National summit focuses on innovation in clean energy

May 17, 2011

White House Science Adviser John Holdren and  LLNL Deputy Director for Science and Technology Tomas Diaz de la Rubia. Photos courtesy of Kevin Allen. (Download Image)

National summit focuses on innovation in clean energy

The United States needs to move ahead in the clean energy arena by innovating at the intersection of science and technology, policy and economics.

That was the message this week at the National Summit on Advancing Clean Energy Technologies in Washington, D.C. Organized by the Howard Baker Forum, the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Laboratory, the conference hosted a number of participants from the Obama Administration, Capitol Hill, science, academia and industry.

During Monday's keynote speech, White House Science Adviser John Holdren said the country cannot compete in the global energy market by living in a business as usual environment.

"In the energy outlook for 2011, renewables expand significantly, but fossil fuel dominance persists overwhelmingly," he said. Holdren acknowledged that advancement in energy technologies is not a matter of running out of energy or money, but rather the economic, political and environmental risks of fossil fuel dependence using the current technologies. "The solutions currently available are inadequate," he said.

He outlined how improved energy technologies will limit oil imports, improve urban air quality, use abundant U.S. coal resources without global climate change, expand the use of nuclear energy and maintain U.S. competitiveness of U.S. industry in the global energy market.

"We need to lift our game in the investments that we are making in energy," Holdren said. He further outlined how the Administration is dedicated to regaining its competitiveness in the global energy market.

"It's going to be a struggle in these tight fiscal times," he said. "But we are determined to do it. The places to cut are not innovation, infrastructure and education -- that is our future." Steve Koonin, undersecretary for science at the Department of Energy, gave a special presentation on the challenges facing the country in the energy market.

He said that the United States dependence on fossil fuels cannot be fixed by technology alone. "Technology alone does not transformation make," he said. "We need to change demand, price, standards and behavior."

Koonin stressed how high-performance computing can be used as a resource for reducing clean energy development time and cost. "This is something that is a differential advantage for the nation," he said. "It will make us competitive and change the energy system in the future. The rest of the world is not standing still."

Panel discussions throughout the conference included: spurring competitiveness and job creation; the role of private financing in commercializing advanced energy technologies; transforming product development and commercialization (moderated by LLNL Deputy Director or Science and Technology Tomas Diaz de la Rubia); simulation for energy efficient buildings, carbon capture and sequestration (with panelists including Julio Friedmann of LLNL); nuclear energy; liquid fuel combustion (with LLNL retiree Charlie Westbrook, and the smart grid and storage. Diaz de la Rubia served as the master of ceremonies at the event.

Summit presentations are available on the Summit Website. Lab employees must have SafeWeb to view on a Lab computer.