By Jarret Adams
At the Energy Innovation 2010 (Twitter hashtag #EI2010) conference today in Washington, D.C., discussion focused on ways to spur new ideas in energy in the United States and move our nation away from fossil fuels while spurring innovative ideas that will create jobs in this country. The conference was sponsored by the leading think tank, the Breakthrough Institute.
A piece by Breakthrough’s founders titled “the New Energy Conversation” pointed out that “for forty years, presidents and policymakers have promised and planned for a new energy future just over the horizon. Yet America is more dependent upon fossil fuels than ever before.” It concludes:
America has a longstanding commitment to moving toward cleaner sources of energy, whether natural gas and nuclear or solar and wind. But this commitment needs to be stronger, and more strategically built around particular technology pathways and policies focused on innovation. And this effort should be undertaken patiently, with an eye to create real bipartisan agreement that lasts for decades, not years.
The group has published a newly updated report, “Where Good Technologies Come From: Case Studies in American Innovation” that focuses on this issue. A range of interesting speakers from academia, the administration and industry contributed to the discussion.
The keynote speaker Dr. Burton Richter, a Stanford professor and Nobel laureate, diverged from the consensus viewpoint that innovation by itself is the key to responding to our energy challenges. [Disclosure: Richter has served on AREVA Inc.’s board.] Richter also pointed out that we have not focused enough on technologies that are ready now to provide us cleaner energy.
According to Richter, “one dimensional focus on climate change is not helping us” in this political and economic situation, but advises that we should not “despair but should get on with a multidimensional approach.” This would focus on the national security, economical and other factors in addition to climate concerns.
Richter recommended solutions such as natural gas and nuclear energy as alternatives that are available now as we work to expand capacity for renewables like wind and solar. He remarked that much of the solution is political, “We need an Energy Party, not a Tea Party.”
Andrew Revkin of the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog agreed with this sentiment and asked provocatively: “What will it take to end our bipartisan slumber party.” Read more about this topic on his blog here.