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Confronted with the likelihood
of a deluge, one has the
choice between building an ark or building an umbrelJa factory. Though an umbreUa factory will prove more pro-fitable in the short run, an ark will prove critical in the long run. Within the next century, limits ,to growth in the consumption of energy and' material resources will require the United States either to make a transition to a renewable resource economy or to risk an economic deluge. Even with farsighted plan .. ning, the transition from a nonrenewable to a renewable resource base is likely to be socially and economically disruptive. Yet present national energy and materials policies are inadequate to ensure national economic survival, much less to pruride
hope for a snDJth transition to sustainable growth. The current national energy debate is focused almost exdusiYely on umbrella factories in the form of giant synfuels plants. At the same time, political interest in our growing
The financial resources of the RRTF would be used in a
variety of wa~: to subsidize
Congress consistently has been a more enthusiastic ecutive branch. Yet neither inspires much long-term con- ' fidence. Congressional commitments, such as the alleged lO-year program caIJed for in the Photovoltaics Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1978, and the president's announced goal of achieving 20 percent reliance on solar energy by the year 2000, both lack credibility for the same reason-an absence of adequate and reliable long-term funding.
national resource policy is hopelessly irrational. Concern absent as was concern over energy resources a decade ago. Our latest energy policy is based on an awesomely
advocate of solar than the ex- ' over material resources is as
the prices of renewables; to support basic research; to remove ban iers to and pro. vide incentives for the increased use of renewables; to provide foreign assistance; and to protect the poor and disadvantaged from higher costs. To administer the programs supported by the RRTF, a new, independent federal agency. the National Renewable Resources Administration (NRRA), would
be created. The primary fune-
on oil com-
panies, a tax which is unlinked to any objective function other than redistribution from the private to the public
sector. The proceeds that are
"Our existing national resource
policy IIhopeIealy Irlatlonal."
tion C'I NRRA would be to distribute and invest fuuds from the RRTF, • Iaqe proportion eX wbicb would be dedicated for the discretiooary use m state and IocaJ governments. The operation of the Ark Plan wouJd be similar in
RRTF assures en ..
trepreueurs, potential con-
sumers, and government
~ that the national commitment to the development rI solar energy and
not commandeered for general appropriations or social security are to be devoted to heroic schemes for the expanded production of evermore-expensive fossil fuels, in a vain hope of preserving an obsolete, automotive lifestyle. We blame the rain on the umbrella-makers, arid call them profiteers. We tax umbrellas to build larger urn .. brella factories. A few farsighted souls have laid the , keel for an ark, but the wood needed to construct the hull is being used to make umbrella handles. Meanwhile, the water rises.
many ways to the national highway program. The critical part of the dependence on foreign sources analogy to the highway proand in the depletion of gram is in the use of the trust domestic resources is virtually fund mechanism. The key nonexistent. feature of a trust fund is the I propose an Ark Plan, earmarking of revenues and designed to provide insurance for the long-term survival and expenditures for exclusive sustainable growth of the U.S. functions. This differs from economy. The, key to the plan general funds, which are pooled from a variety of is the creation of a national revenue sources, and which Renewable Resources Trust are appropriated annually by Fund (RRTF). Revenue for the RRTF would come from a the legislature for whatever purposes it chooses. sem'ance/excise tax on fossil We need this approach to fuels and other nonrenewable the development of renewable rescurees. Just a 10 percent tax on oil and gas would easi- reptaeements for conventional energy and material resources, ly yield the S2S0 bjUion that 'because the existing approach the president's Domestic Policy Review eStimated would is ineffective and counterproductive. We have had at be the net cost of the highest least 'five, perhaps six' or practical level of solar energy ~en. national energy policies ~ment in the United since 1974. States between DOW and, the In the federal solar proyear 2000.
rdiable, enduring, aDd tangible. Through taxes on the use eX nonrenewable resources, the RRTF tends to require
LewU 1. Perelman is Senior
users of nonrenewables to pay
Scientist in the Social Science actual replacement or long.. Group at Jet Propulsion term marginal costs of using Laboratories. Pasadena. Calif. nonrenewable resources. At The opinions expressed in this the same time, users of article are those of the author nonrenewables subsidize users GIld do not necessarily reprefA renewables, achieving a sent the opinions of his more equitable distribution of employer. Mr. Perelman's costs and benefits. Finally, the paper on the Renewable RRTF ties revenue to need. ' Resources Trust Fund placed The more rapidly as Q finalist in the Mitchell nonrenewables are used, the Prize Competition, Q biannual more rapidly they' need to be competition on the subject of replaced by renewable growth policy and growth resources. Greater use of rMIUlIement. sponsored by nonrenewables generates more the MitcheB Energy and revenue for the RRTF to sup", Dnelopment Corp .. Houston. port development of Texas, II1Id co-sponsored by renewables: conversely, as the Univenity of Houston. renewables replace use of Copies of the complete paper nonrenewab1es, the need and CGn be obtllined by writing to: re~nues for the RRTF Lewis ~/man, /PL, Bldg. decline simultaneously. . 506·418, Pasadena, Calif., By Contrast, our existing 91103.