Under Secretary for Science Steve Koonin
Under Secretary for Science Steve Koonin participated in the “Meeting Global Energy Demand” panel as part of the Science & Society: Global Challenges discussion series. Other panelists at this well attended event were David Goldston from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Michael Parker of ExxonMobil. The discussion was hosted by National Public Radio reporter Richard Harris and sponsored by AAAS, the American Chemical Society, and the Georgetown University Program on Science in the Public Interest.
The discussion opened with a question about energy demand and whether the country or the world would run out of traditional energy sources. Dr. Koonin commented that even though 80% of the world’s energy needs are met with conventional sources and demand is growing as countries around the world develop, a global shortage of coal, oil or gas is not the main problem. The main challenge is meeting that demand in affordably while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts of energy use. Reducing U.S. dependence upon imported oil is the main challenge in the transportation sector.Dr. Koonin identified several things we should do in the U.S. to meet our energy challenges in transport, heat, and power. In transportation, the U.S. should aggressively promote fuel efficiency and conservation, develop alternative vehicle technologies (including gradual electrification), and pursue alternative fuels such as advanced biofuels. Meeting our energy challenge for heat and power will require developing and deploying a smart grid with storage, setting a price on carbon emissions (which will favor increased use of natural gas, wind, and nuclear fission), and pursuing low-carbon power portfolio standards. The U.S. should also promote conservation and efficiency in stationary uses through appliance and building standards.
Questions from the audience prompted a discussion on what is being done to promote energy literacy, as well as understanding of alternate fuel and energy technologies. The panel also discussed the wide and evolving disparity in geographical demands for energy and the conventional sources used, efficacy of a carbon price to change behavior, and economic pressures leading to lower consumption. The panel agreed that the relationship between energy and water is underappreciated by the public and policymakers.
The discussion took place at the AAAS auditorium in Washington, D.C.