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The National Conversation on Alternative Energy

The national conversation on alternative energy sourcing is started and underway. If this conversation were a car, it would be sputtering along, backfiring occasionally, the engine running…but barely.

Still, it’s started! Al Gore did his country a tremendous service by moving this discussion towards the mainstream of political dialogue. I just heard part of a great discussion this morning on Tom Ashbrook’s NPR radio show, On Point. He interviewed several folks across the political spectrum, from rather more liberal, to conservative, to Tea Party, re what do we do now, since cap and trade is dead and unlikely to be revived anytime soon.

The liberal and conservative panelists were in basic agreement that what the U.S. needs to do is invest in basic energy research, to the tune of something like $25 billion per year. They pointed out that China already has underway a similar program which is funded at $75 billion annually. The Tea Party panelist, predictably, said that in this time of deficit we need to be cutting out spending, rather than funding another government boondoggle opportunity.

Nobody wants to throw money away, the other panelists replied: what we need is a de-politicized agency to run this program, something like the National Institutes of Health, or the National Science Foundation – or even the Defense Department’s research arm, DARPA. These agencies have been very successful in funding basic research that has ultimately been deployed in the private sector, to much profit and benefit to the country as a whole.

A caller to the show wanted to know where the benefit was from the $12 billion PER MONTH we’ve been spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An excellent point! To me, this seems like insanity.

I feel heartened this morning after listening to this conversation on NPR. Maybe the car is only sputtering at this point, but there are a lot of very smart and concerned people who are working to get it running more smoothly. (Perhaps it’s like there are fifty mechanics shouting at each other over how to get it fixed – but hopefully cooler heads will prevail!)

Listen to the show when you have a minute. Here’s a link to On Point. It’s the show that aired on Monday, October 18, 2010.

Oh, and send NPR a little contribution. They are a national treasure.

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