ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2010

Humans have one planet and an energy challenge, says Chu

By Richard A. Kessler, March 3, 2010

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a clean energy industry conference that humans have “nowhere else to go” but Earth, so they should accelerate efforts to find alternatives to fossil fuels.

“We have this planet and an energy challenge,” he said in a keynote address to the Energy Department’s ARPA-E, or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, innovation summit on Tuesday in National Harbor, Maryland.

ARPA-E is a new US government agency set up to promote and fund research and development of advanced energy technologies.

Chu has said that the US needs nothing less than a “new Manhattan Project” for clean energy that will both cut the country’s carbon addiction and heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

The Manhattan Project was the codename for a vast US-led project during World War II to develop the first atomic bomb.

The US is capable of marshalling the resources to become a clean energy economy, says Chu, but it must “pay attention to the intellectual capacity of this country.”

The country’s leadership needs to bring together the best and brightest minds in a cohesive and collaborative effort to make the US a leader in the emerging global clean economy, he adds.

To underscore that point, Chu spent the first part of his presentation highlighting US public-private partnerships that had resulted in some of the past century's great scientific advances and dozens of Nobel prizes. He also called on leading scientists to be active in laboratory research to enable discovery and development of promising new technologies in addition to being headhunters and managers of fresh scientific talent.

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