Former Carter Appointee Warns Against Nuclear Power, Coal, Foreign Oil
(APN) ATLANTA — Several dozen people arrived at The Carter Center Wednesday night, June 11, 2008, to listen to award-winning energy expert and environmentalist S. David Freeman, whose new book sheds light on America’s deadly addiction to “three poisons”: foreign oil, coal, and nuclear power.
The event was sponsored by Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions and Nuclear Watch South.
Winning Our Energy Independence speaks about the dire future the country faces if citizens and lawmakers do not rally quickly to shift to an all-renewable energy system and details how that switch can be made.
Freeman is well versed on the subject, serving for 50 years in the energy industry and as a federal energy policymaker.
He served on the Federal Power Commission under President John F. Kennedy and helped develop energy policies for Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Freeman even served as the chairman of the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority under President Jimmy Carter, a fellow crusader for energy independence.
Dubbed “The Green Cowboy” because of his trademark hat and his passion for the environment, Freeman spoke seriously and candidly, making remarks that were exciting, challenging, and perhaps even controversial.
“We now are aware that this civilization of ours is on death row,” Freeman said. “Almost every climatologist tells us we have about 10 years to get greenhouse gases under control or the greatest likelihood is our civilization will go down and go down for keeps.”
Freeman pointed to the increasing industrialization of population-heavy countries like China and India that are pumping more emissions into the atmosphere, which in turn is speeding up the global warming process.
“That’s not the end of it,” he said. “If you look at our situation with our dependency on foreign oil, you’ve gotta recognize we’re fighting a war in the Middle East in large part because of that dependency.”
He worries all the money pouring out of the United States could lead to another depression.
“I think liberty is at stake,” Freeman warned. “I don’t know whether the American people can handle a depression. The ‘me now, I’m owed everything’ attitude is so strong that I fear what might happen if things got to where they were in the 1930s and 40s.”
“The dangers we face right now as a nation are greater than World War Two,” he continued. “They’re more varying, more deep-seated, and they’re more serious because it’s not just the current generation of people that are at stake. What’s at stake is the survival of our way of life and perhaps even our species.”
“Yet, we are behaving as though we had all the time in the world,” Freeman added. “There is no sense of urgency. We are a society that has gotten so used to our computers and our numbers and the brain washing that the marketplace is going to solve everything and government can solve nothing that we’re just collectively like a bunch of lemmings that are about to go over the side of the cliff unknowing really what is about to happen to us.”
But Freeman, who is a strong proponent of solar and wind power, said the technology is out there if only there was enough will to harness it.
“The bright side of it is, there is the technology that if we embraced it today we could 30 years from now have an all-renewable, high-energy civilization that was truly sustainable,” he said.
Freeman scolded “mealy-mouthed” members of US Congress who refuse to introduce legislation outlawing the production of coal and nuclear plants and imposing shorter timelines for reaching energy independence.
He also attributed the lack of progress to the fractured environmental movement, which he said is split into three groups: those who focus exclusively on carbon emissions, those who focus on getting away from fossil fuels, and those who are anti-nuclear power.
Freeman noted that a handful of people picketing outside the headquarters of a major energy corporation are not going to facilitate the change to an all-renewable energy system.
Instead, he said it is going to take everyone shouting for change to make it happen.
“If we brought all three of those groups into a broad coalition, that would be most of the American people,” Freeman said.
“I am personally disgusted with the environmental organizations at the Washington level who are sitting around participating as though they were legislators and trying to get some cockamamie cap-and-trade system passed and are not telling the Congress the truth that these poisons need to be outlawed,” he added.
Congress could act by offering a $1 billion tax incentive to the first auto manufacturer that produces 100,000 plug-in hybrids and mandate auto manufacturers produce an increasing amount of electric cars each year, Freeman said.
“We need to do something other than just sit and shell out all our money and just gently crawl over the edge of the cliff,” he said.
Freeman concluded his remarks by challenging Americans to change their way of life.
“It’s time this generation of Americans asks and answered the very simple question of, how much is enough?” he said. “Let’s not kid ourselves. If we want to move in the next 20 to 25 years to an all-renewable sustainable energy system on this Earth, we have got to slow down the rate of material growth.”
“We have become slaves of our material affluence. We’ve got families where both parents have to work all the time,” Freeman continued. “Why? To buy enough stuff that really doesn’t make people happier.”
“We’ve got to reexamine our values here because we’re setting an example for the rest of the world,” he added. “If they follow it, you can just forget it. If the growth continues the way it is right now we can’t shift to all-renewable energy fast enough.”
Freeman called for “getting the hypocrisy out of the discussion.”
“Just because you got a Prius doesn’t make you a conservationist if you flit around in it, you put 40 or 50,000 miles a year on it,” he said. “You’d be better off owning a Hummer and just go to church on Sunday.”
Freeman noted it is up to the United States to set an example for the rest of the world when it comes to energy independence.
“China is using the technology we use,” he said. “If America stopped using coal for new plants, stop using nuclear, and showed an alternative like the sun that could be harnessed, the rest of the world would follow.”
When it comes to this issue, Freeman believes the whole world can rally together to solve it and it should be United States that takes the lead in doing so.
“The global warming issue is the one issue where everyone on this Earth is in the same boat,” Freeman said. “Someone has got to be the adult on this planet and it might as well be the United States of America.”
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Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at email@example.com
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