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Steven Chu calls for alt-energy "revolution"

The world needs a "revolution" in science and technology to solve global warming, says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, made the remarks in today's New York Times. The article was short on specifics, but Chu, former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said Nobel-level breakthroughs were needed in electric batteries, solar power and crops that could be turned into fuel. "Science and technology can generate much better choices,” Chu, a long-time proponent of alternative energy development, told the newspaper. “It has, consistently, over hundreds and hundreds of years.”

Among the points he made:

The U.S. has to find a way to burn coal cleanly, especially since India and China won't stop using it. Scientists also need to look for new types of plants that don’t take much energy to grow and can be converted into clean, inexpensive alternatives to fossil fuels.

There may be alternatives to cap-and-trade (a federal program under which the government sets an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions, and utilities that produce lower levels than allotted can sell their chits to those that fall short) as a means of curbing Earth-warming emissions. “The concern about cap-and-trade in today’s economic climate,” Chu said, “is that a lot of money might flow to developing countries in a way that might not be completely politically sellable.” Two possible alternatives: a modified cap-and-trade program or a tax on carbon emissions. Chu didn’t say how these systems might work, but he did say he supports pricing the carbon dioxide that invisibly billows from fossil fuel-fired power plants, factories and cars.

Chu wouldn't say if the Energy Department would open Yucca Mountain in Nevada for burial of radioactive waste if it gets permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. President Obama has expressed opposition to the controversial project, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed, a Democrat from Nevada, has been aggressively trying to derail.

Image of Energy Secretary Steven Chu/Department of Energy via Wikimedia

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