Speakers Focus on Biofuels, Solar
Energy, Wind Power, Nuclear Power Development, and Other
9/20/2006 10:37:00 AM
To: National Desk, Environment and Energy Reporter
Contact: Al Rickard of Association Vision, 703-402-9713
NEW YORK, Sept. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Against a backdrop
of declining oil resources projected to run out during the
next 30 to 40 years, a panel of experts analyzed alternative
energy options at Global Energy Day, sponsored by the
Licensing Executives Society (LES).
Samuel F. Baldwin, Ph.D., the leading expert on renewable
energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE),
keynoted Global Energy Day with a talk that cited the latest
statistics on energy use and reviewed the growing problem of
He spoke of potential large-scale changes such as the
movement of eco-zones and agricultural zones caused by
global warming as well as less visible but significant
changes such as the acidity of the oceans, which is already
affecting the ability of plankton to develop, holding
implications for the future of the ocean food chain.
DOE is working through its Advanced Energy Initiative to
help fund alternative energy aprojects such as biomass
fuels, advanced hybrid cars, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles,
solar energy, and wind energy.
However, he explained, "The time it takes to respond to
these issues is long," and noted the need for an increased
focus on energy issues.
Baldwin also observed that 200 cities across the United
States have "climate initiatives" designed to address global
warming, and said that DOE is reviewing these to see which
ones may have the potential for broader applications.
Simon Hobbs, a business development officer with oil and
energy company UOP, noted that the energy used by an average
American in one year consumes 7.9 tons of resources, while
the average consumption by people in the rest of the world
is only 1.3 tons.
Because of this, he urged a move to decrease the growth
in consumption and development of methanol as an alternative
fuel, which his company is currently researching.
"Methanol has a high energy density, is versatile, and
the cost to produce it has come down significantly," he
said. It can also be used to produce ethylene and propylene,
products which now consume petroleum resources.
In the big picture, Hobbs predicted that "the future will
be a high-energy world, no matter what energy we use. Our
energy sources will be highly diverse."
Peter Dobson, Ph.D., of Oxford University, spoke about
research conducted by a university spin-off company, Oxonica,
which holds promise for finding new applications for
nanotechnology in the energy arena.
For example, the company developed a diesel fuel additive
that produces an 11 percent fuel efficiency increase and a
reduction in emissions. It is currently used by the
Stagecoach bus company in buses across the United Kingdom
and is beginning to attract attention from oil companies.
Norma Formanek, vice president of the nonprofit Electric
Power Research Institute, reviewed ways this organization is
leveraging research and development on behalf of the entire
electric industry and finding ways to license out new
Much of its work has been in the nuclear power area,
where new technology has found effective ways to clean fuel
rods and remove low-level nuclear waste from water used in
nuclear power plants.
Carsten Heide of the University of North Dakota Energy
and Environmental Research Center explained how his
organization works on developing cleaner and more efficient
energy technology. Much of this group's research is in
biomass energy production, where the focus is on developing
innovations that will respond to real market needs.
Heide explained, "research and development by itself does
not create innovations -- you have to understand the client
perspective. An entrepreneurial culture is the key to
Andrew Barron, Ph.D, associate dean for industry
interactions and technology transfer at the Rice University
Wiess School of Natural Sciences, talked about the potential
for solar energy generation and other innovations.
For example, research at Rice University has developed
certain types of carbon nanotubes that can conduct
electricity with no energy loss. He explained the many
complicated aspects of how these can be efficiently
manufactured and the subsequent licensing process to bring
this product to market.
M. Rashid Khan, Ph.D., a specialist on intellectual
properties for the Saudi government-owned Saudi ARAMCO,
talked about how his company has created an extensive
innovation program that empowers all employees to contribute
ideas and rewards them for this innovation. He said that the
approach has already generated $1 billion in value as a
result of innovation.
"By leveraging our internally grown technology," Khan
said, "in the long run our company will create more value
for Saudi Arabia than the value of the oil we produce."
Tadeusz Patzek, professor of civil and environmental
engineering at the University of California, Berkeley,
delivered his strong views about how bioethanol produced
from corn or cellulose plant sources cannot produce a
sustainable energy supply that will significantly reduce
dependence on gasoline.
He charged that the United States uses 105 times more
energy than it needs, and it needs to drastically reduce
consumption for biofuels to cover any significant portion of
Patzek believes that investment in solar cells and wind
turbines will be more productive than biomass solutions to
contribute to overall energy needs.
Mark Austin of Xethanol, a company that produces ethanol
in locations near large urban centers, acknowledged that,
while "biofuels are not going to be sustainable overnight,
there is a lot of bipartisan acceptance for the role of
He noted that 95 ethanol plants are currently producing
4.3 billion gallons of ethanol, and that plants capable of
producing another 1 billion gallons are currently under
"Cellulose is the most abundant biomaterial on the planet
and it is made of sugars," Austin explained. The problem is
that nature has linked these sugars to other compounds and
the energy from them is not easily released.
He described the scientific research now underway to find
the best ways to process cellulose into bioethanol and said
the projected cost to produce ethanol will eventually drop
to $1 to $1.25 per gallon.
"The bioethanol industry is still in its infancy," Austin
said, noting that it took the oil industry 100 years to
develop advanced refining processes.