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[GreenYes] An Open Letter to the American People

Scientists for a Sustainable Energy Future

An Open Letter to the American People

May 18, 2001

Dear Fellow Citizens,

We are natural and social scientists who study the
connections among energy, the environment, and
society.  We write to you out of grave concern with
the turn the nation's energy policy has taken. 
Decisions taken today about the supply and use of
energy have far reaching implications for our
economicprosperity and for the health of our
environment.  Since the first
"energy crisis" almost thirty years ago, a large body
of research in the nation's universities, national
laboratories, think tanks, and private sector has
produced large advances in our understanding of energy
issues.  We would like to share some of this
information with you because the current direction of
the nation's energy policy is inconsistent with much
of this work.

Conventional forms of energy have grabbed the policy
spotlight in recent months, but this emphasis is
misplaced, and, ultimately, counterproductive.  We
produce slightly less than half of the oil we consume;
by 2020 we will produce just 35 percent.
Can a policy to encourage domestic oil extraction
reduce dependence on imported oil and maintain the
price of gasoline and home heating oil at reasonable
levels?  The simple answer is no, because the domestic
oil resource base is depleted to the extent that large
investments in drilling cannot generate a
commensurate increase in oil supply. Extraction and
proven reserves of oil have dropped considerably since
their peaks in 1970 despite a massive drilling
campaign in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Because
domestic oil sources are more costly than overseas
alternatives, incentives to encourage exploration and
development will hurt the economy in the same way they
did 20
years ago when the oil price shocks produced record
rates of drilling.  A large diversion of capital
investment and profits to the oil industry ensued, but
oil extraction continued to decline, as it has to this
day.  There is every reason to believe that the same
scenario will play out if political decisions are made
to promote domestic extraction.

Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  to oil
exploration will not improve our energy security, nor
will it have any impact on the price of gasoline.  The
economically recoverable amount of oil in the Refuge
is just 152 days of supply for the nation. More
importantly, if we started drilling in the Refuge
today, the Department of Energy projects that by 2020
it could supply 1.4 million barrels per day.  By then
world oil production will be in the range of 100
million barrels per day.  The Refuge would amount
to about 1 percent of global oil supply, and thus have
a trivial influence on the ability of oil exporters to
influence prices.

Nuclear power faces formidable obstacles.  Experience
of the last several decades has shown that electricity
from nuclear power plants is an expensive form of
power when all public and private costs are
considered.  Nuclear power generates high level
radioactive wastes that remain hazardous for thousands
of years and increase the likelihood of nuclear
proliferation. These are high costs to impose on
generations.  Even with improved reactor design, the
safety of nuclear plants remains an important concern.
 Can these technological, economic, environmental, and
public safety problems be overcome?  This remains an
open question. Further public support to help resolve
these issues should not come at the expense of an
aggressive campaign to develop energy conservation and
renewable energy sources.

Conservation must be front and center in our energy
future. Unfortunately, energy conservation is painted
as a return to the Stone Age, conjuring images of 
people huddling in the cold of their living rooms in
front of lifeless TVs.  But in reality, just the
opposite is the case.  In the last twenty years some
of the country's best scientists and engineers  have
produced great innovations in the efficient use of
energy.  Cars that get 70 or more miles per gallon,
appliances that use half the energy they
did ten years ago, lighting fixtures that last for
years at a fraction of the energy cost, and new homes
that heat and cool with modest amounts of  energy are
proven winners in energy and economic terms.  Just a 3
mile-per-gallon increase in the fuel efficiency of
SUVs alone would reduce U.S. oil consumption more than
the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could
A study by five national laboratories concluded that a
government-led efficiency program emphasizing research
and incentives to adopt new technologies could reduce
the growth in electricity demand by as much 47
percent.  This would drastically reduce our need to
build new power plants.

Many forms of renewable energy have enjoyed equally
impressive advances.  The cost of electricity from
wind turbines and photovoltaics has plummeted in the
last two decades, making power from these systems
increasingly cost-competitive with conventional
sources in some regions of the country. Compared to
oil and coal, renewable energy produces small amounts
of the pollutants that presently impair the health of
people, degrade our lakes and forests, lower crop
yields, and damage buildings, bridges, and other
structures.  Most notable is their near absence of
greenhouse gases, pollutants that contribute to
climate change.

On the subject of climate change, a lot of
misinformation has obscured the scientific research. 
We want you to know these important and irrefutable
facts.  The overwhelming majority of scientists who
study climate change have concluded that (1) the
Earth is warming much faster than it has in previous
centuries for which we can measure temperature change,
and (2) human use of energy produces most of the
greenhouse gases that contribute to this warming.  In
other words, climate change is real and directly
related to present patterns of energy consumption. 
The costs of adjusting to a warmer world could be
large and unpredictable, and they would be
borne by the poorer nations.  Energy use in American
homes, cars and factories has been a large source of
greenhouse gases.  We believe that this places a
burden on the U.S. to lead the international effort to
curb the release of these pollutants. Instead we have
done just the opposite, thumbing our nose at the Kyoto
Protocol, the international agreement to limit
greenhouse  gas emissions.  As a result, we are now
viewed internationally as an envronmental pariah.  The
U.S. must face its responsibility by engaging the
international community on the climate change issue,
and by reducing our emission of greenhouse gases. 
This means more energy from natural gas, renewable
hydrogen and geothermal sources,  and less coal and
oil.  Above all it calls for an accelerated 
development and
adoption of energy conservation and renewable

We also must lead the effort to help less fortunate
nations find and fund the path of development that
improves their quality of life with minimal
de-stabilization of the Earth's climate.

There has been a lot of talk in Washington about the
need for renewables and conservation, but action
seriously lags behind the rhetoric.  The budget
submitted to Congress last month calls
for a large cut in funding for these technologies
while proposing greater incentives for conventional
fuels.  This would speed us in the direction opposite
from one that would improve our energy, security,
reduce pollution, help stabilize the Earth's climate,
maximize our economic flexibility.  We urge you to
join us in the campaign for a sensible and sustainable
energy future.


*Member of the National Academy of Sciences

David Ackerly Stanford University
Julian Agyeman Tufts University
Mowafak Al-Jassim The National Renewable Energy
Gerard Alleng University of Delaware
Bill Anderson Boston University
Clinton J. Andrews Rutgers University
James R. Appleby, Jr.
Edward Arens
Jelle Atema Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole
Gobind  H. Atmaram Florida Solar Energy Center
Robert Ayres INSEAD, France
Irisita Azary California State University
John A. Baker Clark University
Carol Barford University of Wisconsin-Madison
Richard Bawden Michigan State University
Tim Beach Georgetown University
David Beal Florida Solar Energy Center
Linda R. Berg St. Petersburg Junior College
Alan R. Berkowitz Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Jon R. Biemer Bonneville Power Administration
Steven M. Block Stanford University
R. Gordon Bloomquist Washington State University
John J. Boland The Johns Hopkins University
Roger E. Bolton Williams College
Stephen M. Born University of Wisconsin, Madison
Abhijeet Borole University of Tennessee, Knoxville
James K. Boyce University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Allison Breeze The National Renewable Energy
Daniel A. Bronstein Michigan State University
Tommy L.  Brown Cornell University
Halina Brown Clark University
Mark T.  Brown University of Florida
Louis L. Bucciarelli Massachusetts Institute of
Frederick H. Buttel University of Wisconsin
John Byrne University of Delaware
C. Ronald Carroll University of Georgia
James E. Christensen The Ohio State University
Jeffrey E. Christian
Richard W. Clapp Boston University School of Public
Cutler J. Cleveland Boston University
Robert S. Cole The Evergreen State College
David C. Coleman University of Georgia
Kerry H. Cook Cornell University
Robert  Costanza University of Maryland
Martine Culty Georgetown University
James B. Cummings Florida Solar Energy Center
Gretchen C. Daily Stanford University
Herman E. Daly University of Maryland
Roger Dargaville Ecoystem Dynamics and the Atmosphere
Brynhildur Davidsdottir Boston University
Graham A. Davis Colorado School of Mines
*Margaret B. Davis University of Minnesota
Thomas Detwyler University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Raymond De Young University of Michigan
Neelkanth G. Dhere University of Central Florida
John G. Douglass Washington State University
Myrna Dubroff Florida Solar Energy Center
Murray Duffin
*Paul R. Ehrlich Stanford University
Salah El Serafy Energy and Environmental Consultant
Randy Ellingson Solar Energy Research Scientist
Jacque (Jody) Emel Clark University
Richard W. England University of New Hampshire, Durham
Donald J. Epp Pennsyvania State University
Howard Epstein University of Virginia
Paul  Epstein Harvard Medical School
Ronald C. Faas Washington State University
Brian Farhi Florida Solar Energy Center
Suzanne Ferrerre The National Renewable Energy
Kurt Finsterbusch University of Maryland
Jon Foley University of Wisconsin-Madison
Louise Fortmann University of California, Berkeley
Rosanne W. Fortner The Ohio State University
David R. Foster Harvard University
Laurie Fowler University of Georgia
Douglas I. Foy The Conservation Law Foundation
Mark Friedl Boston University
Andrew J. Friedland Dartmouth College
Dennis Galvan University of Florida
Jacqueline Geoghegan Clark University
Brian Gibson University of Toronto
James W. Gillett Cornell University
Helen W. Gjessing University of the Virgin Islands
Thomas N. Gladwin University of Michigan
Peter H. Gleick Pacific Institute for Studies in
Environment, and Security
Joseph Graziano Columbia University
Charles H. Greene Cornell University
Hugh Gusterson Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Winnie Hallwachs University of Pennsylvania
Philip C. Hanawalt Stanford University
Bruce Hannon University of Illinois
Jonathan M. Harris Tufts University
John Harte University of Berkeley, California
Steven B. Hawthorne University of North Dakota
Joe E. Heimlich The Ohio State University
Robert A. Herendeen University of Illinois
Steven M. Hoffman University of St. Paul
Andrew Hoffman Boston University
Chris Hohenemser Clark University
Briavel Holcomb Rutgers University
C.S. Holling University of Florida
William L. Hoover Purdue University
Robert M. Hordon Rutgers University
James F. Hornig Dartmouth College
Richard B. Howarth Environmental Studies Program
Robert W. Howarth Environmental Defense
Peter Howie Colorado School of Mines
Phillip Hutton
H. Patricia Hynes Boston University School of Public
David Jaber
Stan Jacobs Columbia University
*Daniel H. Janzen University of Pennsylvania
Sheila Jasanoff Harvard University
J. Scott Jiusto Clark University
Scott A. Jones Sandia National Laboratory
Gary Jorgensen The National Renewable Energy
Raymond A. Jussaume, Jr. Washington State University
Peter  Kakela Michigan State University
Daniel M. Kammen University of California, Berkeley
Robert K. Kaufmann Boston University
Jay Keller Sandia National Laboratory
Cheryl Kennedy
Robert O. Keohane Duke University
Gregory A. Keoleian University of Michigan
J. Daniel Khazzoom San Jose State University
Patrick L. Kinney Columbia University
Paul H. Kirshen Tufts University
S.A. Klein University of Wisconsin-Madison
C. Gregory Knight Pennsylvania State University
Barbara A. Knuth Cornell University
Michael Kuby Arizona State University
Thomas Kunz Boston University
Robert W. Lake Rutgers University
Janelle M. Larson Pennsylvania State University, Berks
Warren Leon Northeast Sustainable Energy Association
*Simon Levin Princeton University
Stephen H. Levine Tufts University
Lois Levitan Cornell University
Karin Limburg SUNY College of Environment and Forestry
Clovis A. Linkous University of Central Florida
William Lockeretz Tufts University
George Loisos Loisos/Ubbelohde Architecture
Gary M. Lovett Institute of Ecosystem Studies
George Lowenstein Carnegie Mellon University
Doug Luckerman Environmental Lawyer
A.E. Luloff Pennsylvania State University
John W. Lund Geothermal Resources Council
Loren Lutzenhiser The Washington State University
Allison Macfarlane Massachusetts Institute of
Jean  MacGregor The Evergreen State College
Janet Mann Georgetown University
Jack Manno SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry
Barbara L. Martin
Leo  Marx Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Gil Masters Stanford University
Nancy Irwin Maxwell Boston University School of Public
Dennis  McCarthy University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Brent H. McCown University of Wisconsin-Madison
Gary McCracken University of Tennessee
J. Marc McGinnes University of California, Santa
Jon McGowan University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Janet McIlvaine Florida Solar Energy Center
Margaret McKean Duke University
Diane K. McLaughlin The Pennsylvania State University
J.R. McNeill Georgetown University
David Menicucci Sandia National Laboratory
Kathleen A. Miller National Center for Atmospheric
James K. Mitchell Rutgers University
Scott C. Mohr Boston University
Bill Moore Journalist
Alan Mountjoy-Venning The Washington State University
Patricia Muir Oregon State University
Blake C. Myers University of California
Adil Najam Boston University
Lisa Naughton University of Wisconsin
Richard B. Norgaard University of California, Berkeley
Susan O'Hara
Dara O'Rourke Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ray Oglesby Cornell University
David Orr Oberlin College
Leonard Ortolano Staford University
Richard S. Ostfeld
Brandon Owens
David Ozonoff Boston University School of Public
Danny S. Parker Florida Solar Energy Center
Mike Pasqualetti Arizona State University
Anthony Patt Boston University
Bernard C. Patten University of Georgia
Rob Penney Washington State University
John H. Perkins The Evergreen State College
Thomas Perreault Syracuse University
Noel Perrin Dartmouth College
Jeanne E. Peters
John E. Petersen Oberlin College
Anna Peterson University of Florida
Michelle D. Peterson University of the Virgin Islands
Robert Gilmore Pontius, Jr. Clark University
Theodore M. Porter UCLA
Rich Prill Washington State University
Stephen A. Prosterman University of the Virgin Islands
H. Ronald Pulliam University of Georgia
Catherine A. Ramus University of California, Santa
Paul Raskin Tellus Institute
Kal Raustiala UCLA
Gary Ray University of the Virgin Islands
A. Lynn Roberts The Johns Hopkins University
Mark C. Roberts Michigan Technological University
Chris Robertson Chris Robertson and Associates
Jeff Romm University of California, Berkeley
Eugene A. Rosa Washington State University
Armin Rosencrantz Stanford University
*Vernon Ruttan University of Minnesota
Francisca Saavedra University of Maryland
Guido D. Salvucci Massachusetts Institute of
Joseph Sarkis Clark University
John Scahill
Laura Schleyer
Stephen H. Schneider Stanford University
Christopher J. Schneider Boston University
Karen C. Seto Stanford University
Chandra Shah
Howard N. Shapiro Iowa State University
Richard Shaten University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sherri Shields Florida Solar Energy Center
Peter Skinner Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Andy Smith Boston University
Chris Sneddon Dartmouth College
Barry Solomon Michigan Technological University
George Somero Stanford University
John Spiesberger University of Pennsylvania
Stan  Springer Environmental Engineer
Andrew Stainback University of Florida
John Sterman Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alan Strahler Boston University
Mary Swanson University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Richard Sylves University of Delaware
Jennifer Szaro Florida Solar Energy Center
Ali T-Raissi University of Central Florida
Joel A. Tarr Carnegie Mellon University
Paul Templet Louisiana State University
Tom Tietenberg Colby College
Edward Tracy The National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Richard P. Turco University of California, Los Angeles
Brad Turk Mountain West Technical Associates, Inc
M. Susan Ubbelohde University of California, Berkeley
Richard R. Vance University of California, Los Angeles
Francis M. Vanek Sustainable Technology and Energy
Otto VanGeet The National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Mary Emma Wagner University of Pennsylvania
Andy Walker
Robert L. Walko Rutgers University
Donald M. Waller University of Wisconsin-Madison
Young-Doo Wang University of Delaware
Paul Wapner American University
Kenneth J. Warn Union of Concerned Scientists
Robert P. Weller Boston University
*Gilbert White University of Colorado
Arthur M. Winer University of California, Los Angeles
*Julian Wolpert Princeton University
Jane Woodward University of Stanford
Chang-Yu Wu University of Florida
Elvin K. Wyly Rutgers University
Jensen Zhang Syracuse University

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