The American Energy Innovation Council

Today Bill Gates (former CEO, Microsoft) and Chad Holliday (former CEO, DuPont) announced the creation of the American Energy Innovation Council, a body of high-profile business leaders who will investigate how to boost energy research and development in the private sector.

In an op-ed published in today’s Washington Post (1) Mr. Gates and Mr. Holliday argue that energy R&D has been slow to take in the private sector because of relatively high risk in developing new systems as well as slow turnover of old systems.  They make the case that energy is an inherently public interest and that private companies should not (and, without government intervention, will not) carry the risk alone.  The purpose of the American Energy Innovation Council, therefore, appears to be to advocate on behalf of energy scientists and businessmen for stronger incentives and rewards from government for companies which invest in energy research and development.

This is not the first splash Mr. Gates has made in the realm of energy policy.  Earlier this year he advocated “innovation over insulation” in the Huffington Post (2), proposing that the focus of much of the nation’s green energy movement has been on the proliferation of existing energy efficiency measures to the detriment of development of new energy sources.  This position was rebutted a few days later by David B. Goldstein, Co-Director of the NDRC Energy Program (3).  Mr. Goldstein advocates the use of pollution caps and energy efficiency as “the largest, fastest, cheapest and cleanest way to meet our climate goals, and recharge our economy.”  He compares investing in large-scale energy innovations now to planning in 1970 to sell a smartphone in 2010.

It appears that the American Energy Innovation Council may be an enactment on the opinions expressed by Mr. Gates in the Huffington Post: significant investment must be made in energy research and development (innovation), at potentially high risk, in order to reduce our carbon pollution by 80% in 2050.

References:

(1) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/22/AR2010042205126.html

(2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-gates/why-we-need-innovation-no_b_430699.html

(3) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-b-goldstein/insulation-is-innovation_b_432854.html

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4 Comments

Filed under energy

4 responses to “The American Energy Innovation Council

  1. maxbrodsky

    Gates correctly bemoans the small scale of US investment in energy innovation; this graph shows how little federal R&D funding energy gets relative to defense, health and space. But in addition to Gates, a number of other scientist and thought leaders are exploring alternative approaches, which I would like highlight below.

    Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has also noticed that the scale of investment required—both in money and in time—coupled with the risks of failure, make R&D in new energy solutions impractical for private business alone. He has proposed the creation of multidisciplinary energy innovation hubs to aggressively pursue solutions to America’s energy challenges from basic science through commercialization. These hubs go by different names. The Brookings Institute, an enthusiastic advocate, calls them Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes. In the 2010 and 2011 DOE Budgets, they are referred to as Energy Innovation Hubs, modeled after Bioenergy Research Centers such as JBEI in San Francisco. The hubs would bring together public and private R&D talent under a sponsor institution as well as partners from industry and the private sector.

    Chu’s 2010 budget request (see link above) for funding to start eight hubs was denied by congress (here and here). After intervention from the White House, congress finally acceded to funding three on a much more modest budget.

    So one option for Bill Gates is to throw his political clout behind Steven Chu. Another option, which Gates mentioned in his
    TED talk about energy this past February, is to invest in radical climate engineering techniques in the event that we cannot eliminate GHG emissions fast enough to avert disaster.

    Climate Scientist David Keith described one such method, called
    geoengineering, at a TED talk in 2007. The technique involves throwing large amounts of sulfur into the stratosphere, which will reflect sunlight and cool the earth, much like what happens after a volcanic eruption. This technique has harmful side effects: it destroys the ozone and once it is well publicized, may further weaken our resolve to cut emissions across the globe. On the other hand, it is fast and relatively cheap, and it could be done in such a way that the clouds of sulfur are placed around the poles to deliver the maximum benefit of keeping the icecaps cool and preventing the seas from rising. No one thinks geoengineering is a silver bullet, but it is probably better than allowing many of the world’s greatest cities to be completely submerged under the rising seas. It was recently
    reported that Gates has funded this research as well.

    Bill Gates Activiites
    http://blog.ted.com/2010/02/innovating_to_z.php

    http://greenenergyreporter.com/2010/01/bill-gates-funds-geoengineering-research/#more-5915

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/01/bill-gates-paying-for-climate-hacking-research/

    Geoengineering

    http://blog.ted.com/2007/11/david_keith.php

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=geoengineering-how-to-cool-earth

    http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2107

    DOE Innovation Hubs

    http://www.energy.gov/hubs/qanda.htm

    http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/0209_energy_innovation_muro.aspx

    DOE budget proposals 2010 & 2011
    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/10budget/Content/Highlights/FY2010Highlights.pdf

    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/11budget/Content/FY2011Highlights.pdf

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/24573/

    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/23126/?a=f

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/07/doelablet/

  2. maxbrodsky

    Gates correctly bemoans the small scale of US investment in energy innovation; this graph shows how little federal R&D funding energy gets relative to defense, health and space. But in addition to Gates, a number of other scientist and thought leaders are exploring alternative approaches, which I would like highlight below.

    Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has also noticed that the scale of investment required—both in money and in time—coupled with the risks of failure, make R&D in new energy solutions impractical for private business alone. He has proposed the creation of multidisciplinary energy innovation hubs to aggressively pursue solutions to America’s energy challenges from basic science through commercialization. These hubs go by different names. The Brookings Institute, an enthusiastic advocate calls them Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes. In the http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/10budget/Content/Highlights/FY2010Highlights.pdf”>2010 and 2011 DOE Budgets, they are referred to as Energy Innovation Hubs, modeled after Bioenergy Research Centers such as JBEI in San Francisco. The hubs would bring together public and private R&D talent under a sponsor institution as well as partners from industry and the private sector.

    Chu’s 2010 budget request (see link above) for funding to start eight hubs was denied by congress (here and here). After intervention from the White House, congress finally acceded to funding three on a much more modest budget.

    So one option for Bill Gates is to throw his political clout behind Steven Chu. Another option, which Gates mentioned in his
    TED talk about energy this past February, is to invest in radical climate engineering techniques in the event that we cannot eliminate GHG emissions fast enough to avert disaster.

    Climate Scientist David Keith described one such method, called
    geoengineering, at a TED talk in 2007. The technique involves throwing large amounts of sulfur into the stratosphere, which will reflect sunlight and cool the earth, much like what happens after a volcanic eruption. This technique has harmful side effects: it destroys the ozone and once it is well publicized, may further weaken our resolve to cut emissions across the globe. On the other hand, it is fast and relatively cheap, and it could be done in such a way that the clouds of sulfur are placed around the poles to deliver the maximum benefit of keeping the icecaps cool and preventing the seas from rising. No one thinks geoengineering is a silver bullet, but it is probably better than allowing many of the world’s greatest cities to be completely submerged under the rising seas. It was recently
    reported that Gates has funded this research as well.

    Links/Sources

    Bill Gates
    http://blog.ted.com/2010/02/innovating_to_z.php

    http://greenenergyreporter.com/2010/01/bill-gates-funds-geoengineering-research/#more-5915

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/01/bill-gates-paying-for-climate-hacking-research/

    Geoengineering

    http://blog.ted.com/2007/11/david_keith.php

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=geoengineering-how-to-cool-earth

    http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2107

    DOE Innovation Hubs

    http://www.energy.gov/hubs/qanda.htm

    http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/0209_energy_innovation_muro.aspx

    DOE budget proposals 2010 & 2011
    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/10budget/Content/Highlights/FY2010Highlights.pdf

    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/11budget/Content/FY2011Highlights.pdf

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/24573/

    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/23126/?a=f

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/07/doelablet/

  3. maxbrodsky

    Gates correctly bemoans the small scale of US investment in energy innovation; this graph shows how little federal R&D funding energy gets relative to defense, health and space. But in addition to Gates, a number of other scientist and thought leaders are exploring alternative approaches, which I would like highlight below.

    Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has also noticed that the scale of investment required—both in money and in time—coupled with the risks of failure, make R&D in new energy solutions impractical for private business alone. He has proposed the creation of multidisciplinary energy innovation hubs to aggressively pursue solutions to America’s energy challenges from basic science through commercialization. These hubs go by different names. The Brookings Institute, an enthusiastic advocate calls them Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes. In the 2010 and 2011 DOE Budgets, they are referred to as Energy Innovation Hubs, modeled after Bioenergy Research Centers such as JBEI in San Francisco. The hubs would bring together public and private R&D talent under a sponsor institution as well as partners from industry and the private sector.

    Chu’s 2010 budget request (see link above) for funding to start eight hubs was denied by congress (here and here). After intervention from the White House, congress finally acceded to funding three on a much more modest budget.

    So one option for Bill Gates is to throw his political clout behind Steven Chu. Another option, which Gates mentioned in his
    TED talk about energy this past February, is to invest in radical climate engineering techniques in the event that we cannot eliminate GHG emissions fast enough to avert disaster.

    Climate Scientist David Keith described one such method, called
    geoengineering, at a TED talk in 2007. The technique involves throwing large amounts of sulfur into the stratosphere, which will reflect sunlight and cool the earth, much like what happens after a volcanic eruption. This technique has harmful side effects: it destroys the ozone and once it is well publicized, may further weaken our resolve to cut emissions across the globe. On the other hand, it is fast and relatively cheap, and it could be done in such a way that the clouds of sulfur are placed around the poles to deliver the maximum benefit of keeping the icecaps cool and preventing the seas from rising. No one thinks geoengineering is a silver bullet, but it is probably better than allowing many of the world’s greatest cities to be completely submerged under the rising seas. It was recently
    reported that Gates has funded this research as well.

    Links/Sources

    Bill Gates
    http://blog.ted.com/2010/02/innovating_to_z.php

    http://greenenergyreporter.com/2010/01/bill-gates-funds-geoengineering-research/#more-5915

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/01/bill-gates-paying-for-climate-hacking-research/

    Geoengineering

    http://blog.ted.com/2007/11/david_keith.php

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=geoengineering-how-to-cool-earth

    http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2107

    DOE Innovation Hubs

    http://www.energy.gov/hubs/qanda.htm

    http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/0209_energy_innovation_muro.aspx

    DOE budget proposals 2010 & 2011
    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/10budget/Content/Highlights/FY2010Highlights.pdf

    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/11budget/Content/FY2011Highlights.pdf

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/24573/

    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/23126/?a=f

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/07/doelablet/

  4. blairj

    I agree with Mr. Gates. Much more research is needed on energy. In the short term, higher efficiencies and better implementation of current technology is the best first step. The only way to do this effectively is through more research and development in the energy field. Even before mandatory caps and taxes on emissions are in place, the new technology must be developed to make those caps and taxes economically viable.

    Government policies that implement taxes, subsidies, and limits are never perfect, so there frequently unintended consequences. For example, a recent incentive for sawmills and lumber yards to sell their waste to make biofuels has caused a shift in where valuable products are going. Traditional users of woodchips and sawdust that make particle board and other building materials are struggling survive while biofuel producers say they need to subsidies to stay solvent. Even our beloved corn subsidies, while keeping the grain belt of the country producing, contribute to obesity though the cheap production of high fructose corn syrup.

    Investing in new research, however, is a very straight forward process. Money gets spent, new knowledge and hopefully technology comes out. If a better technology is developed, the policy worked. If not, the tax payers are only out what they invested and the researchers learned something in the process. There really are no negative secondary effects from this sort of research investment.

    That’s why I agree with Bill Gates. The best thing for the environment is research and development into better energy production. I just wish I had the money to fund it like Gates does.

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