production and use. The system includes primary and secondary production together with such elements as distribution, manufacture, use, disposal, and scrap collection. Subsystems exist within the system. For example, the recycling of lead and antimony used in automobile and industrial batteries is a fairly well-defined separate industrial system; platinum, gold, and silver tend to be recycled in closed systems for particular uses, while recycling of urban refuse is less organized and inherently more difficult to systematize.
Other subsystems that need more research and analysis include the recycling of the materials from automobiles, appliance components, and used structural shapes. The government, since it is probably the only agency having the capability to develop the statistical information needed, has an important role in this area, especially in view of its obligation to provide for the general welfare of the people who are the chief beneficiaries of such advances.
The Presidential Message to the Congress on June 4, 1971, included the following: “For most of our history, a plentiful supply of energy is something the American people have taken very much for granted. In the past twenty years alone, we have been able to double our consumption of energy without exhausting the supply. But the assumption that sufficient energy will always be readily available has been brought sharply into question within the last year. The brownouts that have affected some areas of our country, the possible shortages of fuel that were threatened last fall, the sharp increases in certain fuel prices, and our growing awareness of the environmental consequences of energy production have all demonstrated that we cannot take our energy supply for granted any longer.
“A sufficient supply of clean energy is essential if we are to sustain healthy economic growth and improve the quality of our national life. I am therefore announcing today a broad range of actions to ensure an adequate supply of clean energy for the years ahead. Private industry, of course, will still play a major role in providing our energy, but government can do a great deal to help in meeting this challenge.
“My program includes the following elements:
“To Facilitate Research and Development for Clean Energy:
“—A commitment to complete the successful demonstration of the liquid-metal fast breeder reactor by 1980.
“—More than twice as much federal support for sulfur oxide control demonstration projects in Fiscal Year 1972.
“—An expanded program to convert coal into a clean gaseous fuel.
“—Support for a variety of other energy research projects in fields such as fusion power, magnetohydrodynamic power cycles, and underground electric transmission.”
Energy-conversion systems (nuclear reactors, turbines, generators, etc.) invariably require that materials perform in new and demanding environments. Often materials problems limit the efficiency and performance of the unit. Consequently, materials R&D will play an essential role in the development of this program, and will be carried out in both industrial and governmental