US Energy Secretary Chu speaks re: Clean Energy at Harvard’s JFK School of Government

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a forum at Harvard’s JFK School of Government in Cambridge to hear The Honorable Dr. Steven Chu, United States Secretary of Energy, speak on the topic of “Laying the Foundation for the Next Generation of Clean Energy Jobs.”

The event was moderated by Harvard’s Dean David Ellwood.   A special introduction was provided by Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA), co-author of the American Clean Energy & Security act  (sometimes referred to as ACES, or the “Waxman-Markey bill”).  This bill passed in the House on June 26, 2009. The bill now goes on to be voted on in the Senate.

Markey also was the (co-)author in the past (1982, 1993, 1996) of several key telecom bills.    Markey indicated that the recent set of energy bills — the 2007 Energy Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka  ARRA aka The Stimulus Bill) and now Waxman-Markey — will be just as pivotal in the energy sector (in regards to unleashing innovation to solve societal challenges) as the telecom bills were in unleashing innovation to create unheralded advances and investment ($850 billion) in the telecom space.  However, Markey pointed out that the telecom sector is four times the size of the telecom space.  As a result, he expects that $1 trillion to $2 trillion of investment will be unleashed.

Chu (who is also a Nobel Prize recipient in physics) gave a very engaging presentation.  He chronicled the changes which our environment has shown in recent decades/centuries.  He also described the perils of reaching a (non-linear) tipping point in regards to greenhouse gasses:    Although much of the excess greenhouse gasses have been man-generated, we need to be aware that there is a tremendous quantity of frozen organic material in our ice caps and tundras.  Just a few degrees increase around the tipping point could cause that organic material to thaw out.  Once it does, the amount of carbon dioxide and methane generated by that (previously inert) organic material would be so substantial that even a massive reduction of the human-generated greenhouse gasses would not be sufficient to halt the overall escalation of greenhouse gasses.

Chu also made reference to the McKinsey report which stated that the ACES goals are easily achievable, even if we only focus on investments which have a positive financial ROI.   He also referenced “easy” adjustments, such as using white-colored roofing and road materials (rather than dark-colored materials) to decrease absorbed solar-thermal energy.  In addition, various computer tools are available today which help architects understand construction and maintenance design considerations in regards to making their designs more “green.”

Chu championed the creation of Energy Innovation Labs (aka Energy Frontier Research Centers) to help us become the leaders in a new economic revolution.  This will lead us to an era of economic prosperity in addition to helping to save the planet.

He closed with a quote from Martin Luther King regarding the “fierce urgency of now,”  encouraging us to act now (even with imperfect solutions) so that we do not fall into the trap of waiting (too long) to arrive at perfect solutions.

[View video of event.]

[Additional coverage of the event was provided in articles from WBUR and Reuters.]

Additional contact info:
Webwww.TKGweb.comTwitter: @tonyparham

One Response to “US Energy Secretary Chu speaks re: Clean Energy at Harvard’s JFK School of Government”

  1. Tony Parham says:

    TIME Magazine profiles Energy Secretary Steven Chu –