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Secretary Chu Opinion Piece in Times of London

May 27, 2009 - 12:00am

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London, England - The Tuesday, May 26, 2009 edition of the Times of London includes the following opinion piece from Energy Secretary Steven Chu highlighting President Obama's commitment to improving  America's energy policy and addressing the global climate crisis:

America has been slow to respond to climate change, but its new Secretary of Energy, Nobel prizewinner Steven Chu, is determined to make up for lost time. He calls on fellow scientists to step up to the plate.

This week, the St James's Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium is bringing together scientists and leaders to concentrate on solving the climate challenge. This effort is an example of the growing worldwide awareness of the severity of the threat to our very way of life from a changing climate.

Nearly five years ago, I changed the course of my own career to focus on the energy problem for that same reason. I left a position teaching applied physics at Stanford University to become the Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the US Department of Energy's research laboratories. I did so because, in spite of the magnitude of the problem, I remain optimistic that science can offer us better choices than we can imagine today.

I was recently given a very different opportunity to affect our energy future when President Obama asked me to serve as his Secretary of Energy. I accepted his offer because Mr. Obama has a real and deep commitment to putting America on a sustainable energy path. Energy is a signature issue of his Administration, and, with his leadership, we have a great moment of possibility for meeting our global economic, energy and climate challenges.

Under Mr. Obama, America is embracing a leadership role in addressing the world's energy and climate change problems. At home, we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions by more than 80 per cent by 2050, and a key committee in the US Congress passed a Bill last week to do just that. Abroad, the United States has pledged to do its part to ensure a successful outcome when the world meets in Copenhagen later this year.

To achieve our carbon reduction goals, the world will need both to reduce the demand for energy and increase the supply of energy from clean and renewable sources. The good news is that there are enormous opportunities for progress on both sides of that energy equation.

The quickest and easiest way to reduce our carbon footprint is through energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit that is lying on the ground.

The United States is in the process of toughening energy standards for appliances and expanding the range of products that have to meet such standards. Mr. Obama also recently announced significant new fuel standards for vehicles, rising to 35.5 miles a gallon for cars and trucks combined by 2016.

We are also making a big investment in the efficiency of homes and commercial buildings - both improving the buildings we already have and learning how to design and construct new ones in a much more energy efficient and cost effective way. I believe building design is an area that is ripe for international collaboration. By working together, we can give engineers and architects the tools to design buildings that use 80 per cent less energy than today's buildings. And because buildings are inherently local, collaboration would not cede the competitiveness of any nation and would actually drive local job creation.

As we take these steps to reduce our energy use, we need to increase dramatically the generation of energy from clean and renewable sources. That starts with deploying the technologies we already have. Manufacturing and installing wind turbines, solar panels, fuel-efficient vehicles and other technologies will reduce our emissions while creating jobs and jump-starting the economy. In recent years, the United States has lagged behind the rest of the world in renewable energy deployment, and we are determined to make up for lost time.

But truly to solve this problem, we need to develop the next generation of energy technologies, many of which are close at hand. With adequate funding, in the next ten years, we can significantly improve the conversion of solar energy into electricity through nanotechnology-based solar cells. We can develop a new generation of batteries that will allow widespread deployment of plug-in electric vehicles. And we can create far more efficient ways of converting energy crops, lumber and agricultural wastes, or even algae into transportation fuels.

Only science can give us these breakthroughs, which is why this week's Nobel Laureate Symposium is so important. Scientists must step up and do our part in this great effort.

With a serious commitment to energy efficiency, widespread deployment of the technologies we have, and an aggressive investment in science, we can dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and reinvigorate our economy at the same time. That is not only our opportunity - it is our responsibility to future generations. We can and must rise to meet this challenge, and I am convinced that we will.

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