Tuesday, 26 May 2009

President Obama says energy cuts are key to saving the planet

A global drive to improve energy efficiency will be the centrepiece of President Obama’s strategy for fighting climate change, the US Energy Secretary has said.
An international initiative to cut the amount of energy used by buildings and vehicles is as important to reducing carbon emissions as clean energy generation, and will be more achievable in the short term, Professor Steven Chu says.
Writing exclusively in a supplement in The Times today, Professor Chu, the Nobel prize-winning physicist appointed to steer US energy and environmental policy, argues that conservation will be critical to that goal.
“The quickest and easiest way to reduce our carbon footprint is through energy efficiency,” he writes. “Energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit that is lying on the ground.”
He calls for a worldwide investment in green building design to slash the energy needs of homes and businesses. This would also reduce the cost of energy to consumers and create jobs and opportunities to boost economic growth.
“I believe building design is an area that is ripe for international collaboration,” Professor Chu says. “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 drive local job creation.”
The measures are likely to include tough new efficiency standards for cars and household appliances — everything from ovens to air conditioners, lamps to dishwashers, as well as fresh financial incentives to encourage the construction of “low-carbon buildings”.
His comments come as he joins 22 other Nobel prizewinners and other senior scientists, intellectuals, environmentalists and policymakers at the St James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium in London, for which The Times is media partner.
The three-day climate change forum, held under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, will open today at the Royal Society, followed by two days of discussion at St James’s Palace.
Professor Chu’s move to put energy efficiency at the forefront of US climate change policy will be backed with a commitment to deploying and developing new technologies for sustainable energy generation. He wants the symposium to examine how science should contribute to this goal.
“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,” Professor Chu writes.
“But to truly solve this problem, we need to develop the next generation of energy technologies, many of which are close at hand.
“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.”
President Obama’s recent economic stimulus package included $50 billion of funding and tax incentives for energy efficiency measures such as better insulation and more sustainable sources of energy, such as wind farms, carbon capture and storage demonstration projects.
Professor Chu is the most prominent of a “dream team” of leading scientists appointed to the Obama Administration to reverse the perceived indifference of the White House to science during the Bush years. Professor John Holdren, a leading environmental scientist, was named as the President’s chief scientist and Professor Harold Varmus, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on cancer genetics, was also appointed to a key advisory role.
The symposium will coincide with the launch of the Cambridge 100 Questions Project, a year-long initiative to identify what we need to solve to address the biggest challenges facing the world.
Readers of The Times can make their own contributions at the Science Central blog.
Source: The Times

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