Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 271: Energetic make-over

I remember being confused sitting in the parking lot of 232 Energy Way in Las Vegas, NV last October. We were about to tour the Nevada Test Site, the national testing ground for atomic weapons, and planted in landscaping outside the building was a sign displaying the words "Department of Energy". This was the beginning of my understanding that the Department of Energy sometimes, often, has done the work and supplied the budget for programs that could fit easily, and perhaps more appropriately, under the title of the Department of Defense. If it is nuclear-related, it probably started within the Department of Energy. This legacy dates back to the department's original name, the Atomic Energy Commission. The AEC was established, almost desperately, to find a use for nuclear power after World War II that everyone all could feel good (better) about. After several decades and name changes- The Department of Energy lives on. In actuality, this Department is billed with supplying energy and power to our nation and is not predicated on being nuclear centric at all.

After reading an article in the Times this morning, I feel certain that The Department of Energy might as well be renamed the Department of Nuclear Waste. This name seems apt unless something changes soon. Rather than resolving the nation's urgently outstanding issue of nuclear waste, or using even half of the budget to explore alternative energy sources, the current Department of Energy actively cultivates of a wasteful legacy by expending massive amounts of natural and monetary resources to create MORE nuclear weapons and MORE nuclear waste. It was shocking to read in the Times that The Department of Energy's budget is fully stacked in the favor of the nuclear, "$135.4 billion spent on energy research and development from 1948 to 2005 (in constant 2004 dollars), more than half, or $74 billion, went to nuclear energy, while fossil-fuel programs received a quarter, or $34.1 billion. The leftovers went for alternatives, with renewables getting $13 billion, or 10 percent, and energy efficiency $12 billion, according to a Congressional Research Service report written in 2006."

The only good thing about this news is that it is being shared within a call for change. The Obama Administration does NOT seem attracted (thankfully!) to growing the nuclear industry. It is indeed time for seeking alternatives and finally sorting out the ridiculously intertwined budgets of Energy and Defense.

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