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Energy secretary: 'U.S. lagging in clean-tech race'

But the real urgency is a global race against time in a world that's growing warmer, Steven Chu warns Stanford students and faculty

The U.S. lags behind other countries in the race for clean technology even though it has the greatest "innovation machine" in the world, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told a Stanford University audience Monday.

But the clean-tech race is not just between nations -- it's a global race against time, Chu warned.

And Stanford students and faculty should seize leadership in the worldwide effort to minimize climate change and its catastrophic impacts, Chu said.

In a speech that ranged from climate science to politics to humor, Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former Stanford professor, said there is no longer any doubt that climate change is occurring.

"The overwhelming scientific consensus is that humans are altering the destiny of the planet," he told more than 1,700 Stanford students and faculty in Memorial Auditorium.

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"If we plow on as usual it could be catastrophic; it could be very bad, or very, very bad. But it's not going to be, 'Nothing's going to happen.'

"What we've already done (to the planet) won't be fully felt for over 100 years" because it takes time for the trapped heat to mix with cold deep-ocean temperatures to reach a new equilibrium, Chu said.

He warned that the most scientifically credible estimates put global warming between 3 degrees centigrade and 6 degrees-plus centigrade if people continue with business as usual.

The coldest part of the last Ice Age was only 6 degrees centigrade colder than the earth is today -- when Ohio and Pennsylvania were covered year-round in ice, he said.

"We don't know in detail what 6 degrees warmer will look like, but it will be an equally profound change," Chu said.

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Chu called for sustained scientific collaboration to address the challenge, citing innovations that historically came out of places such as AT&T Bell Laboratories, Los Alamos, the MIT Radiation Lab and the Metallurgical Lab at the University of Chicago.

"Scientists have come to the service of our country in times of national need," he said.

The Recovery Act is "making an $80 billion down payment on a clean-energy economy, including $8 billion in energy innovation," he said.

Last week Chu announced that $100 million in Recovery Act funding will be available for research in grid-scale energy storage, electrical-power technology and energy efficiency in buildings.

Asked later why he is not mounting a clean-energy effort on the scale of the Manhattan Project that led to the first atomic bomb during World War II, Chu said there is not enough money.

"Tell your people in Congress how important it is," he told the audience. "I agree -- we should do that."

The most important policy needed to stimulate innovation and investment in clean tech is a "long-term signal in the form of a price on carbon that will slowly ratchet up, and a cap on carbon," he said.

Such a signal could provide certainty to utility companies that are debating whether to go in the direction of nuclear, wind, coal or gas, he said. And it would liberate financial markets to loan money to new technologies.

"A slight change in those long-term signals will cause the American innovation machine to respond," he said.

"It will align incentives and say, 'You can make money if you make clean energy.'

"If we do that, we will win.

"Right now we're in a state of paralysis. Many businesses say, 'No, no, we can't do this; this country was founded on cheap energy and that's what I want.'

"But that's just holding off the inevitable. If we hold off the inevitable for another five years or 10 years, we'll lose because other countries are ahead. We will play catch-up and the United States is at risk. Energy touches everything in the United States. It is very important."

Stanford is "poised to be a major player in this green energy revolution," Chu said, citing the university's past leadership in semiconductors, computers and biotechnology.

"It's a new industrial revolution and it's essential for American competitiveness," he said.

The U.S. must use energy more wisely, deploy the low-carbon technology we have, improve energy storage and "discover the breakthroughs we need."

Other countries are now in the lead on auto fuel efficiency, batteries, electricity transmission, power electronics and nuclear power, he said.

China currently spends $9 billion a month to diversify and improve its clean-energy supply, with a goal of generating 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by this year and 15 percent by 2020.

"They have huge targets in wind energy and have taken astounding leadership in that big market," Chu said.

"I asked the head of their state grid, 'This costs a lot of money -- how do you do it?'

"He said, 'Of course nobody likes money taken out of their wallet, but we tell them (government leaders) how important it is.'

"Different system," Chu said, to laughter from the audience.

"A country essentially run by engineers is a good thing. Well, it's not all good. I'd rather live here -- but there are some advantages."

Chu urged Stanford students to educate themselves about climate challenges and to "make energy efficiency a social norm" by turning off lights, buying fuel-efficient vehicles, conserving water and using the "sleep mode" setting on computers.

He also urged students to "get as quantitative education as you can so that you can regress data and analyze it."

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Energy secretary: 'U.S. lagging in clean-tech race'

But the real urgency is a global race against time in a world that's growing warmer, Steven Chu warns Stanford students and faculty

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 8, 2010, 9:45 pm

The U.S. lags behind other countries in the race for clean technology even though it has the greatest "innovation machine" in the world, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told a Stanford University audience Monday.

But the clean-tech race is not just between nations -- it's a global race against time, Chu warned.

And Stanford students and faculty should seize leadership in the worldwide effort to minimize climate change and its catastrophic impacts, Chu said.

In a speech that ranged from climate science to politics to humor, Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former Stanford professor, said there is no longer any doubt that climate change is occurring.

"The overwhelming scientific consensus is that humans are altering the destiny of the planet," he told more than 1,700 Stanford students and faculty in Memorial Auditorium.

"If we plow on as usual it could be catastrophic; it could be very bad, or very, very bad. But it's not going to be, 'Nothing's going to happen.'

"What we've already done (to the planet) won't be fully felt for over 100 years" because it takes time for the trapped heat to mix with cold deep-ocean temperatures to reach a new equilibrium, Chu said.

He warned that the most scientifically credible estimates put global warming between 3 degrees centigrade and 6 degrees-plus centigrade if people continue with business as usual.

The coldest part of the last Ice Age was only 6 degrees centigrade colder than the earth is today -- when Ohio and Pennsylvania were covered year-round in ice, he said.

"We don't know in detail what 6 degrees warmer will look like, but it will be an equally profound change," Chu said.

Chu called for sustained scientific collaboration to address the challenge, citing innovations that historically came out of places such as AT&T Bell Laboratories, Los Alamos, the MIT Radiation Lab and the Metallurgical Lab at the University of Chicago.

"Scientists have come to the service of our country in times of national need," he said.

The Recovery Act is "making an $80 billion down payment on a clean-energy economy, including $8 billion in energy innovation," he said.

Last week Chu announced that $100 million in Recovery Act funding will be available for research in grid-scale energy storage, electrical-power technology and energy efficiency in buildings.

Asked later why he is not mounting a clean-energy effort on the scale of the Manhattan Project that led to the first atomic bomb during World War II, Chu said there is not enough money.

"Tell your people in Congress how important it is," he told the audience. "I agree -- we should do that."

The most important policy needed to stimulate innovation and investment in clean tech is a "long-term signal in the form of a price on carbon that will slowly ratchet up, and a cap on carbon," he said.

Such a signal could provide certainty to utility companies that are debating whether to go in the direction of nuclear, wind, coal or gas, he said. And it would liberate financial markets to loan money to new technologies.

"A slight change in those long-term signals will cause the American innovation machine to respond," he said.

"It will align incentives and say, 'You can make money if you make clean energy.'

"If we do that, we will win.

"Right now we're in a state of paralysis. Many businesses say, 'No, no, we can't do this; this country was founded on cheap energy and that's what I want.'

"But that's just holding off the inevitable. If we hold off the inevitable for another five years or 10 years, we'll lose because other countries are ahead. We will play catch-up and the United States is at risk. Energy touches everything in the United States. It is very important."

Stanford is "poised to be a major player in this green energy revolution," Chu said, citing the university's past leadership in semiconductors, computers and biotechnology.

"It's a new industrial revolution and it's essential for American competitiveness," he said.

The U.S. must use energy more wisely, deploy the low-carbon technology we have, improve energy storage and "discover the breakthroughs we need."

Other countries are now in the lead on auto fuel efficiency, batteries, electricity transmission, power electronics and nuclear power, he said.

China currently spends $9 billion a month to diversify and improve its clean-energy supply, with a goal of generating 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by this year and 15 percent by 2020.

"They have huge targets in wind energy and have taken astounding leadership in that big market," Chu said.

"I asked the head of their state grid, 'This costs a lot of money -- how do you do it?'

"He said, 'Of course nobody likes money taken out of their wallet, but we tell them (government leaders) how important it is.'

"Different system," Chu said, to laughter from the audience.

"A country essentially run by engineers is a good thing. Well, it's not all good. I'd rather live here -- but there are some advantages."

Chu urged Stanford students to educate themselves about climate challenges and to "make energy efficiency a social norm" by turning off lights, buying fuel-efficient vehicles, conserving water and using the "sleep mode" setting on computers.

He also urged students to "get as quantitative education as you can so that you can regress data and analyze it."

Comments

rl
Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 3:24 am
rl, Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 3:24 am
Like this comment

Chu comes off well when nobody asks questions, like how did we get so much oil in Alaska if that place wasn't a lot warmer at one time or another. A Congressman asked him that question last year and it completely stumped Chu.


Letson
Stanford
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:03 am
Letson, Stanford
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:03 am
Like this comment

"there is no longer any doubt that climate change is occurring."

Well, of course, because climate is always changing. However, there is much doubt that global warming is occuring on a scale large enough to be concerned. That is why they no longer call it global warming. It also helps to explain the climategate coverup.

This is the type of lecture that goes over well at Stanford, where Paul Ehrlich thrived with his scare talk about massive famines due to overpopulation. The bottom line is always the same: Give us more money, so that we can save the earth.


Right....
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:21 am
Right...., Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:21 am
Like this comment

This whole Administration is a flaming embarrassment to our nation. The world is laughing its tail off, while filling the gaps in consurmer need driven innovation and capitalism that we used to drive.


Right....
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:55 am
Right...., Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:55 am
Like this comment

Great timing..here is an article (just published in England, of course, by Reuters..) talking about the job LOSSES in California from the "green jobs" pushes here..

Spain lost jobs from its "green jobs' pushing..and now California. The rest of the USA to follow...( note the whole "Cap and Trade" debate is on the back burner now)

Web Link


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:00 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:00 am
Like this comment

Gee, they've discovered the heat content of the oceans - the same heat content neglected in that earlier "Scientists lying for the public good" hoax, Nuclear Winter. Chu has to learn to dress more scientisty, so when he does those "4 out of 5 scientists are Warmies" commercials he will seem sincere.
My challenge is still unanswered - plug in each sacrifice we are asked to make into their own program and demonstrate the change in end conditions. If there is no significant change in output, then why bother?
Change is inevitable, and those who adapt best to change are those who have not wasted capital on feel good voodoo science.


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:50 am
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:50 am
Like this comment

"This whole Administration is a flaming embarrassment to our nation. The world is laughing its tail off, while filling the gaps in consurmer need driven innovation and capitalism that we used to drive."

You are roughly 30 years late with that observation. American energy innovation stopped during the Reagan drill and import policy. But it was the Bush administration that gave our competitors the real boost, wasting our financial credit lines on a mismanaged useless war instead of investing in innovation, while they pushed ahead.


Jarrod
Greenmeadow
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm
Jarrod, Greenmeadow
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm
Like this comment

The US is only interested in making money, not the environment.


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm
Like this comment

Even more than money, endless pointless wars. With ample cheerleading.

The Roman elite famously used bread and circuses to keep their populace fat, dumb, and happy. Their modern counterparts have discovered that circuses suffice.


Richard
Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm
Richard, Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm
Like this comment

Steve Chu is one of the smartest people in the world, and I recommend listening very carefully to what he says. Even if you don't believe the science and don't like his policy proposals, pay attention to what he points out that China is doing. We are going to get left in the dust if we continue on our present course. China will indeed be laughing at us...all the way to the bank.


Letson
Stanford
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm
Letson, Stanford
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm
Like this comment

"pay attention to what he points out that China is doing. We are going to get left in the dust if we continue on our present course. China will indeed be laughing at us...all the way to the bank"

Are you saying that we should be building a number of new nuclear plants, like China?


Sharon
Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Like this comment


Actually China is an environmental disaster much worse than anything seen in the "Dark Satanic Mills" of the UK Industrial Revolution.
China has every intention of build more and more dirty coal power plants with minimal pollution controls for the foreseeable future.

China is spending a fortune on Public Relation campaigns to hide the truth, but anyone who travells there on business and gets around knows the truth.

China has failed to migrate from an industrial economy to a service /IP economy-- as India has.

Unfortunately most of the mercury pollution and other heavy metal particals in our air come from China, not to mention the contaminated food, toys, drugs, dry wall etc.


Richard
Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 7:49 pm
Richard, Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 7:49 pm
Like this comment

Sharon,
Nobody is denying that China is a massive polluter, but they are investing in clean energy for the future in a massive way that is more than a PR campaign. They will soon be the largest producer of wind power in the world. Using their current pollution levels as an excuse for inaction on our part, as many people do, is shortsighted and foolish.


Sharon
Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 8:02 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 8:02 pm
Like this comment

Wind power in China will provide .0005% of their energy by optimistic estimates, it will also kill 90% of the birds, they will evolve to be flightless -- but what about the rats and the cats that will eat them?

China has no interest in clean energy, it has an interest in cheap energy-- which for them is coal


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm
Like this comment

"Are you saying that we should be building a number of new nuclear plants, like China?"

Like China or not, that is what the present administration is doing, reversing the nuclear drought that began during the Reagan administration.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:50 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:50 am
Like this comment

The nuclear drought was one aspect of Jerry Brown's Era of Limits, an era that saw Federal highway money surrendered to other states because we were never going to build another freeway; never building another nuclear plant until there was an approved nuclear waste permanent storage facility; and thanks to Rose Bird never going to be another execution.






,


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:32 am
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:32 am
Like this comment

Paradoxical, ain't it? It takes a Democrat like Obama to actually do something, like reviving nukes, that "conservatives" can only whine about and blame Democrats for their own impotence.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:39 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:39 am
Like this comment

It was/is the democrats who shut down the Nation's only permanent nuclear waste storage facility.


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm
Like this comment

Do you mean the recent respect shown for Nevada's states' rights at the Yucca Mountain facility? Dems appear to be the sole real respecters of states' rights, while "conservatives" give the principle lip service for political purposes only.

What's the fuss anyway? Why shouldn't those who benefit from creating the waste have to live with it afterward? You yourself once said in this forum that you'd accept a cask or two in your back yard. Welching already?

While we're on this topic, maybe you can explain the contempt for basic capitalist principles in this thread. Why shouldn't the US develop and build clean technology, and sell it at a profit to the proven international market for it?


Letson
Stanford
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm
Letson, Stanford
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm
Like this comment

"Like China or not, that is what the present administration is doing, reversing the nuclear drought that began during the Reagan administration"

Paul, so you now support the blooming of nuclear power, right?


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm
Like this comment

Did I say that? My intent was to point out the paradox that the proponents' heroes consistently fail to do what the proponents want, while their, um, less than heroes actually accomplish what the proponents claim they want accomplished. False gods, feet of clay, you know. Their flimsy excuses (generally blaming "liberals") are hilariously entertaining.

For the record, I have never stated my opinion on nuke power in this forum. But the half-baked, uninformed, and misinformed opinions held by the majority of nuke power proponents are irresistable targets.


Sharon
Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:00 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:00 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Paul
Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm
Paul, Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm
Like this comment

Get real. "domestic oil drilling" won't solve anything. Domestic oil production, which gets oil, cannot possibly ramp up to the necessary levels to make a difference - it is physically impossible for a country that consumes 25% of world oil production to fulfill its own needs when it has only 3% of oil reserves. We did the Drain America First thing in the last century, and now we gotta be nice to the sheiks and Mr. Chavez, or else.

We need real, novel energy solutions, not more silly fantasy like domestic oil drilling. This country used to be very good at innovations, genuine Connecticut Yankees, but in its latter effete days it's been mostly a sucker for politicians' fairy tales.


Right...
Meadow Park
on Mar 13, 2010 at 5:45 am
Right..., Meadow Park
on Mar 13, 2010 at 5:45 am
Like this comment

Paul, your posts are dizzying in paradoxical circles, but I will take one sample and answer it..

"While we're on this topic, maybe you can explain the contempt for basic capitalist principles in this thread. Why shouldn't the US develop and build clean technology, and sell it at a profit to the proven international market for it?"

We capitalists are ALL FOR doing exactly that..with private investors' money, not tax money. It is not "THE US" ( ie govt use of our tax dollars) that should do this, but individuals.

If you create or find a company you think will be profitable in clean tech, by all means, be our guest, invest in it and more power to you! May you earn millions in your company or investment!

Just stop trying to force ME to invest in what I think is a failed idea before it even gets out the door.

In other words, leave each of us free to invest in what we wish, and stop being a tyrant ( oppressive dictator)


Mark Goldes
another community
on Mar 15, 2010 at 9:23 am
Mark Goldes, another community
on Mar 15, 2010 at 9:23 am
Like this comment

Revolutionary new energy technologies are under development.

See the short articles at: Web Link for an overview.

Although anyone with scientific background will not believe it, ordinary water is likely to replace oil. One barrel of water can release energy equivalent to 200 barrels of oil.

See the story about hydrinos at american-reporter.com

This is really about fractional Hydrogen. It opens the door to cost-competitive alternatives to nuclear and coal plants.

It appears likely that future cars and trucks can become power plants.
They may earn enough using wireless Vehicle to Grid technology to pay their way.

Nuclear waste may prove to provide excellent fuel for generating electricity at lower cost than the nuclear plant, with no need to relocate the fuel rods, and with no weapons overtones.


right...
Meadow Park
on Mar 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm
right..., Meadow Park
on Mar 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm
Like this comment

Mark, I hope you are right, and I wish you every bit of luck in your investment..


clean energy is the future
Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2010 at 9:08 am
clean energy is the future, Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2010 at 9:08 am
Like this comment

You're never going to see a wind power turbine or a solar panel spill billions of gallons of crude oil onto our shorelines.


Maroons are everywhere
Greenmeadow
on May 28, 2010 at 6:09 pm
Maroons are everywhere, Greenmeadow
on May 28, 2010 at 6:09 pm
Like this comment

And which company are you inventing or investing in that will see wind power turbine or solar panels drive the engines of transportation in our nation?

You will never see wind powered gliders carrying 400 passengers to their deaths into the sides of tall buildings either.

So, I think we should ban all planes.


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