Nation's Energy Future at Risk, National Lab Director Says

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Washington, D.C., July 27, 1999 — America must invest in its energy future now, Richard Truly, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory said today. Otherwise, he said, the nation could face supply shortages and fall behind foreign competitors.

Truly, speaking at the National Press Club's Newsmakers program, said that U.S. policy and research and development decisions should recognize that worldwide energy demand will outstrip the supply of fossil fuels in coming decades. To overcome this requires investment in a diverse set of energy options. Research and development of alternative energy technologies should be accelerated, he said, to ensure secure energy supplies and U.S. leadership in the future global energy economy.

"Now is not the time to pull back once again on our commitment to a strong energy efficiency and renewable energy program," Truly said.

To be an energy leader, the U.S. needs to be constant in its purpose; recognize the need for a variety of energy sources; be consistent in funding; and help new technology reach the market, he said.

"Unused technology," Truly said, "is useless."

Truly pointed to a wide array of successes in developing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Wind turbines can now produce electricity at the cost of about 4 to 6 cents a kilowatt-hour and, because of increases in efficiency and reliability, by the start of the next millennium nearly 200 million watts of PV panels will be shipped yearly for use across the globe. Laboratory scientists have made great strides in learning how to produce environmentally friendly hydrogen from sunlight and water and how to store it. Progress also has been made in bioenergy, the use of plants to produce fuels, chemicals and other products.

But this progress is at risk, Truly said. Without a commitment to continued research and development of energy from the sun, wind and plant life, the potential of clean, never-ending supplies of energy won't be realized. And without a commitment to bring those technologies to market, the science will go wasted. Vice Admiral Richard Truly (retired), former NASA administrator and astronaut, became director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in May 1997. NREL, located in Golden, Colo., is the nation's premiere laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research, development and deployment. The laboratory is operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by Midwest Research Institute, Battelle and Bechtel.

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