Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Steven Chu’ tag

More Advancements in Cellulosic Biofuels

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Government investments in cellulosic biofuels may be paying off.

Not only do these advances move us closer to using grasses and other crops that require less water and fertilizer and compete less with food, it also moves us closer to the advanced biofuels that, unlike ethanol, can be used as drop in replacements for gasoline (read more here).

We need to combine these advancements with further efforts in conservation and efficiency, or we risk converting so much of the Earth’s biomass to serving human uses that we will decrease biodiversity to the extent that we risk further ecological collapse.

This doesn’t just diminish our ability to go camping in pretty places, it also threatens our supply of essential resources such as clean, healthy water and soil.  I like to go camping, but I like eating and drinking healthy food and water even more. They’re really important, and clearing diverse forests and prairies so we can plant crops such as grasses, whether for fuel, food, fiber, or feed, poses risks to water and soil.

Energy Department Announces New Advance in Biofuel Technology

Highlights Opportunity to Reduce America’s Oil Dependence and Create Jobs in Rural America

March 07, 2011

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today congratulated a team of researchers at the Department’s BioEnergy Science Center who have achieved yet another advance in the drive toward next generation biofuels: using bacteria to convert plant matter directly into isobutanol, which can be burned in regular car engines with a heat value higher than ethanol and similar to gasoline. This research is part of a broad portfolio of work the Department is doing to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and create new economic opportunities for rural America.

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Secretary Chu added that: “America’s oil dependence—which leaves hardworking families at the mercy of global oil markets—won’t be solved overnight. But the remarkable advance of science and biotechnology in the past decade puts us on the precipice of a revolution in biofuels. In fact, biotechnologies, and the biological sciences that provide the underlying foundation, are some of the most rapidly developing areas in science and technology today – and the United States is leading the way. In the coming years, we can expect dramatic breakthroughs that will allow us to produce the clean energy we need right here at home. We need to act aggressively to seize this opportunity and win the future.”

Read the entire article here.

Obama Pursues a Moderate, Pragmatic Approach During Energy Woes

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Of course times are tough. I tend to drive my car until the gas light comes on so I have to fill up less often, but then kick myself for driving so much as I watch the cost climb past $40 a tank. These are minor pains compared to the ones some folks are feeling, but even this light irritation is enough to make me want a fast change to whatever it is we’re doing, or not doing, in terms of making energy more affordable.

Patience is key. Jumping in to more drilling without taking the time to make sure it’s safe and efficient could cause as many problems, and increase total costs, as much as launching scads of new and often inefficient wind or solar projects.

Energy is expensive. Our government has helped it to be artificially cheap since early in the last century. This has lead to great advantages in our country, such as the great access most people in the U.S. have to everyday conveniences such as lights, heat, cars, buses, and airplanes. In most countries these aren’t nearly as accessible to people on, say, the bottom half of the socio-economic strata.

As Obama weathers the criticism from the right that we need to expand our use of fossil fuels, and from the left that more needs to be done to move us to alternative forms of energy, I hope that he and Secretary Chu continue their pragmatic approach, leaving the door open to more fossil fuels so long as they are safe, while also encouraging innovation and investment in alternatives.

More fence sitting, I know, but I believe this middle path is the best one.*

Obama Faces Bipartisan Criticism on Energy Policies

By Jim Angle

Published March 05, 2011

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration's energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy. (AP)

With energy prices rising in part because of turmoil in the Middle East, lawmakers from both parties are questioning the Obama administration’s energy policies and arguing more should be done to develop domestic sources of energy.

“I don’t think the president’s position on oil and gas is as strong as it should be,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where the oil industry plays a large role in the local economy. “Oil and gas is an important industry in the United States today and it will be in the next decades.”

Many in the administration emphasize alternative forms of energy and some, including the president, have openly talked of the need for higher prices on oil and coal to make alternatives such as wind and solar more price-competitive.

Read the entire article here.

* I hope my post is fair and balanced. Not like the Fox version, but truly fair and truly balanced.

Sec Chu Slashes Budget, Increases Energy Tech Investments

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Obama’s efforts to appease Republican calls for decreased government spending are reaching in to the Department of Energy. That’s a good thing. Apparently Secretary Chu is striving towards all sorts of increased efficiency.

In addition to the $600M in cuts, however, he’s also seeking $8B in clean energy technology research. As I pointed out in an earlier post, as long as those investments are structured to provide returns to taxpayers and to the country in general, that’s positive. If those benefits are only extended to government or firms that do not pass them along to tax payers and energy users, then they are just another boondoggle.

Energy Department to seek $600 million in budget cuts

By Steven Mufson

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 11:37 PM

The Obama administration will call for deep cuts in the headquarters staff of the Energy Department next week but will seek $8 billion in investments in the research, development and deployment of what it calls “clean energy technology programs.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu posted a note to “colleagues” on the department’s blog site Friday listing about $600 million in cuts, saying that the department will take “responsible steps to cut wasteful spending and reduce expenses.”

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

February 12th, 2011 at 11:44 am

Steven Chu Walks the Walk, or Rides

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It’s excellent that the head of our Department of Energy is so knowledgeable about the technologies with which he’s working. One might think this is par for the course, but as the article discusses it has not often been the case.

Riding his bike to work is a great touch that lends even more credence to his leadership.

None of this changes the fact, however, that one person should not be making decisions about which technologies or firms receive government investment. While Dr. Chu’s integrity may be unassailable, in order to ensure our energy future is as efficient as possible there need to be greater checks and balances on doling out these funds.

Overcoming old habits in terms of building materials and power systems is indeed a challenge. Chu would be wise to let the free market be his guide as makes his decisions and encourages the movement to a cleaner, renewable, domestically-powered energy future.

For energy chief, race is on to find fuel alternatives

Concerns about climate change and the economy have intensified Energy Secretary Steven Chu's focus on new technologies and greater energy efficiency.

Concerns about climate change and the economy have intensified Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s focus on new technologies and greater energy efficiency. (Alex Wong)

By Steven Mufson

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It’s a stunning fall morning in Washington, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, clad in bike shorts and a snug Stanford University biking shirt, climbs onto his Colnago bicycle and rolls down his leafy street and onto the Capital Crescent Trail. Then it’s a 20-minute sprint – breaking the trail’s speed limit – to downtown Washington. A Secret Service agent keeps close behind, with the help of a small electric motor. The trees are ablaze across the Potomac as he drops into Georgetown.

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Aides say Chu’s ability to understand and absorb technical information sets him apart from the previous 11 energy secretaries – a financier, three business executives, an admiral, two governors, a U.S. senator and other politicians.

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Chu’s talk spans environmental history, deep-water drilling and energy efficiency. Explaining why electric car batteries are large and heavy, he uses a common measurement of energy and notes that a lithium ion battery stores 0.54 megajoules per kilogram. Body fat has 38 megajoules per kilogram, and kerosene has 43.

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Chu’s scientific bent was unexpectedly useful over the summer, when the Obama administration was desperate to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Chu was dispatched to BP’s Houston offices to see what could be done.

He recommended that BP use gamma rays to see into the blowout preventer; its several inches of steel were obscuring other methods of figuring out whether the shear rams were clamping into the drill pipe.

He also tapped into his Stanford network to get names of engineers who could give advice, and he told Obama early on that the flow rate of oil pouring into the gulf might be greater than what BP was letting on. Weeks later, he marveled about how little innovation there was in the deep-water drilling business and how few gauges and backup mechanisms were installed on the blowout preventer.

Read the entire article here.

Chu: Energy Initiatives Could Bring Jobs to Colo.

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Sweet.Thanks, Dr. Chu, for forcing me to choose between my desire to work in the energy industry here in Colorado, and my fiscally conservative values. I’ll stay true to my values and maintain the confidence that I can get a job without massive government spending. And if I don’t get a job I can always eat those words…

US energy secretary: Renewables key to job creation but more investment needed

By SAMANTHA ABERNETHY Associated Press Writer
AURORA, Colo. February 19, 2010 (AP)
The Associated Press

Promoting Colorado’s renewable energy industry is key to generating jobs and easing dependence on foreign oil — but the U.S. is lagging behind China in its investment in renewables, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Friday.

“America has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution,” Chu said at an energy jobs summit in Aurora. But he warned that China’s investment of $9 billion per month to diversify energy sources away from coal far exceeds America’s spending.

Read the entire article here.