Roundtable tackles sustainable energy policy

September 4, 2008 9:09:39 PM PDT
Weening America off oil dependency is a key part of almost anyone's energy strategy. Thursday in Berkeley, top scientists and engineers gathered to help map out an alternative energy policy for the president and Congress.

They are a virtual who's who from the world of energy research, tapped by the National Science Board to help shape the country's development of sustainable energy. We see signs all around us of green technology, but the message was clear that federal spending must be increased to foster innovation and new alternatives.

"We are investing a few billion dollars at most at the federal level. This is into the energy sector, which is a $1 trillion industry in this country, so a few billion -- a trillion dollar industry -- it's a simple mismatch," said Dan Kammen, director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment.

Vinod Khosla is one of the country's top venture capitalists with a focus on funding alternative energy. He believes oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia should be helping to fund research and development in sustainable energy.

"They have trillions of dollars in their wealth funds. They've taken all this oil money from us. They're in the best position to invest in this new infrastructure," said Khosla.

The co-chair of the task force says educating the public about funding research will be important. Tax dollars will be needed to support projects to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.

"It's not a trade-off of making an investment and having to give something up, but rather making an investment and getting some very tangible return on that investment," said Dan Arvizu, Ph.D., co-chairman of the task force.

Benefits might include the creation of new green technology jobs and the sale of innovative technology to places like China and India, which are both facing energy challenges.

This now wraps up three roundtables held this year across the country. The task force will now prepare a preliminary report to give to the president and the Congress right after the first of the year.


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