Landmark Energy Policy Study Points the Way to U.S. Energy Future without Fossil Fuels or Nuclear Power

RELEASE DATE: July 30, 2007
CONTACT: Julie R. Enszer, NPRI, 202/822-9800 or Arjun Makhijani,


Landmark Energy Policy Study Points the Way to

Energy Future without Fossil Fuels or

Nuclear Power

Protecting Climate Will Require Essentially
Complete Elimination of U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions by 2050

Takoma Park, MD – At the G-8 summit in Germany in June
2007, President Bush promised to “consider seriously” the
European Union goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to
limit global temperature rise to about 4 degrees Fahrenheit. A new study
concludes that the United States could eliminate almost all of its carbon
dioxide emissions by the year 2050. It also concludes that it is possible
to do so without the use of nuclear power. The landmark study,
Carbon-Free and
Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy
, was produced as a
joint project of the Nuclear
Policy Research Institute
and the
Institute for Energy and
Environmental Research

“A technological revolution has been brewing in the last few years,
so it won’t cost an arm and a leg to eliminate both CO2
emissions and nuclear power,” said Dr. Arjun Makhijani, author of
the study and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental
Research. “We can solve the problems of oil imports, nuclear
proliferation as it is linked to nuclear power, and carbon dioxide
emissions simultaneously if we are bold enough.”

The “Roadmap” concludes that the United States can achieve a
zero-CO2 economy without increasing the fraction of Gross
Domestic Product devoted to lighting, heating, cooling, transportation,
and all the other things for which we use energy. The fraction was about
8 percent in 2005. Net U.S. oil imports can be eliminated in about
twenty-five years or less, the study estimated.

“The climate crisis has put the earth in the intensive care
unit,” said Dr. Helen Caldicott, President of NPRI and a physician
who has long advocated elimination of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
“We must respond to this acute clinical crisis and act today to save
the planet, without resorting to nuclear power, which will aggravate our
problems. Dr. Makhijani’s report is essential reading for all who care
about our future.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that a global
reduction of 50 to 85 percent in CO2 emissions is needed to
limit the temperature rise to less than about 4 degrees Fahrenheit. If
emissions are allocated equitably, in view of the greater historical and
present emissions of the United States and other Western countries, the
Roadmap estimates that the United States will have to eliminate 88 to 96
percent of its CO2 emissions. The United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change, a treaty that the United States has
ratified, places a greater responsibility on developed countries to
reduce their emissions in view of historical and present inequities.

According to the Roadmap, North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota,
Montana, and Nebraska each have wind energy potential greater than
the electricity produced by all 103 U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.
Solar energy is even more abundant – solar cells installed on rooftops
and over parking lots can provide most of the U.S. electricity supply.
Recent advances in lithium-ion batteries are likely to make plug-in
hybrid cars economical in the next few years.

“Plug-in hybrids should become the standard-issue car for
governments and corporations in the next five years. That demand will
make prices come down to the point that it can become the standard car
design in the next decade,” said S. David Freeman, President, Los
Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners and former chairman of the
Tennessee Valley Authority. “The health benefits of eliminating
fossil fuels and greatly reducing urban air pollution will be immense.
Dr. Makhijani’s study also shines a light on how we can liberate our
foreign policy from oil imports.”

Mr. Freeman was the Director of the Energy Policy Project of the Ford
Foundation at the time of the Arab oil embargo in 1973. That project’s
report (A Time to Choose: America’s Energy Future), which he, Dr.
Makhijani, and others co-authored, became the foundation of U.S. energy
policy in the mid- to late-1970s.

“What is really innovative about this Roadmap is that it combines
technologies to show how to create a reliable electricity and energy
system entirely from renewable sources of energy,” said Dr. Hisham
Zerriffi, Ivan Head South/North Chair at the University of British
Columbia and an expert on distributed electricity grids. “The United
States must take action now in order to lead and this Roadmap lays out
specific steps that it should take. The study is also remarkable in that
it provides backup plans and recommends redundancies that are important
for avoiding major missteps on the road to an economy without
zero-CO2 emissions.”

The study recommends an elimination of subsidies for nuclear power and
fossil fuels, and also for biofuels like ethanol when they are made from
food crops.

“Ethanol from corn is inefficient and, at best, has only a marginal
effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions” said Dr. Makhijani.
“Even at current production levels it is causing inflation in food
prices in the United States and hardship for the poor in Mexico and other
countries. Biofuels can be made much more efficiently, for instance from
microalgae, on land not useful for food.”

The study recommends a “hard cap” on CO2 emissions
by large fossil fuel users (more than 100 billion Btu per year). The cap
would be reduced each year until it reaches zero in 30 to 50 years. There
would be no free emissions allowances, no international trade of
allowances, and no offsets that would allow corporations to emit
CO2 by investing in outside projects to reduce emissions. The
emissions of smaller users would be reduced by efficiency standards for
appliances, cars, homes, and commercial buildings.

Copies of the 23-page executive summary of the report are available at
The full study will be available for download in August 2007. It will be
published as a book by RDR Books in the fall of 2007.



Recommendations: The Clean Dozen

From Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S.
Energy Policy

The 12 most critical policies that need to be enacted as urgently
as possible for achieving a zero-CO2 economy without nuclear
power are as follows.

1. Enact a physical limit of CO2 emissions for all large users
of fossil fuels (a “hard cap”) that steadily declines to zero
prior to 2060, with the time schedule for tightening assessed
periodically according to climate, technological, and economic
developments. The cap should be set at the level of some year prior to
2007, so that early implementers of CO2 reductions benefit
from the setting of the cap. Emission allowances would be sold by the
U.S. government for use in the United States only. There would be no free
allowances, no offsets and no international sale or purchase of
CO2 allowances. The estimated revenues – approximately $30 to
$50 billion per year – would be used for demonstration plants, research
and development, and worker and community transition.

2. Eliminate all subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels and nuclear
power (including guarantees for nuclear waste disposal from new power
plants, loan guarantees, and subsidized insurance).

3. Eliminate subsidies for biofuels from food crops.

4. Build demonstration plants for key supply technologies, including
central station solar thermal with heat storage, large- and
intermediate-scale solar photovoltaics, and CO2 capture in
microalgae for liquid fuel production.

5. Leverage federal, state and local purchasing power to create markets
for critical advanced technologies, including plug-in hybrids.

6. Ban new coal-fired power plants that do not have carbon storage.

7. Enact at the federal level high efficiency standards for appliances.

8. Enact stringent building efficiency standards at the state and local
levels, with federal incentives to adopt them.

9. Enact stringent efficiency standards for vehicles and make plug-in
hybrids the standard U.S. government vehicle by 2015.

10. Put in place federal contracting procedures to reward early adopters
of CO2 reductions.

11. Adopt vigorous research, development, and pilot plant construction
programs for technologies that could accelerate the elimination of
CO2, such as direct solar hydrogen production, hot rock
geothermal power, and integrated gasification combined cycle plants using
biomass with a capacity to sequester the CO2.

12. Establish a standing committee on Energy and Climate under the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.


Summary of Main Findings

From Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S.
Energy Policy

1. A goal of a zero-CO2 economy is necessary to
minimize harm related to climate change.

2. The use of nuclear power entails risks of nuclear proliferation,
terrorism, and serious accidents. It exacerbates the problem of nuclear
waste and perpetuates vulnerabilities and insecurities in the energy
system that are avoidable.

3. A hard cap on CO2 emissions – that is, a fixed emissions
limit that declines year by year until it reaches zero – would provide
large users of fossil fuels with a flexible way to phase out
CO2 emissions. However, free allowances, offsets that permit
emissions by third party reductions, or international trading of
allowances, notably with developing countries that have no CO2
cap, would undermine and defeat the purpose of the system. A
measurement-based physical limit, with appropriate enforcement, should be
put into place.

4. A reliable U.S. electricity sector with zero-CO2 emissions
can be achieved without the use of nuclear power or fossil fuels.

5. The use of highly efficient energy technologies and building design,
generally available today, can greatly ease the transition to a
zero-CO2 economy and reduce its cost. A two percent annual
increase in efficiency per unit of Gross Domestic Product relative to
recent trends would result in a one percent decline in energy use per
year, while providing three percent GDP annual growth. This is well
within the capacity of available technological performance.

6. Biofuels, broadly defined, could be crucial to the transition to a
zero-CO2 economy without serious environmental side effects
or, alternatively, they could produce considerable collateral damage or
even be very harmful to the environment and increase greenhouse gas
emissions. The outcome will depend essentially on policy choices,
incentives, and research and development, both public and private.

7. Much of the reduction in CO2 emissions can be achieved
without incurring any cost penalties (as, for instance, with efficient
lighting and refrigerators). The cost of eliminating the rest of
CO2 emissions due to fossil fuel use is likely to be in the
range of $10 to $30 per metric ton of CO2.

8. The transition to a zero-CO2 system can be made in a manner
compatible with local economic development in areas that now produce
fossil fuels.

Available for download:
Executive Summary of
and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy

[PDF 450kB]

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