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Energy studies proposed to cool greenhouse.

Energy studies proposed to cool greenhouse

To confort the threat of a greenhouse warming, the federal government should substantially increase its support for research into energy conservation and the use of renewable energy resources such as solar power and wind, a panel of experts concludes in a report issued last week.

The National Research Council panel suggests boosting these efforts by an additional $300 million, which amounts to about 20 percent of the current budget for energy-related research and development. It recommends obtaining such funds from money earmarked for research into magnetic fusion and fossil-fuels development.

The panel also suggests that the government consider a more intensive, multibillion-dollar effort in energy research, which the nation could adopt if concerns about greenhouse-gas emissions grow in the future. These funds would go toward developing emissions-reducing technologies not economically viable at present.

As a first step, though, the panel recommends pursuing energy research that will both reduce emissions and address some unrelated concerns such as national security. Enhancing studies on conservation and renewable energy would not only help cut emissions but also reduce U.S. dependency on foreign fuels, notes panel chairman David L. Morrison of the MITRE Corp. in McLean, Va.

During the 1980s, while oil prices dropped considerably, federal funding for renewable-energy R&D declined by 89 percent, and support for conservation programs dropped by 61 percent. "Current funding for alternative-energy R&D in the United States is not sufficient to address the problem of achieving major reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions," the panel concludes.

While many conservation groups welcome the recommendations, the new report has drawn criticism from some energy analysts. "Advocating more research is not, in my view, the primary way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions," says James MacKenzie, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C. MacKenzie contends that the government must ensure that industry and the public adopt energy-efficient, low-pollution technologies. "There's a lot available now. We're incorporating some of it now, but we could be doing much better."

MacKenzie also warns against spending too much on federal research without stimulating research by private companies.
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Author:Monastersky, Richard
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 8, 1990
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