It's time now for a panel discussion on "Innovation and the Energy Crisis."
What mix of conservation, short-term energy technology and long-term R&D is needed to solve tomorrow’s looming energy challenges? And where will the leadership come from?
Moderator: Robert C. Armstrong, Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-director of the Energy Research Council, MIT
Panelists: Nathan Lewis, Professor, California Institute of Technology; Joseph Romm, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Energy & Climate Solutions; Kelly R. Fletcher, Sustainable Energy Advanced Technology Leader, GE Global Research
With less than 5% of the world's population, the United States uses about 25% of the world's energy supply. China's energy use is rising at 10% per year, and China is expected to double its GDP over the next 10-15 years. Overall, global energy demand is projected to double by the middle of this century.
Joseph Romm has an interesting blog called Climate Progress. He says that by necessity a huge amount of funding will go into climate science over the next several decades; it will be as big as the Internet in economic impact alone. He's now stating some of the most alarming facts and possibilities related to global warming over the next century. Scary stuff. Romm predicts that the US space program will be essentially abandoned by 2025 because we will recognize that every available dollar must be put into combatting the effects of global climate change.
Nathan Lewis says he thinks the problem is perhaps even worse than Romm made it seem. "If we don't cure cancer or AIDS in the next 20 years, the world will, unfortunately, stay the same; it we don't solve the climate change problem in the next 20 years, the world will be changed forever." He says the debate should no longer be about the science of climate change -- because there is no doubt it is happening -- but about risk management. "We are on a market-driven axis of economy that places total value on energy production and none on sustainability."
Kelly Fletcher says he basically agrees with the previous two presenters. He says that market and regulatory conditions are driving energy production and use in the current unsustainable direction, and that it is up to government to fundamentally change their policy paradigms. Uncertainty about policy is paralyzing investment in new technologies. "We need clear signals from government."