Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nobel Conference: Tues AM, Steven Chu

I'm at the 43rd annual Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. This year's conference is "Heating Up: The Energy Debate." Leading energy and global warming scientists are here to give lectures and discuss how to fight global warming with a clean energy future.

I'm at this conference to hear about the most current energy issues and challenges. In particular, I'm looking forward to learning about carbon markets and carbon pricing strategies. I'm also hoping to hear real debate, differences, and discussion about how best to address a clean energy future.

I got up at the crack of dawn and drove to St. Peter, arriving about 90 minutes ahead of time - which I thought would be plenty early to get a good seat. Instead, I encountered a long line of mostly senior citizens stretching out of the arena. One of my favorite South Park episodes came to mind, the one where the town is going to war with the seniors about something and Stan's dad says to him "We just can't defeat them, Stan....they get up too early."

Anyway, this morning opened up with Dr. Steven Chu of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in CA receiving an honorary doctorate and then addressing the 6,000 person audience on global warming 101 and what we can do about it.

Of the worst of global warming's impacts, Chu believes that water shortages are going to be the most catastrophic effects of global warming - and I've been hearing this more and more, both from the energy side and the investor side (in terms of where to invest your money to fight global warming).

He also stressed that we don't have to go back to the Stone Age to conserve energy. In fact, everyone in the world can live like the U.S. That is, our lifestyle is not tied solely to energy use per se; the problem is the carbon emissions. So by implementing aggressive energy efficiency measures, everyone in the world can live a middle class life. This is encouraging to me - to think about my lifestyle in terms of CO2 efficiency rather than "did I really need to buy this laptop?" It's not always about denying yourself something, but about making your choices smarter, faster, more efficient.


Up next was a brief Q&A session - here are the most interesting, instructive questions I heard:

Q: Should we stop investing in corn ethanol?

CHU: No, because if you grow grasses for cellulosic you won’t have a biorefinery to buy your grass and turn it into ethanol. You have to have solid technology that proves it’s technologically feasible to get your grass and turn it into fuel. The current technologies for cellulose aren’t going to get us there without huge subsidies. We have to keep on working on the corn technology we have now and prove that it can be used for grasses before we divest from corn completely.

Q: What are top things the average person can do to help energy issues?

CHU: By far, let your elected officials know that you are very concerned about the climate program and that you are willing to pay the little bit more needed to invest in solutions. There are well-meaning people in Congress who are terrified of what their voters will do if they hear "gas tax" or they suggest to raise electricity rates a few cents. They tell me that they feel pressure from the voters NOT to do that. So you need to let representatives know that they can’t fool around anymore and that you’re willing to do what it takes for solutions to climate change.

The next thing you need to do is examine how efficiently you use your energy. Efficiency is the lowest hanging fruit. So replace every bulb in your house with a CFL. Insulate your house better. You can see factors of 2-3 units of less energy used with no change in lifestyle.

Up next: Lectures from Kenneth S. Deffeyes of Princeton talking on peak oil and Lee Rybeck Lynd of Darmouth on biomass and biofuels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now a day global warming controversy is very hype. NASA sciencetists completely work on global warming research. According the sciencetists after 30 year earth is completely effected by global warming.