by Richard T. Stuebi
At the recent Western Energy Summit, Dr. Steven Koonin (Undersecretary of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy) made a speech with some eye-opening tid-bits. In this review on GreenTechMedia, Koonin is quoted as saying about the daunting challenges in moving away from fossil fuels:
“We have limited time and limited resources….We cannot let 1,000 flowers bloom indiscriminately.”
“The deployment of inefficient feel-good resources is doubly-bad” because they give the illusion of progress and divert scarce resources.
Coal “is not going to disappear anytime soon,” so much more effort needs to be put into carbon capture and storage technologies.
“If the world wants to seriously address emissions, nuclear will almost certainly have to be part of the future.”
Most interestingly, as reported by the August 3rd issue of the Peak Oil Review, Koonin is said to have opined in his speech that “resource constraints soon will force the Department of Energy to narrow its focus onto the most promising technologies.” If true, this is worrisome because (1) it possibly implies that the DOE isn’t necessarily expecting any major increases in R&D funding — and our national energy R&D budgets are considered by many to be pretty darn low in light of the challenges we face (see, for instance, this report by the Government Accounting Office), and (2) it suggests that DOE will increasingly start picking “winners and losers” — and the public sector is not known for being good at making such judgments.
If anyone can find Koonin’s speech text in full, I’d appreciate getting a copy.
Richard T. Stuebi is the Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc. Effective September 1, he will also become Managing Director of Early Stage Partners.