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US: Encourage Alternative Energy Sources

Regarding the editorial "Gas Prices, Peace Price," April 30: The recent run-up in gasoline prices and the sharp public response has re- awakened awareness of America's dangerous dependence on oil from the Middle East. Inexplicably, as oil imports reach an all-time high, we are severely cutting the budget for research and development in energy efficiency and alternative sources. Today we are getting more than half of our oil from abroad, a higher percentage than even during the Gulf war.

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This confusion exists because there is no United States energy policy. This nation needs a strategy that encourages investment in natural- gas use, advanced transportation technologies (i.e., electric vehicles), and alternative energy sources. Yet some members of Congress want to eliminate virtually all government funding for energy technology programs, including a modestly funded design program that shares costs with industry to develop advanced nuclear power plants.

We cannot depend on the energy industry, dominated by oil companies and the staid electric utilities, to develop the next generation of energy-efficient equipment and alternative energy sources. It is time Congress and President Clinton accept the responsibility and demonstrate leadership in this area. These opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Oak Ridge National Laboratory or the US Department of Energy.

Theodore M. Besmann

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Research Group Leader

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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