A new study found that the U.S. can eliminate almost all of its CO2 emissions by the year 2050 without the use of nuclear power. The study, entitled Carbon-Free and Nuclear Free: a Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy was produced by the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that a global reduction of 50 to 85 percent in CO2 emissions is needed to reasonably limit temperature rise. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which the US ratified, places greater responsibility on developed countries to reduce their emissions. Given this, the Roadmap estimate that the United States will have to eliminate 88 to 96 percent of its CO2 emissions.
In order to meet these goals, the Roadmap shows how technologies can be combined to create a reliable electricity and energy system entirely from renewable sources of energy. In particular, the study addresses wind power, solar power and biofuels. Nuclear power is not a viable solution to achieve these goals because it perpetuates vulnerabilities and insecurities in the energy system and exacerbates the problem of nuclear waste. It brings the additional risks of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and serious accidents.
The U.S. has a vast untapped resource in wind and solar energy. According to the Roadmap, North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska each have wind energy potential greater than the electricity produced by all 103 U.S. commercial nuclear power plants. Solar energy is even more abundant, solar cells installed on rooftops and over parking lots can provide most of the U.S. electricity supply. Recent advances in lithium-ion batteries are likely to make plug-in hybrid cars economical in the next few years.
The Roadmap found that biofuels could be crucial to the transition to a zero CO2 economy, however they may cause damage in other areas, such as increased cost of food production and possibly be harmful to the environment.
Hand in hand with technological improvements and developments are strong policies which require a reduction in emissions. The Roadmap recommends a hard cap on CO2 emissions by large fossil fuel users which would be reduced to zero in 30 to 50 years. In addition, the Roadmap supports an elimination of subsidies for nuclear power, fossil fuels and biofuels made from food crops such as Corn ethanol.
Dr. Arjun Makhijani, author of the study and president of the IEER, said, "We can solve the problems of oil imports, nuclear proliferation as it is linked to nuclear power, and carbon dioxide emissions simultaneously if we are bold enough."
The reportŐs executive summary is available on IEER's website at www.ieer.org. It will be published as a book by RDR Books in the fall of 2007.
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