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Policy Statement 489 - Energy Policy

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on January 10, 2013
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on March 19, 2013
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 12, 2013

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a national energy policy that anticipates future energy needs and promotes the development of clean and renewable energy supplies while increasing the efficiency of energy use.  The policy should:


  • Promote strong and continuing U.S. funding and commitment to clean energy research;
  • Validate and implement clean and efficient energy sources to meet the nation’s energy demands by relying on effective use of domestic natural resources and reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies;
  • Reduce the environmental impacts and long-term management responsibilities associated with continued use of traditional energy sources;
  • Expand upon domestic development for renewables;
  • Provide tax incentives and other inducements to establish a market for cleaner energy production;
  • Encourage energy conservation in design, construction, and operation practices;
  • Support the maintenance and development of infrastructure for energy operation and transmission; and
  • Provide a balanced and ongoing research and development (R&D) program for all sources of domestic energy production that encompasses both government and private industry and supports a U.S. clean energy supply.


Issue

    Population growth and economic development continue to create demands for increased energy.  Continued reliance on foreign sources of energy threatens the national security and economic competitiveness of the United States.

Fossil fuels—coal and natural gas—account for the majority of fuel used for energy generation in the United States. These fuel sources have been economical, but new production and the environmental impacts from their combustion are the source of expanding regulations.  Other energy sources, such as hydropower, nuclear, wind and solar, do not emit airborne pollutants but are associated with other types of environmental impacts. 

ASCE recognizes the importance of a diverse energy portfolio.  Research to improve existing sources and development of renewable energy sources can yield a reduced environmental impact and a more economical and reliable source of electricity for the future.

Rationale

    ASCE realizes the need for continued economical, reliable and environmentally responsible energy development and production in the United States.  This is critical to industrial and commercial expansion, economic growth and stability, and minimizes dependence on foreign energy sources, thus enhancing energy security.  The planning and development of energy sources in a responsible manner has long been a role of civil engineers.  A national energy policy that prioritizes short- and long-term needs and better aligns funding mechanisms and sustainable energy systems is needed.

    The prudent management of our national energy resources and the timely development of new energy technologies are public policy issues of concern to ASCE.  While fossil fuels are an abundant source of energy, fossil fuel power plants emit hundreds of millions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere each year.  Worldwide, fossil fuel plants produce a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions.  There is mounting evidence that greenhouse gas emissions may contribute to global warming, steadily altering the climate of the planet.

    A balanced and ongoing research and development (R&D) program for all sources of domestic energy production, that encompasses both government and private industry, should support a U.S. clean energy supply. This program would support the following initiatives:

  • Continuation of generation from fossil fuels, with expanded research needed to advance clean coal technologies and retrofits at existing facilities that reduce the production of greenhouse gases and minimize other environmental impacts; 
  • Re-examination of nuclear energy as an economically competitive, nonpolluting electricity source, with research and resolution of issues associated with safe operation and safe disposal of radioactive wastes;
  • Maintenance and expansion of renewable hydropower resources with R&D for  advanced turbine designs and damless applications, such as kinetic hydropower aimed at minimizing environmental effects;
  • Resource assessment and R&D for ocean wave, tidal and ocean thermal energy resources that have potential in select coastal areas of the U.S.;
  • R&D to encourage economic development of solar energy technologies in building design and photovoltaic technologies to provide economically competitive applications;
  • Examination of the integration of wind energy technologies with the national electrical grid and further R&D on unresolved and emerging environmental issues; 
  • R&D to examine and commercialize fuel cell technology, from either hydrogen or fossil fuels, that would provide a source of clean energy for distributed applications; 
  • Improved R&D on the efficient conversion of biomass energy would advance this renewable to increased distributed and utility grade electricity generation;
  • Examination of resource potential and development of geothermal energy resources could provide another source of clean US domestic energy;
  • Improved design and construction methodologies and techniques for energy facilities to reduce the carbon footprint associated with these facilities; and
  • Research and development on converting traditional waste products to clean, renewable energy sources.

ASCE Policy Statement 489
First Approved in 2001