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Energy:
Reducing Our Dependence on Fossil Fuels

HALIL BERBEROGLU
University of Texas at Austin

STUART THOMAS
DuPont

Fossil fuels have served humans well over the past two centuries, improving quality of life and advancing civilization. But we have become overly dependent on this singular energy inheritance that took millions of years to accumulate and are consuming the available reserves at an accelerating pace. A number of serious issues are now associated with this dependence, affecting energy security, national security, air quality, and global climate change. The objective of this session was to provide a broad perspective on these issues and to present and promote technical solutions for diversifying fuel production infrastructure to meet the energy needs of a growing population.

Laura Díaz Anadón (Harvard University) opened with a historical perspective on the development and adoption of fuel resources and then surveyed technical, economic, environmental, social, and policy considerations as well as challenges for technology research and innovation. The second speaker, Joyce Yang (Department of Energy), reviewed advances and hurdles in biofuel production technologies, with a focus on biomass feedstock and processes. In addition to logistical factors (e.g., transportation, infrastructure), she considered these developments in the context of support from federal policies and funding. Willem Rensink (Shell USA) followed with an industry perspective on the need to adapt infrastructure and technology to achieve scale-up and economies of scale in biofuel production from biomass.1 The session’s final speaker, Rachel Segalman (University of California, Berkeley), reviewed artificial photosynthesis research focused on

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1 Mr. Rensink’s presentation is not included in this volume.



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Energy: Reducing Our Dependence on Fossil Fuels Halil Berberoglu University of Texas at Austin Stuart Thomas DuPont Fossil fuels have served humans well over the past two centuries, improving quality of life and advancing civilization. But we have become overly dependent on this singular energy inheritance that took millions of years to accumulate and are consuming the available reserves at an accelerating pace. A number of serious issues are now associated with this dependence, affecting energy security, national security, air quality, and global climate change. The objective of this session was to provide a broad perspective on these issues and to present and promote technical solutions for diversifying fuel production infrastructure to meet the energy needs of a growing population. Laura Díaz Anadón (Harvard University) opened with a historical perspective on the development and adoption of fuel resources and then surveyed technical, economic, environmental, social, and policy considerations as well as challenges for technology research and innovation. The second speaker, Joyce Yang (Depart- ment of Energy), reviewed advances and hurdles in biofuel production technolo- gies, with a focus on biomass feedstock and processes. In addition to logistical factors (e.g., transportation, infrastructure), she considered these developments in the context of support from federal policies and funding. Willem Rensink (Shell USA) followed with an industry perspective on the need to adapt infrastructure and technology to achieve scale-up and economies of scale in biofuel produc- tion from biomass.1 The session’s final speaker, Rachel Segalman (University of ­ alifornia, Berkeley), reviewed artificial photosynthesis research focused on C 1  Mr. Rensink’s presentation is not included in this volume. 75

OCR for page 75
76 FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING directly harnessing solar energy for fuel production.2 She explained the mech­anics of solar fuel generation as well as materials and design considerations, while acknowledging questions that require further research. 2  Dr. Segalman’s paper was coauthored by Dr. Miguel Modestino.