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MCCRACKEN: Opportunity beckons for Nye County if proactive

A headline on the front page of the New York Times last week read, "2015 Far Eclipsed 2014 As World's Hottest Year, Climate Scientists Say." This according to a world climate record-keeping system begun in 1880. Fifteen of the last 16 years have been our planet's hottest in the last 135 years, those records tell us.

The probabilities are very high that if human beings wish to keep our home planet habitable in the future for billions of people, not to mention plants and animals, big-time changes in energy use will be required. And these changes are on their way!

We are nearing the time when a historic shift is underway from burning fossil fuels, the primary cause of increasing temperatures, as the primary energy source, to using non-carbon-based energy sources of solar, wind, geothermal, and importantly, much more nuclear energy. In the not-too-distant future we will reach a tipping point where adoption of these alternative energy sources will accelerate and transform the worldwide energy picture as we know it today.

The social impact of this energy source transformation will have few parallels in history. In a couple of generations, it has the potential to lead to a very different and, I believe, better world.

This historic shift in energy production will create winners and losers. Among the losers will be fossil fuel producers, transporters, processors and distributors. More and more, owners of coal, oil and natural gas deposits will be forced by changing economics to leave their fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

Among the winners will be those who produce and distribute electric power from non-fossil sources and the billions of human beings who will enjoy better health from breathing cleaner air. The environment and the earth's countless species will be big winners. Those who develop and produce the many new and improved products, such as batteries and electric automobiles, will benefit. As we enter this new world of changing technology, there will be vast numbers of communities, companies and individuals who will benefit from doing the science and engineering behind further development of these alternative energy technologies and building the infrastructure to make them work.

These coming changes should not be feared; they offer huge opportunities for those willing to take up the challenge. That's where Nye County comes in. Nye County is well positioned to take advantage of these coming opportunities. The county has two especially important things going for it. One, it has lots and lots of land and plenty of sunshine. The other is a deep history of involvement in nuclear energy technology.

What Should Nye County Do?

First and foremost, we need to become proactive. Don't sit back and wait for opportunity to knock on the door. We need to knock on opportunity's door. I suggest the following:

Put together a group consisting of community leaders and citizens who are interested in exploring how Nye County can take advantage of these coming changes in energy technology.

Develop a strategy for bringing energy-related science and technology development to the county.

Promote the idea that Nye County intends to become a world-class arena for energy research, technology and production. That's what the Nevada Test Site was all about! We will be returning to our roots.

Develop a website and marketing campaign to brand Nye County as a good place to bring companies, government agencies and organizations doing research and development on advanced forms of energy production.

Contact and develop relationships with national leaders in the energy research and technology arena. Show them how we can help them fulfill their needs. Sell the idea of bringing some of their energy technology development to Nye County.

Promote Yucca Mountain as a part of the world's energy future, essential to the advancement of nuclear power technology.

Begin vigorously promoting a Science and Energy Museum in Nye County. That complex will include an Engineering Hall of Fame.

Start promoting the idea that the Nevada Test Site (aka NNSS), which is now under-utilized, needs to be redirected toward development of a world-class energy research and development facility. Make it the site for development of new types of nuclear reactors.

Make the Test Site a center for production of nuclear power for distribution throughout the western United States. It's ideally situated to do that.

Convert a substantial parcel of the federal land adjoining the Test Site from federal control to Nye County ownership, for Nye County's use in its energy research and development effort.

Bob McCracken has a doctorate in cultural anthropology and is the author of numerous books in the Nye County Town History Project.

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