Burt Richter

Jeff Tollefson reports on Nobel laureates calling for a $150 billion special Clean Energy Technology Fund in climate change legislation, “a dedicated and untouchable stream of revenue in the climate legislation itself.”

Burt Richter, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, offered up a few numbers in a conference call with journalists: Energy makes up about 10 percent of the nation’s gross national product, or about $1.5 trillion per year; $15 billion would represent just 1 percent of the nation’s energy expenditures. Small potatoes in the grand scheme, but Richter says it would get the nation started on the kind of energy innovation that will be needed to meet the climate challenge – and stay ahead in an increasingly competitive world.

“The United States is getting to the point where it doesn’t make anything that anybody wants to buy,” he said, pointing to nuclear and wind power as two energy technologies that the United States pioneered and then shipped overseas. “We would be well advised to invest at an appropriate scale … if we want to preserve our position of technological leadership.”