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“The need for an adequate supply of affordable, accessible, sustainable energy is the overarching issue of the 21st century.

Energy security is the ‘space race’ of this millennium.”

President Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
Exploration, Diversification, Conservation: Elements for a Sustainable Future
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

In the past 35-40 years, worldwide energy consumption has nearly doubled, driven by population growth, rising living standards, invention of energy-dependent technologies, and consumerism.

While coal usage has decreased marginally, consumption of every other major energy source has increased markedly. Electricity use has nearly tripled.

If these trends continue, global energy consumption will double again by mid-century.

Without changes in the overall energy mix, fossil fuels will continue to dominate and the share of nuclear power and renewable energy sources — wind, solar, and geothermal energy — will remain limited.

According to the Department of Energy, an estimated 2 billion people do not have access to electricity.

Further, one sixth of the world’s population lack safe drinking water; half lack adequate sanitation; and, half live on less that $2 per day.

A reliable energy supply is a prerequisite for addressing these needs — the basis of United Nations Millennium Goals set five years ago.

Energy security is, then, a key global challenge — one which will require global perspectives, global thinking, global solutions, and innovation of the highest order.

The global nature of these challenges provides a measure of the urgent need to advance discovery and innovation to resolve them.

It is clear that achieving a sustainable global energy framework, capable of meeting the energy needs of citizens, without causing irreparable environmental damage, will require continuing technological advances that modify our current production and use of energy.

It is a given that, at least in the long term, there will be no single “solution” to providing abundant , clean, and inexpensive, energy for the global community.

Rather, there likely will be a “mix” of solutions.

These will include innovative extractive and transportation technologies for fossil fuels, innovative conservation technologies, and innovative alternative fuel technologies.

The challenges of energy security which beset our young century and disrupt global security are requiring of us new strategies, new alternatives, new approaches, new ways of thinking.

Every profession will be challenged to find new ways to work and to think, to plan and to collaborate, to innovate and to discover

Profile of Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.

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