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The Future of EnergyAs calls for energy independence increase, Rensselaer alumni explore innovative solutions.
by Jodi Ackerman Frank
With rising oil and gas prices making front-page news and stretching the budgets of many Americans, and as evidence for global warming mounts, a national debate on the future of energy has been ignited in the United States, re-energizing the search for viable alternatives and “green” solutions.
In his State of the Union address at the end of January, President Bush called for cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources, saying that “America is addicted to oil,” and that the best way to break this addiction is through technology.
Steve Percy ’68, former chairman and CEO of BP America, agrees. “Coming up with new technologies will be key to the acceptability and access of new energy sources,” says Percy, who also served as the head of Phillips Petroleum’s Refining, Marketing and Transportation Company. “A lot of people would say that technology is part of the problem, and I would say that it’s got to be the solution. It’s about how we can continue to improve our living standards with less environmental impact.”
In the past 35 to 40 years, worldwide energy consumption has nearly doubled, driven by population growth, rising living standards, invention of energy-dependent technologies, and consumerism. Electricity use has nearly tripled. If these trends continue, global energy consumption will double again by mid-century.
And, no energy source alone will be able to solve all our energy needs, Percy and other energy experts say. “There’s no silver bullet. We’re going to need help just about everywhere we can find it,” he says.
Percy is one of a number of Rensselaer alumni who have been at the forefront of energy innovation, developing and promoting new technologies and research, shaping policy, and establishing successful businesses in the renewable energy market.
At the same time, Rensselaer has re-energized its research commitment to energy security, hiring faculty and administrators who are visionaries at the top of their fields and establishing new centers and programs.
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