Town Hall Meeting about Role of National Laboratories in Energy Policy
October 31, 2008
The University of New Mexico at Los Alamos hosted an open town hall meeting recently to discuss the role of the national laboratories located in New Mexico in a forthcoming new national renewable energy policy and strategy. There was a lively discussion between the panelists and an audience of about 70 people. The meeting was hosted by Dr. Cedric Page, Executive Director of University of New Mexico Los Alamos, ecological economist Miro Kovacevich, MBA, and Santa Fe green business advocate Matthew Ellis.
Kovacevich is president of Vivilux, www.vivilux.net, an energy and economic policy advocacy organization based in Santa Fe, and one of the forces behind renewable energy projects in the Espanola Valley. He presented a new national renewable energy policy based on the need to move quickly to address the urgent problems the country is facing. The main focus was to enlist the national laboratories in addressing the energy storage problem. He asked for a commitment that encompasses the efforts put forward for the Manhattan Project, as well as that for the Apollo Project combined with the interstate highway project launched by President Eisenhower in the 1950s. He asked whether the national laboratories could solve the storage problem within the next 10 to 12 years.
The discussion focused on four main questions, which are as follows:
(1) As it becomes increasingly apparent that our nation must move toward greater energy independence through the serious development of renewable energy sources and systems, what part shall these two centers of excellence in research, science, engineering and technology play in creating applied solutions to our most pressing energy needs?
(2) How can our national labs lead in such a mission?
(3) LANL and Sandia are major attractors of federal funding, and thus major economic drivers for New Mexico. What do New Mexicans expect from their labs with a change of administration and policy in Washington DC? and
(4) What role can the labs play in a renewable energy-based national and global economic recovery?
Marlene Perrotte, of Albuquerque, suggested that something would have to give in terms of changing the mission of the laboratories. She questioned what would happen with the funding for nuclear weapons. Bill Tumas, the director of LANL's applied energy programs, explained how the national security mission will remain a priority and that energy fits into that mission. He said, "Energy is national security."
Kovacevich explained that the core mission of nuclear weapons should continue to be funded while adding three times that amount for renewable energy research, or approximately $7 billion. He explained that the crisis is such that we have to look ahead at not just seven generations, but 350 generations.
In order to move forward, Tumas explained that public support is essential. Currently there is no direct federal funding for renewable energy at LANL. Tumas said, "I'm a big fan of societal pull. The hard, cold facts are - if we need it, we have to want it."