June 03, 2005
Energy: A 21st Century Perspective
I attended Energy: A 21st Century Perspective on Thursday, June 3rd. It really opened my eyes to the many scientific, economic, political, and social aspects of managing energy resources in the U.S. and throughout the world. The speakers focused on several topics, including economics of energy, technology development, coal, nuclear energy, hydrogen for energy, renewable resources, and fuel cells.
Summary information will be appearing on the web site in the future, including actual power point presentations and a streaming video of the conference. As more information is shared, I will update my posting.
Steven Koonin, Chief Scientist for BP, gave one of the most interesting presentations. (For a preview, see a similar presentation he gave to the Fermilab in April). One of the most striking slides of his presentation was how much energy the U.S. uses compared to other countries, and how little several contries, that are growing quickly, are using now.
I did note some interesting comments from the speakers:
1. The U.S. energy policies are not driven by the Department of Energy, as we all may think. EPA, Department of Transportation, etc. all have more effect on energy prices and utilization than the Dept. of Energy.
2. U.S. prices for energy (gas, electricity, etc.) are still cheaper than other areas throughout the world, because the U.S. prices do not cover the environmental consequences as other countries have calculated into their prices.
3. France's electricity is 70% nuclear power created. They also created "standard" power plants that greatly reduced contruction and operation costs (unlike the U.S. that created a different design for each power plant).
4. Improperly operated or designed coal power plants give off more radiation than nuclear power plants.
5. All agreed that we are already in a 20 year window in which drastic changes and decisions must be made to guarantee future energy supplies and environmental protection.