Harvard's Holdren comments on Energy Policy.


Prof. John P. Holdren, director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and who chaired several PCAST panels on energy policy, fusion energy and international cooperation in energy R&D, has published a thoughtful and articulate treatise entitled "Searching for a National Energy Policy," in the National Academies magazine Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 2001.

He begins, "The United States and the world face a daunting array of energy-related challenges. We must work out how to provide, reliably and affordably, the supplies of fuel and electricity needed to sustain and build economic prosperity. We must limit the financial drain, vulnerability to supply-price shocks, and risk of armed conflict that result from overdependence on foreign oil. We must reduce the environmental damage done by technologies of energy supply, ranging from local and regional air pollution to the disruption of global climate. We must minimize the accident and proliferation dangers associated with nuclear energy."

Holdren points out that oil imports have "crept up from their 1985 low of 29 percent of U.S. oil consumption to 57 percent in 2000." He notes, "Early indications are that the new administration plans to make drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) the centerpiece of its energy policy." He says, "That would be a mistake."

Holdren states, "The contribution of the ANWR to domestic oil supplies would, at best, be slow to start, modest at its peak, and strictly temporary, providing limited leverage against the oil-import part of our energy problems and almost no leverage at all against the other parts." He says, "Whether the ANWR belongs in the national energy portfolio at all--given the ratio of its possible benefits to its costs and risks--is problematic. It certainly should not be the centerpiece." He says that "ANWR could ultimately provide the equivalent of 7 months to 2 years of current U.S. oil supply, or 1-4 years of current imports."

Holdren says that although oil imports have risen to more than 1 percent of GDP, the economic impact is "still not as great today as it was 20 years ago." He says, "Dependence on imported oil can be reduced by increasing domestic oil production or by reducing oil use," but says that "analysis of...

To continue reading