The world is still far away from practical alternative energy solutions, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu tells the New York Times. Chu says the world needs nobel prize level breakthroughs in science, but he is optimistic they could happen at any moment.
“I think science and technology can generate much better choices,” Dr. Chu said. “It has, consistently, over hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Dr. Chu said members of Congress who are drafting legislation to limit emissions of global warming gases had not yet sought his advice, although he added, “I would expect that they might.”
…Dr. Chu said reaching agreement on legislation to combat climate change would be difficult in the current recession because any scheme to regulate greenhouse gas emissions would probably cause energy prices to rise and drive manufacturing jobs to countries where energy is cheaper.
“The concern about cap-and-trade in today’s economic climate,” Dr. Chu said, “is that a lot of money might flow to developing countries in a way that might not be completely politically sellable.”
But, he said, he supports putting a price on carbon emissions to begin to address climate change.
As for another big issue, nuclear waste, Chu sees the political troubles confronting developing Yucca Mountain.
Last year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has the final say, began work on an application from the Energy Department for a licence for the project. Dr. Chu said the Energy Department should continue to answer questions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the application and then let the commission make a decision.
Dr. Chu would not say whether the department would open the site if allowed to do so. But, he said, “you can put a hold on” preparation.
The electric utilities, he noted, expected the department to live up to contracts signed in the 1980s for it to dispose of the nuclear waste.