Energy

Four Technologies and a Conundrum: The Glacial Pace of Energy Innovation


Michael E. Webber, Roger D. Duncan, Marianne Shivers Gonzalez


A first-of-its-kind analysis provides a sweeping picture of how the United States uses energy and suggests steps for technological improvement. The energy sector is the world’s largest market. Reaching billions of users, it accounts for approximately $5 trillion of economic activity and $1.8 trillion of trade annually, representing trillions of dollars of accumulated long-lived capital […]

This article is in Science in the Gilded Age and the Birth of NAS, Winter 2013

Is the Smart Grid Really a Smart Idea?


Marc Levinson


These various communications and diagnostic devices will make electricity distribution more efficient and reliable. They will improve utilities’ ability to spot and resolve problems. The advanced systems also will make it easier for utilities to incorporate electricity from intermittent sources, such as wind generators and rooftop photovoltaic solar installations, into their supplies, because they will […]

This article is in The Need for Geoengineering Research, Fall 2010

A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy Independence


Lamar Alexander


In other words, we have the plug. The cars are coming. All we need is the cord. Too good to be true? Haven’t U.S. presidents back to Nixon promised revolutionary vehicles? Yes, but times have changed. Batteries are better. Gas is $4. We are angry about sending so many dollars overseas, worried about climate change […]

This article is in The Path Not Studied, Summer 2008

Back to Basics on Energy Policy


Bruce Everett


For the past 40 years, political leaders have promised that government can plan and engineer a fundamental transformation of our energy industry They were wrong. In June 1973, President Richard Nixon addressed the emerging energy crisis, saying that “the answer to our long-term needs lies in developing new forms of energy.” He asked Congress for […]

This article is in Applying New Research to Improve Science Education, Fall 2012

The Road to a New Energy System: Stimulating Innovation in Energy Technology


William B. Bonvillian, Charles Weiss


In the energy sector, a system of carbon charges, such as a cap-and-trade program, may make many of the back-end proposals listed above less necessary insofar as it would induce similar effects through pricing mechanisms. The third step is an institutional gap analysis that consists of a survey of existing institutional and organizational mechanisms for […]

This article is in The Road to a New Energy System, Fall 2009

Perspective: Getting the Most Out of Electric Vehicle Subsidies


Jeremy J. Michalek, Mikhail Chester, Constantine Samaras


The electrification of passenger vehicles has the potential to address three of the most critical challenges of our time: Plug-in vehicles may produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions when powered by electricity instead of gasoline, depending on the electricity source; reduce and displace tailpipe emissions, which affect people and the environment; and reduce gasoline consumption, helping […]

This article is in Social Science and Environmental Policy, Summer 2012

The Road to a New Energy System: Transforming Energy Innovation


Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Laura D. Anadon, Ambuj D. Sagar


The public-goods nature of energy technologies thus necessitates a multifarious role for the government: ensuring the availability of future technology options, reducing risk, developing more appropriate market signals, and often even helping create markets. As a result, the federal government is not only a major funder and performer of energy RD&D but also a major […]

This article is in The Road to a New Energy System, Fall 2009

What Makes U.S. Energy Consumers Tick?


Kelly Sims Gallagher, John C. Randell


Harnessing the social sciences to answer that question can help lead the nation to an alternative—more efficient—energy future. On October 6, 1997, during the runup to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in Japan later that year, President William J. Clinton described barriers to the adoption of energy-efficient technologies at a White House Conference on climate change. […]

This article is in Social Science and Environmental Policy, Summer 2012

Alternative Energy for Transportation


Koji Omi


The world’s citizens and governments must accept that Earth’s resources are finite and commit themselves to the development of new power sources for automobiles. Science and technology (S&T) has brought economic growth and contributed to enhancing living standards. In recent years, S&T has progressed very rapidly and brought tremendous benefits to our lives. For example, […]

This article is in What Science Can Do, Summer 2009

Decision Support for Developing Energy Strategies


Joseph Arvai, Robin Gregory, Douglas Bessette, Victoria Campbell-Arvai


Regional case in point These lessons are evident in recent research in which several of us developed and tested a framework for crafting an energy strategy for Michigan State University (MSU). (For further information, see http://energytransition.msu.edu.) MSU has a cogeneration facility located on campus that converts the thermal energy from burning coal, natural gas, and […]

This article is in Social Science and Environmental Policy, Summer 2012

U.S. Energy Policy: The Need for Radical Departures


Vaclav Smil


What follows is a brief outline of an approach that I would advocate based on more than 40 years of interdisciplinary energy studies. Although it rests on first principles and on indisputable biophysical realities, it has a stamp of personal convictions, and its ultimate goal calls for a fundamental rethinking of basic positions and propositions. […]

This article is in What Science Can Do, Summer 2009

The Little Reactor That Could?


Ross Carper, Sonja Schmid


As the United States and other nations consider their next steps in nuclear energy, a new movement to support small modular reactors is coming to the forefront. But how are we to envision these technologies and their role in a post-Fukushima era? A week before Halloween 2009, John R. Deal, an entrepreneur who goes almost […]

This article is in Affordable National Security, Summer 2011

Tapping Talent in a Global Economy: In Defense of Biofuels, Done Right


Keith Kline, Virginia H. Dale, Russell Lee, Paul Leiby


Despite recent claims to the contrary, plant-based fuels developed in economically and environmentally sensible ways can contribute significantly to the nation’s—indeed, the world’s—energy security while providing a host of benefits for many people worldwide. Biofuels have been getting bad press, not always for good reasons. Certainly important concerns have been raised, but preliminary studies have […]

This article is in Tapping Talent in a Global Economy, Spring 2009

The Energy-Climate Complex: An Energy Agenda for the New Congress


Jeff Bingaman


I think these four items or elements should be at the heart of whatever comprehensive energy legislation we undertake in this Congress. Let me say a few more words about each of them. R&D The first item to consider is support for advanced energy technology R&D. The United States has traditionally led the world in […]

This article is in The Energy/Climate Complex, Spring 2011

Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle: A Full-Court Press for Renewable Energy


Frank N. Laird


Transformation of the energy system will require steady and generous government support across technological, economic, and social domains. Any effort to move the United States away from its current fossil-fuel energy system will require the promotion of renewable energy. Of course, renewable energy alone will not solve all problems of climate change, energy security, and […]

This article is in Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle, Winter 2009

The Energy-Climate Complex: Energy in Three Dimensions


Burton Richter


Those who are waiting for a national cap-and-trade bill or a carbon tax will have to wait at least until we see the results of the 2012 election, and maybe longer. But significant progress is possible without these measures. The heavy lifting will have to be done by industry, and the key to industry success […]

This article is in The Energy/Climate Complex, Spring 2011

Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle: Low Carbon Fuel Standards


Daniel Sperling, Sonia Yeh


The most direct and effective policy for transitioning to low-carbon alternative transportation fuels is to spur innovation with a comprehensive performance standard for upstream fuel producers. When it comes to energy security and climate change concerns, transportation is the principal culprit. It consumes half the oil used in the world and accounts for almost one-fourth […]

This article is in Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle, Winter 2009

The Energy-Climate Complex: The Smart Grid: Separating Perception from Reality


Lawrence J. Makovich


As the above examples make clear, the direct benefits of smart grid investments have not yet proven certain or significant enough to fully offset the costs of implementation. The implication is clear: The United States is not moving to a rapid full-scale deployment of smart grid technologies and systems anytime soon. Future implementation is likely […]

This article is in The Energy/Climate Complex, Spring 2011

Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle: Energy Security for American Families


Lisa Margonelli


Helping moderate-income households invest in energy-efficient cars, appliances, and home retrofits would benefit financially struggling families as well as the U.S. economy. In July 2008, Americans were paying $4.11 per gallon of gasoline—nearly three times the price six years earlier, according to the Energy Information Administration. Most people have felt the pinch of higher energy […]

This article is in Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle, Winter 2009

Making Fuel Cells Work


Noriko Behling


Fuel cells offer considerable benefits, but developing them for commercial application has failed. To speed progress, a national program is needed to answer basic research questions. For more than five decades, fuel cells have been heralded for their potential as a costefficient, environmentally friendly means to convert readily available chemical energy into electric energy. So […]

This article is in Health Care That's Not for Dummies, Spring 2013

Accelerating the Pace of Energy Change


Steven E. Koonin, Avi M. Gopstein


The government’s key role in catalyzing a transformation of the energy system is to mitigate risk for the private sector. Scientists and engineers invariably see technology innovation as the primary if not sole driver of energy transformation, but changing the energy system involves much more. Economic, political, and business aspects determine whether any new technology […]

This article is in Energy Update, Winter 2011

A National Renewable Portfolio Standard? Not Practical


Jay Apt, Lester B. Lave, Sompop Pattanariyankool


Impatience to solve current problems has resulted in aggressive RPSs with strict deadlines. Although we agree that renewable technologies will help attain social goals, mandating rapid, massive deployment of these technologies will result in high cost, disputes over land use, and unreliable electricity, leading to a public backlash against these policies. The United States needs […]

This article is in Questions That Blur Political Party Lines, Fall 2008

The Hidden Risks of Energy Innovation


Michael Levi


Advocates of tackling climate change through innovation are at risk of dangerously overreaching at home and abroad; a more modest program could produce better results. Recent years have been disappointing for U.S. advocates of aggressive action on climate change. Efforts to pass comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation, which would have promoted the deployment of clean energy by […]

This article is in Science in the Gilded Age and the Birth of NAS, Winter 2013

Perspective: The Dismal State of Biofuels Policy


C. Ford Runge, Robbin S. Johnson


How could policy changes be made in a thoughtful way? A first step certainly would be to freeze the mandates and end their escalation. The ethanol industry’s share of transport fuel usage can be grown more reliably through market-based competition than through mandate-based sourcing shifts. This is especially true given all of the technological and […]

This article is in The Need for Geoengineering Research, Fall 2010

Strategies for Today’s Energy Challenge


Jeff Bingaman


JEFF BINGAMAN Developing new energy sources provides an economic and technological opportunity for the United States. The energy challenge the United States faces today is different from and more encompassing than what it encountered even a few years ago. Until fairly recently, at least in Washington, the energy challenge was seen largely as the need […]

This article is in The Path Not Studied, Summer 2008