Santa Fe New Mexican 04/08/2007, Page F02
OUR VIEW: Bingaman’s LANL talk high on promise.
National defense, no doubt, is an important role filled by America’s scientific laboratories. When you’ve got as many enemies as Uncle Sam has, you need state-of-the-art weaponry and tools to detect and deflect whatever those enemies throw at us.
On the destructive-capability count, Los Alamos National laboratory does an adequate job, as far as anyone knows — and hardly anyone does; defense secrecy, and all that. What is known is that there’s an impressive aggregation of scientific and engineering talent on “the Hill” — talent contracted by the Department of Energy. And we know that our nation and the rest of the world are running low on conventional energy sources.
New Mexico’s senators are their parties’ pre-eminent members of the committee in charge of energy — at a time when even our oil-man president says it’s time to get serious about alternatives to fossil fuel. Their state might be a petro-power, with all that means to the economy, but both chairman Jeff Bingaman and ranking Republican Pete Domenici are long overdue for a look at LANL as the energy resource it should be.
And that’s what was so encouraging about Bingaman’s recent visit to Los Alamos, where he noted that the lab can help meet many more challenges than it does today. America and its allies need ways of tracking the traffic in nuclear material, he told scientists and businessmen at the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce. And we’ve got to come up with better sources of energy.
The lab has dabbled in energy development, but more often as public-relations work than dedicated research into clean and efficient supplies. With the predictable nod to weapons-stockpile work, Bingaman went on to the challenges of producing, transmitting and using energy for the sake of economic security, as well as to rescue our choking atmosphere and to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
His Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the senator, is giving serious looks at renewable energy as well as biofuels, along with ventures into capturing and storing carbon. Tax incentives, he said, will be one route into an enlightened energy policy — but lab leaders shouldn’t have been able to avoid seeing what their people could contribute to such things as a “ hydrogen economy” or other ways out of our addiction to gas, oil and coal. Many approaches to that problem have been studied to death; it’s time for Bingaman, with Domenici’s help, to choose a route and move.
Throughout el norte are workers laid off their jobs with various contracting outfits whose executives are reduced to penny-wise behavior in the face of LANL insecurity. It’s time to put those people to work on pioneering projects to convert our country and others from the wasteful and harmful combustion of finite resources to reasonable and environmentally responsible energy sources.
Were the lab to set such a course, it would attract more of our nation’s finest minds and perhaps retain many of the scientists who today are dying to get out of there. Bingaman and Domenici are in perfect position to restore the luster of a marvelously equipped institution in need of a new mission. We wish them well in turning recognition of LANL’s challenges into action overcoming them.
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Copyright ╴ 2007 Santa Fe New Mexican 04/08/2007