Saturday, June 22, 2019

Getting Started: the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal proposes to solve environmental problems by hiring a lot of people to do the work, but what is the work? We don’t know what those jobs are, yet. We don’t even know what is to be done. Build wind, solar, tidal, nuclear? (I suspect a lot of GND supporters don’t want to think about nuclear, but nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gases.)
If only there are experts to consult.
And there are. There are 17 US national laboratories. One, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is focused on renewables. Several of the others do renewables work as well.
I recently wrote an old colleague at one of the US national labs (we corvids get around), asked him how things were going, and what, if anything, was being done by the labs on the Green New Deal. They said that their work was going well though they now had to seek high-level approval for publication and that he had not read anything about the Green New Deal beyond the headlines.
If anything like a green new deal is to be implemented, the US national labs will be the primary research and development institutions. So, what are the national labs doing?
Each of the 17 US national laboratories has their own particular history and research focus. One, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is focused on renewables. Another, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, does all kinds of civilian research, including renewables work, a third, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), was founded in 1910 to support fossil fuel production and use and continues in that role. The other 14 are largely focused on high energy physics, nuclear weapons, and nuclear energy, though many do work in other fields. Notably, Argonne National Labs in Illinois houses the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which works on battery technology, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) near Hanford in Washington State, has its Energy Policy and Economics Group.
And this is all very good, and all very fine, and we still don’t have a plan.
We don’t know how to make the Green New Deal work, yet, but we do know how to build a nuclear power system that will do the job – that’s where we have spent most of our efforts over the last 70 years.
Whatever we do, we need to get started.

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