projects were completed in an efficient and cost-effective manner, which bodes well for the future.
The energy bill that passed in 2005 helped to address some of the regulatory issues that have up until now held back nuclear power, said Allen.
Nevertheless, a mixed approach is needed to help resolve energy concerns, and the full promise of nuclear power is something that can only be realized over the long-term, he said.
America's over-reliance on oil from often unstable regions in the world is an intolerable situation that can be addressed, at least in part, by better exploiting domestic resources, Allen told Cybercast News Service.
"Why should we close off so much of our resources in this country, when other countries are allowing access?" he asked.
"One of the reasons we are losing so many manufacturing jobs in everything from plastics to fertilizers to forestry products and chemicals is because natural gas is a key cost for making those essential products for agriculture and so many other products. Other countries allow access to their natural gas. It is absolutely foolish that we don't," Allen added.
Counterproductive polices now preclude Virginia, for example, from exploring for oil and natural gas 50 miles off its coast, while Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is working in concert with Fidel Castro to explore just 45 miles off the coast of Florida, said Allen.
"If the federal government would just take its boot off our neck, Virginia and other states like Alabama and Mississippi could share in this revenue," he said. "Americans are not addicted to oil. They are addicted to freedom of movement."
Additional oil revenue could help Virginia and neighboring states in a variety of ways, said Allen.
"I'd rather have the money for roads, colleges, and Virginia sand replenishment than sending it to Hugo Chavez or other dictators," he said. "The demand is there. The question is, do we meet it by sending billions of dollars out of the country or keep it here?"
Myke Bybee, a public lands lobbyist with the Sierra Club, does not entirely disagree with Allen's points, particularly as they relate to the need for greater energy independence. But he does reject what he calls the "failed drill-it-all mentality" that stems from the oil and gas industry.
"What the pro-drilling folks don't tell you is that any drilling from the artic national wildlife refuge [in Alaska] would take at least 10 years to come online," he said. "Given the time for exploration, the inventory, and the eventual development of that area, not a single drop of oil would get into the transatlantic pipeline from the refuge for 10 years."
But the same environmentalists who claim it would take too long for oil drilling in Alaska to show appreciable results are themselves responsible for the delays, said Allen.
"We'd be getting oil out of there right now if it wasn't for all of the impediments they [the environmentalists] have put in place." Moreover, he said, the people of Alaska ardently support exploration.
"The area where the exploration would occur is only about the size of Dulles Airport," Allen said.
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