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A ‘Manhattan Project’ for energy?

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A physics professor and renewable energy advocate says the federal government should launch a massive campaign to meet rising energy demands and deal with global warming.

Martin Hoffert, a researcher and a professor emeritus at New York University, said Thursday that the effort should be on the scale of the Manhattan Project, which developed the country’s atomic bomb, or the NASA program that put astronauts on the moon.

“They would have the goal of developing the technologies that could become cost-effective and could run our high-tech civilizations sustainably,” Hoffert said in the opening speech of a two-day land-use conference at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.



“Our civilization is not going to make it past this century if we don’t solve the climate problem,” he said.

Hoffert said the next president should elevate the energy secretary to the same status as the defense secretary, drawing applause from the crowd of about 500.




“Energy is a really key issue and I think there might have been one or two questions in the (presidential) debates about this,” Hoffert said. “We have to change that.”

He and nearly 40 other experts sent a letter late last year to Congress and President Bush, saying the country should spend at least $30 billion a year on developing energy efficiency and “affordable carbon-neutral energy.”

That’s less than half of what’s spent in military research and development, according to the letter, signed by three Nobel laureates.

Hoffert supports forming an energy-oriented version of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s research arm started in 1958 after the Soviets launched Sputnik.

Government took the lead on such advances as lasers, radar, satellites and the Internet, Hoffert said. Government should focus the same kind of attention on meeting the world’s escalating demand for energy and problems caused by fossil fuel’s greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

There should also be a “brain trust” from government, business and other areas advising the energy secretary.

“I believe it’s a legitimate function of government to do this since it’s in the national interest and the international interest for our civilizations to survive,” Hoffert said.

And there’s no single solution, he added. Hoffert sees three primary options: clean-coal plants, which capture the carbon dioxide; safer, “greener” nuclear power plants; and renewable energy, which he favors.

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute conference at DU runs through Friday.

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