MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations
The world has finally realized that climate change is real, and that the way we create and use energy is part of the crisis. How to solve this crisis? That is the difficult part. Many politicians – from President Bush, to New Mexico’s own Senator Pete Domenici – believe that nuclear power is the only solution. Even some environmental leaders think this is the only way. But for those of us who have been on the front and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle know that this isn’t the answer.
In this issue of Voices from the Earth, the articles on pages 6 to 8 describe how folks on the front (uranium) end of the nuclear fuel cycle are starting to be heard in Washington, DC. Representative Henry Waxman (CA), Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, held a hearing to discuss the legacy issues related to past uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. In addition, a Navajo Uranium Roundtable was sponsored by Rep. Tom Udall (NM), Rep. Jim Matheson (UT), Rep. Rick Renzi (AZ), and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., to discuss the impacts on Navajo communities.
Meanwhile, state legislators in New Mexico also held meetings, but not to discuss the health effects of past uranium mining. Instead they came together to exclaim about how wonderful it is that all these new companies want to start uranium mining again. The community members (their constituents) who did not agree were essentially ignored in favor of industry representatives.
A Bush administration proposal that would create more contamination and waste problems, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars is the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). However, people around the country, congresspersons, scientists, and even some of the nuclear industry are not supporting it (page2). A remnant of our nuclear legacy is Sandia National Laboratory’s Mixed Waste Landfill. The group Citizen Action is concerned that the contaminants from the landfill could get into our groundwater. They have been evaluating reports by Sandia and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) about monitoring and cleanup. However, NMED recently sued Citizen Action to keep it from getting a report about the landfill, after the New Mexico Attorney General’s office ruled that it had to release it to the public (see page 3). Many people are starting to wonder, what is the Environment Department hiding?
If we really want to work on climate change, we need to change the way we view the world. Our current energy plan is not viable – to the climate, or to our economy. If we really want to help our planet, we need to make changes starting at home. Energy efficiency is one way of changing our energy future (page 4). From building more energy-efficient machines, to making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, we need to make major changes. The technology is available today. And as more of us make these energy-efficient changes to our lives, things like solar panels become more cost-effective, and an integral part of our energy future. In this issue we also review two must read books about climate change and our energy future (pages 10-11).
We are at a stage that we must make some serious decisions about our future. But we must not forget the past while we rush toward solutions that may make the crisis worse, not better. We hope that this issue of Voices provides you, our readers, with some of the background related to our current energy policy, and why in many ways it doesn’t work.
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"Getting the price of fuel under control by shifting to renewables is only half the job of consumer protection. We must marry renewables with efficiency. And here consumers can save big money… you are committing yourself to a gas bill of $180 per month if you drive 1,200 miles a month at 20 mpg with gas at $3 per gallon. If instead you buy a car that gets 40 mpg, you cut your gas bill in half, to just $90 per month. You save $90 a month."
S. David Freeman
Winning our Energy Independence
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