Inside Rensselaer
* Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson
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President Jackson Continues Call for Global Energy Security Roadmap
Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson continued her call for a comprehensive energy roadmap to meet the demand for global energy security, in a recent series of speeches. She delivered the Civic Scientist Lecture at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston, Texas, on Nov. 13 and the keynote address at a Washington Post Energy Forum in Washington, D.C., Nov. 8.

“Global energy security is the greatest challenge of our time, inextricably interlinked with our economic and national security,” President Jackson said. “The issue presents extraordinary geopolitical challenges and offers extraordinary economic opportunities. Yet, the United States does not have a comprehensive energy roadmap.”

“A multiplicity of converging factors makes it bluntly obvious that a comprehensive global energy system restructuring has begun. The question is — will the United States lead the inevitable restructuring, or will it occur without us?” she asks, noting that “the combined forces of energy supply uncertainty, rising energy costs, and the impact of climate change are major drivers of the global energy restructuring.”

President Jackson, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-99), is co-chairing the Council on Competitiveness “Energy Security, Innovation & Sustainability Initiative,” convening leaders in business, academe, and labor to craft an agenda to enhance U.S. competitiveness and global energy security. She also is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Independent Task Force on Climate Change and the Brookings Institution’s Energy Initiative.

Many have urged a focus on “energy independence,” but President Jackson notes that “in a globally interconnected and interdependent world, ‘energy independence’ is a troubling misnomer,” and she warns that, “if we want to be successful it is essential that we are both clear and correct about our goal.”

“True global energy security will require innovation and the human capital to make it happen,” she says. “It will require innovation in the discovery, extraction, and transportation of fossil fuels; innovation in conservation; and innovation to develop alternative energy sources which are reliable, cost-effective, safe, and as environmentally benign as possible.”

To spark this innovation, President Jackson has urged a national focus on energy research as a focal point to excite and encourage greater interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She has long warned of what she has dubbed a “Quiet Crisis” in America — the threat to the capacity of the United States to innovate due to reduced support for research and the looming shortage in the nation’s STEM workforce. The impending workforce shortfall results from a record number of retirements on the horizon in the STEM fields, and not enough students in the pipeline to replace them.

“The recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of Sputnik reminds us of the capacity of our nation to rise to great challenges. Now, as then, we must unleash the human talent needed to achieve critical innovation,” President Jackson says. “Global energy security is the space race of this millennium.”

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 9, December 13, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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