A bold proposal drafted by 28 prominent U.S. scientists and engineers calls for the United States and Mexico to jointly build a 1,954-mile energy park along the border with Mexico that would bring abundant energy and water to the region while providing border security and economic stability.
Spearheaded by a group of scientists and engineers from Purdue University, the proposed project would involve an integrated system of solar panels, wind turbines, natural gas pipelines and desalinization plants.
What is envisioned would provide border security, the scientists and engineers state, because utility facilities and infrastructure must be well protected. The connected energy parks would have economic benefits, both in the construction of the facilities and in the businesses that would be attracted to the region (on both sides of the border) by cheap electricity and plentiful water resources.
The scientists and engineers involved in making this proposal believe that it would be a win-win situation for all involved. Here’s what some of them say about the proposal (as quoted in a news release by Purdue University):
· Luciano Castillo, Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems at Purdue University (who headed up the consortium that drafted the proposal): “Just like the transcontinental railroad transformed the United States in the 19th century, or the Interstate system transformed the 20th century, this would be a national infrastructure project for the 21st century.”
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· Ronald Adrian, regent’s professor at Arizona State University: “The cost of providing basic, essential infrastructure to the border lands is tiny compared to the opportunities it creates. I view this project as a means of creating wealth by turning unused land of little value along the border into valuable land that has power, water access and ultimately agriculture, industry, jobs, workers and communities. With only a wall, you still have unused land of little value.”
· Carlos Castillo-Chavez, regent’s professor at Arizona State University: “All utility plants, pipelines and other energy production facilities have security. ... In addition to physical security features, such as multiple levels of fencing, these pipelines and facilities would also have electronic sensors and drone surveillance.”
· Jay Gore, Vincent P. Reilly Professor in mechanical engineering at Purdue University: “A project of this magnitude must be a private-public venture driven by free-market forces. It would require assuring border security first, industrial-scale infrastructure second, and an educated workforce, third. The private capital will flow to secure, infrastructure-ready and educated areas with great priority.”
· Carlos F. Coimbra, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California -- San Diego: “Environmental impact respects no borders, so it is important for the quality of life on both sides that there is substantial cooperation on all fronts, including border security, economic development, sustainable growth, educational partnerships, etc.”
A bold vision indeed. But isn’t that precisely what is needed? Is there not something to be said for rising above petty partisanship and seeking constructive cooperative solutions to the problems that face us and our neighbors to the south?
Is this a vision that will become a reality? Not if we brush it aside and ignore it. Not if we are unwilling to embrace it and join in helping make it a reality. But is there not something to be said for, to use the words of Abraham Lincoln, allowing the “better angels of our nature” to rise above our differences?
The engineers and scientists who have put together the energy corridor proposal have made a significant contribution to public discourse about some very important matters. They deserve our gratitude and our careful consideration of what they have proposed.
Daniel E. Lee is the Marian Taft Cannon Professor in the Humanities at Augustana College; firstname.lastname@example.org.