Inside Rensselaer
* President Jackson Addresses Commonwealth Club
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President Jackson Addresses Commonwealth Club
A major restructuring of global energy markets is under way, challenging all to think about energy in new ways, yet the United States is at risk of being left behind because the nation lacks a comprehensive global energy security roadmap, warned President Shirley Ann Jackson in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco on July 22.

“If we fail to think about the issue appropriately, if we trivialize the complexities, or yield to the temptation to wish for a magical ‘quick fix,’ we will not get there from here,” she said. “We must know where we are and where we must go. We must get the goal right, get the plan right, and get it done.”

Noting the importance of the energy issue in the context of the 2008 elections, Jackson called for a more intensive focus on the energy challenge, with leadership from the top orchestrating participation across the board from government, corporations, universities, and individuals. “Our leadership must be compelling and convincing — or we will lose the moment, lose the inherent economic opportunities, and relinquish global energy security leadership to others,” she said.

Jackson, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, outlined her vision of the necessary components of a comprehensive U.S. energy plan that addresses energy security goals and the linked concerns of climate change and sustainability. She detailed six basic principles, including: (1) redundancy of supply and diversity of source, (2) support for well-functioning energy markets, (3) investment in sound infrastructure for energy generation, transmission, and distribution, (4) providing for environmental sustainability and energy conservation, with calculation of full lifecycle costs, (5) the development of policy alternatives that include consistency of regulation and transparent price signals, and (6) linking optimum source to sector of use.

“If we fail to think about the issue appropriately, if we trivialize the complexities, or yield to the temptation to wish for a magical ‘quick fix,’ we will not get there from here,” she said.
“We must know where we are and where we must go. We must get the goal right, get the plan right, and get it done.”

Innovation also must be a critical component of any energy strategy, Jackson said. “We must innovate the technologies that uncover and exploit new fossil energy sources and improve their extraction. We must innovate the technologies that conserve energy and protect the environment. And we must innovate the technologies that lead to alternative energy sources that are reliable, cost-effective, safe, as environmentally benign as possible, and sustainable.”

Jackson also continued to raise concern about the misplaced focus on “energy independence” rather than the correct goal of energy security and sustainability, noting that in the globally interconnected economy “there is no energy independence.”

To read the full text of President Jackson’s speech to the Commonwealth Club — titled “You Cannot Get There From Here: Why the U.S. Needs a Comprehensive Energy Security Roadmap”— go to www.rpi.edu/research/energy/speeches/ps072208-commonwealth.html.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 12, August 8, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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