Wamp: Leading The Way To Energy Independence

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - by Rep. Zach Wamp
Rep. Zach Wamp
Rep. Zach Wamp

As our country continues to consume large amounts of energy, it is more important than ever that we rapidly move towards energy independence. Our region is helping lead the way by making important developments in energy independence in two areas that make up our largest areas of consumption: transportation and the electricity power sector.

We recently launched a new program at UTC which moved the Advanced Transportation Technology Institute into the engineering school at UTC. With a $1 million federal grant, we set up a permanent research arm at UTC around advanced transportation called the Advanced Technologies for Transportation Research Program.

This grant is another step in pursuing enterprising research and development and will lead to a lot of technological breakthroughs. From mass transit to individual automobiles, we are working diligently in research areas with a vehicle test track off Amnicola Highway that was transferred from the Tennessee Valley Authority to UTC to test vehicles using new technology and alternative energy.

We believe we'll make the automobiles of the future in this region, and we want to be involved in the research that demonstrates the new technologies from electric cars and buses to hydrogen fuel cell driven systems and flex-fuel vehicles. It really ties UTC and the University of Tennessee to a national position in energy and transportation research. I believe it will create investments in this region from the private sector on advanced transportation.

It's one of the key priorities of the enterprise center which we set up to promote technology and economic development in southeast Tennessee. They are very involved in alternative fuels, advanced transportation and technology transfer, which will create the jobs in the private sector or whether it's to manufacture hydrogen fuel cell or to demonstrate next generation vehicles.

There's another piece to energy independence and that is nuclear energy. We have tremendous resources and skill sets in our Tennessee Valley region to help bring about a nuclear renaissance. TVA could demonstrate proliferation-resistant technology to recycle spent nuclear fuel and reduce waste. We have five nuclear units online today, and could have eight to nine nuclear units in the TVA system within the next seven years if we can show that a large part of the spent fuel can be converted back into energy. France and Great Britain already do this and there's no reason why we can't lead these efforts from our region.

If we're going to clean up the air and become energy independent, we have to take bold steps. In transportation, that means research, development and deployment of advanced technologies into the marketplace and providing reliable efficient power through a resurgence in nuclear energy by demonstrating a safe closed-fuel cycle. We have the capability of demonstrating all of this in a partnership with TVA in this region.

The Tennessee Valley Corridor can bring about change by leading in energy technology, or "Entech," to benefit our future and make our country more energy independent.

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