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Friday, January 23, 2004 - Page updated at 03:00 P.M.
By Jay Inslee
President Bush's proposal to focus our resources on sending humans to Mars is intriguing, but it is not the most compelling reason that Americans ought to focus our interest on the Red Planet.
Instead, as we looked up into the night sky this past August and saw Mars hanging at its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, we could have had a collective epiphany by recognizing that a planet's climate can change dramatically. We could have resolved to protect our climate from changes disruptive to human civilization and adopt a new energy policy that would also create millions of jobs for our country.
Mars may have suffered a dramatic climate change, which plunged it into conditions apparently inhospitable for complex life. On Earth, we still have a beautiful atmosphere that precisely maintains a thermally driven climatic system that shelters, shields and sustains our natural treasures.
But change is in the air. We are adding record amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, primarily in the form of CO2 derived from burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas. While human-induced global warming is not going to turn present-day Earth into present-day Mars, global warming is dire enough that our most distinguished scientists recently concluded that as many as 1 million species on the planet could be extinct by 2050 if affairs do not change.
Had our president thought about the circumstances of Mars and Earth while gazing at the Red Planet, he no doubt would have made a totally different energy proposal for our country. He could have called on the nation to engage in a great national effort to design, build and implement a new Apollo energy project, an American commitment to use our talents to create the new technologies that maintain our standard of living and the continuance of a healthy atmosphere.
The Apollo Alliance report also concluded that a "New Apollo Project" would stimulate $1.4 trillion in new gross domestic product (GDP), and add $953 billion in personal income and $323 billion in retail sales. And the Northwest is very well positioned to benefit economically from such an initiative.
Investing in industries and technology for the 21st century generates high-skilled, high-wage jobs for industries of the future. These jobs encompass many fields, from skilled craftsmen and laborers, to engineers and scientists.
Promoting the Apollo project will create and expand these high-paying jobs by improving the performance of our existing energy system, increasing production and consumption incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting design and construction of mass-transit systems. This is important to the Puget Sound region, where we have a highly trained workforce and a technological genius for meeting such challenges.
Renewable energy also creates more jobs than other sources of energy most of these will be created in the struggling manufacturing sector, which will pioneer the new energy future by investment that allows manufacturers to retool and adopt new technologies and methods.
Locally, companies such as MicroPlanet, Potelco, Xantrex, MagnaDrive, Global Energy Concepts and Neah Power Systems could be international leaders in developing and manufacturing the technological equipment our country needs to take us into the new energy frontier.
MicroPlanet and Potelco are working on a new product to prevent excess waste on the power grid. Global Energy Concepts, a Kirkland company, is a world leader in developing wind energy projects. Saddle Rock Technologies is an Eastern Washington startup working on commercializing a potentially revolutionary replacement of the internal combustion engine. Finally, Bothell's Neah Power Systems is developing a micro-fuel cell for use in notebook PCs and other portable electronic devices.
Mars will not be as close to the White House, as it was on Aug. 27, until 2287. Let's hope that well before then, some occupant of that favored house points our country in the direction of preventing the change of our planet's atmosphere; becoming energy independent; and creating a wealth of new jobs.
U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, represents the 1st Congressional District of Washington state.
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