Panels Discuss Fuel, Mideast

Economists Review Energy Policy Debate Nuclear Power, OPEC Cartel

Four economists expressed different opinions on how the nation should utilize various energy sources in a panel discussion on United States energy policy at the Science Center last night.

The Harvard Graduate Economic Club sponsored the discussion held before an audience of 150, centered around the issues of nuclear power and the rising cost of oil.

Gustavo Escobar, a Venezuelan economist, said he supported the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel of which Venezuela is a member. He said the OPEC countries were pursuing their legitimate self-interests.

Robert Pindyck, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the United States should try to undermine the cartel.

A.J. Meyer, lecturer on Economics at Harvard, said he disagreed with Pindyck. Meyer said the United States must not disrupt its economic relationship with OPEC. "It's an addict-pusher relationship," he added.


Meyer said he supported increased funding for the construction of "light-water" nuclear reactors and for the development of an efficient breeder reactor. Breeder reactors consume uranium and produce plutonium, which can then fuel other nuclear reactors.

Some scientists have expressed fears that the plutonium could be stolen by terrorists and used to build a nuclear weapon.

"The efficiency of the breeder is worth the risk," Meyer said. Pindyck said the breeder reactor would not be as economically efficient as Meyer contended.

Pindyck and Kenneth J. Arrow, Conant University Professor, said commercial breeder reactors should not be constructed.

In his speech, Pindyck said price controls have caused recent natural gas shortages. Pindyck said that distribution policies for natural gas should be decoupled from price control policies. "Prices should be decontrolled in phases, over a two-to three-year period," he said