August 29, 2006
Martin C. Jischke
A very famous man was quoted in a New York Times news story as saying "The fuel of the future is ethanol."
That man was Henry Ford. The year was 1925. That future Henry Ford referred to is today.
A goal of this summit is to find ways to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and to develop new strategies for alternative fuels.
It is a noble goal and an aggressive one. It is a goal that will challenge us. That is as it should be. All truly worthwhile goals are noble, aggressive and challenging.
Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who helped create that city's beautiful lakefront and parks, said: "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's (or women's) blood. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work."
We are making big plans today. Our hopes are very high. We have a great deal of work ahead.
I believe we are at a crossroads, not only in this nation, but in our world. I believe the time has come when we will either begin to find alternatives to our national and worldwide dependence on fossil fuels or fossil fuels might well become the end of us.
Going back to the early days of the 20th century, Henry Ford had planned to use ethanol as the primary fuel for his Model T, but gasoline, which was less expensive, emerged as the dominant fuel of the century.
In 1925, when Ford predicted ethanol would fuel the future, gasoline cost 22 cents a gallon in the United Sates. Adjusted for inflation to 2005 dollars, that was $2.48 a gallon.
In 1926, the price rose to 23 cents a gallon and it would not be that high again until after World War II in 1947.
Today, Americans are paying roughly $3 a gallon. And we are getting a deal. Europeans and many people throughout the world pay twice that and more.
While we are standing at the gas pump watching our pennies, dimes and dollars spinning away, two other meters are running up charges as well. We can't see them, but they are there.
The first meter is measuring the cost of imported oil on our national economy and national security. You will hear much more about that from other speakers today. That bill is becoming very large and it grows every day.
The second meter is measuring the cost of fossil fuel dependence on our environment, the air we breathe and the world in which we live.
These costs are coming due. Some researchers say they are already past due.
Whatever the environmental impact of fossil fuels, this could become the inheritance we are leaving to our children and to our grandchildren.
The 20th century was dominated by relatively inexpensive oil. There are unquestionably enormous benefits and progress that emerged from this. There are enormous problems that emerged as well.
This is a new century. The question for us at the dawn of the 21st century is how can we conserve oil and how can we supplement it through the development of clean alternative energy sources.
Many people say we are living in an Information Age where knowledge is available to everyone if not at the speed of light, then at least at the speed of Google.
If you go to your computer and Google "fossil fuels," you will get 45.6 million sites in one-tenth of a second. It's a full evening of reading.
But perhaps even more than an age of information, this is the "Age of Misinformation," because much "information" on the World Wide Web is incorrect, incomplete and misleading.
At the same time, we have radio, television, newspapers and magazines coming at us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, filled with people spinning facts and spinning truth for their own agenda.
Indeed, the real requirement for survival in this century is our ability to separate fact from fiction, truth from spin. A great deal of misinformation and spin that is dominating our information systems centers on oil and the cost of gasoline at the pump, but I believe that through all the noisy misinformation of our times, if we can get the facts about U.S. oil dependence and imported oil to people, they will understand and they will make the right choices, even at the expense of personal sacrifice.
What are the facts? There are many. I will list five.
First, using 2003 numbers, the United States is the biggest consumer of energy in the world, and Americans are the biggest consumers per capita. Our per capita consumption is more than twice that of all of Western Europe.
With 4.6 percent of the world's population, we produce 17.5 percent of the world's energy. We consume nearly a quarter of the world's energy.
Not all of our energy use is for the benefit of this nation alone. For example, some of our energy use goes into the production of food that benefits people around the world.
Second, according to the International Energy Agency, world production of oil will peak between the years 2010 and 2020. That is less than four to 14 years from now, and that is not very far away.
Although this does not mean the world will run out of oil in four to 14 years, it surely means that as production peaks and demand increases from developing nations, as well as the United States the cost is going to go up.
The day is approaching when U.S. gasoline at $3 a gallon might seem very inexpensive, indeed.
Third, worldwide dependence on oil might be impacting our planet, according to many researchers. Global warming is a concern that must be considered, and the long-term costs of ignoring it could be huge.
We are studying this here at our Purdue Climate Change Research Center. Even slight changes in the weather can be trigger points, setting off events over which we have no control.
We have heard about this all our lives. We have put this off as something to be dealt with at a later date. We can't put this off any longer. The time is upon us.
Fourth, as Sen. Richard Lugar has stated time and again, oil is a magnet for conflict.
The President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, of which I am a member, has concluded that inadequacies in U.S. energy options might be as perilous to our national security as any inadequacies in our weapon systems.
Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist and author of the book "The World is Flat," writes in Foreign Policy magazine about "petropolitics."
Friedman says, "The price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in oil-rich, petrolist states."
The higher the price of crude oil, Friedman says, the less petrolist leaders care what the rest of the world thinks of them and what they are doing to their people and to their nation. The lower the price of crude, the more these leaders must cooperate with the rest of the world.
Friedman concludes: "Any American democracy-promotion strategy that does not also include a credible and sustainable strategy for finding alternatives to oil and bringing down the price of crude oil is utterly meaningless and doomed to fail."
We might complain about the cost of gasoline at the pump, but the real cost of oil for many parts of the world is freedom and democracy.
Fifth, well over two-thirds of the remaining oil fields in the world are in the Middle East.
Sen. Lugar, in an article co-authored by R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, states: "New demand for oil will be filled largely by the Middle East, meaning a transfer of more than $1 trillion over the next 15 years to the ... states of the Persian Gulf alone."
Using 2003 numbers, 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption is oil. Where does that oil come from?
Over 60 percent of our oil is imported. Thirty-six percent of our imported oil comes from Mexico, Canada and the North Sea, but 47 percent of it comes from three other areas: the Persian Gulf, Nigeria and Venezuela.
To summarize all of this: If we had a color-coded threat advisory for oil dependency, it would be blaring bright red. Severe, imminent risk.
At Purdue and at universities and research labs throughout the nation and world today, energy alternatives, policy and conservation are being studied.
Last year, a $25 million grant from Lilly Endowment enabled us to launch four new centers in our Discovery Park, a Center for the Environment, an Oncological Sciences Center, a Cyber Center and an Energy Center.
Our Center for the Environment has been created as a focal point for both those who wish to harness the planet's resources and those who wish to preserve them. Our Energy Center is focused on developing economical and environmentally sound energy sources and finding ways to use energy more efficiently.
Our researchers are interested in how to make existing energy sources cleaner and more efficient, as well as developing alternative energy sources that will make the nation less dependent upon foreign oil.
We also are committed to focusing on the development of national energy policies that will position America to be strong and secure in the 21st century.
Purdue is taking an interdisciplinary approach to finding solutions to the nation's energy challenges. Our Energy Center brings together more than 100 Purdue experts. These researchers are focusing on alternative energy sources such as iofuels, solar, electrochemical, hydrogen energy storage, clean coal, safe nuclear and wind turbines, as well as energy conservation.
The sun is the ultimate source of all energy on Earth. The Purdue Energy Center is studying solar energy efficiency improvements with low-cost production of solar cells that collect sunlight and generate electrical energy.
Purdue researchers are looking at how a fuel based on hydrogen can help cure this nation's energy problems. In April, we sponsored a Hydrogen Initiative Symposium on our campus. Engineers at Purdue are focusing on a new way to produce hydrogen for fuel cells to recharge batteries automatically in portable electronics, such as notebook computers, eliminating the need to use a wall outlet.
In high-efficiency wind turbines, current technologies for wind power are based on conventional propeller technology designed for steady spinning. Our Energy Center is exploring the development of innovative wind-turbine technology. This technology offers significant advantages over conventional designs by using the inherent unsteadiness of wind to our advantage.
The Purdue Energy Center's power electronics team is focusing on creating technologies to reduce significantly the cost of power electronics and electric machines. At the same time, Purdue researchers are contributing to research on a breakthrough design concept for nuclear power plants known as Modular Boiling Water Reactor. Nuclear reactors built using this technology are inherently safe and include built-in proliferation-resistant characteristics.
As you can see, there is a great deal of research taking place, here and elsewhere. All of this is important. These and other alternatives plus increased energy conservation will ultimately play a significant role in making this nation more energy- independent and in slowing potential damage to our environment.
The answer to our energy needs in the 21st century most likely will be the development and use of many alternatives, not just one.
All of these alternatives deserve attention, and we could have focused today's program on any of them. But we decided to focus on near-term liquid fuel alternatives from bio-mass and coal, and on the energy policies that could help us make progress in these areas. So our program today will NOT attempt to deal with all of the possibilities. In other words, we are focusing on those domestic alternatives and policy changes that could have the greatest near-term impact on substituting domestic liquid fuels for some imported oil.
For example, Purdue's Coal Transformation Laboratory focuses on technologies for converting coal into combustible gases and liquids that can be cleanly burned.
Sen. Lugar, along with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, is at the forefront of drafting national policy to use coal for production of liquid fuel.
Management of carbon emissions is a critical part of any strategy relying on coal-derived liquid fuels. These fuels were developed and used in Germany many decades ago. They use a process called Fischer-Tropsch that involves conversion of coal to carbon monoxide and hydrogen using catalysis.
Purdue chemists and chemical engineers are focusing on the potential of modern and efficient processes that could make use of different types of coal reserves around the country, including the Illinois basin mined in the southwestern part of our own state of Indiana.
A key source for future energy needs is bio-energy, transforming renewable plant materials into transportation fuels.
The ethanol fuel industry is an ongoing success story for production of renewable fuels, and demand for fuel ethanol is expected to increase. A number of issues arise regarding ethanol, such as the impact on corn and soybean prices and the impact of all this on food production and food costs. An alternative is cellulosic ethanol, which we are researching here at Purdue.
Through bio-engineering, Purdue's Laboratory for Renewable Resources Engineering within the Energy Center is working to turn agricultural residue into transportation fuels.
Researchers in this laboratory and their partners in Agriculture and Engineering have learned to change cornstalks and corn fiber into sugars that ferment to ethanol.
The laboratory has demonstrated that a combination of cellulose pretreatment, enzymes, and a special yeast increases yields of ethanol by 50 percent. One hundred forty chemicals and chemical feedstocks have been identified as potential fuel products from renewable plant biomass.
Our plant scientists are also using genomic techniques to improve crops that maximize productivity per acre while reducing inputs. Engineering and engagement with industry is translating discoveries in plant science, microbial genetics, and bioprocess engineering into practice.
The upside potential is huge in terms of jobs, sustainable renewable energy, and a new mission for the land-grant university system: discovery focused on transforming agriculture into an enterprise that will produce fuel, as well as food, feed and fiber.
Purdue's Energy Center also features research on efficient and environmentally friendly use of coal and bio-based liquid fuels in gas turbines and even rockets in addition to internal combustion engines.
This research, centered at our Energy Center-affiliated Maurice J. Zucrow and the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories is in collaboration with major companies working with gas turbines, internal combustion engines and aerospace.
Today, we have possibilities that did not exist in days when Henry Ford predicted a future powered by ethanol. There are obstacles to overcome in all of this as well.
Some of these obstacles are in developing appropriate and cost-effective energy policies to stimulate private investment in risky alternative energy sources.
We are working on developing and evaluating new energy policies here at Purdue. We are getting close. And through programs such as this one, we can bring the issues and the opportunities to the forefront of a national energy debate.
Solving the energy challenges before us will not be easy. Some have called for a Manhattan Project approach similar to the World War II effort that brought together the best university and private-sector scientists and engineers of the day to research nuclear weapons.
I prefer another analogy.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called on all the resources of this nation to land an American on the moon and return him safely to Earth within that decade. President Kennedy never said this would be easy.
In fact, he said, "This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel."
It meant the nation had to come together and work as one toward the common goal.
In July of 1969, Purdue graduate Neil Armstrong announced to the world "The Eagle has landed." Do you remember? How could anyone forget?
He took that giant leap for mankind only eight years after the President's challenge. Today, we are calling on all the resources of this nation to take the next giant leap. This amounts to nothing short of a great leap forward toward more energy independence.
We need to commit ourselves to safe, clean energy from domestic sources. We need to do this for the sake of our nation; for the sake our prosperity, our posterity and our planet.
Like the effort to reach the moon within a decade, it will take all of us working together. It will take commitment, courage, leadership and sacrifice from all of us.
It will take commitment, courage, investment and sacrifice from business and industry. It will take commitment, courage and sacrifice from people and our pocketbooks.
Can we do it?
Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you are right!"
I believe we can. And I firmly believe we must begin today echoing words that acknowledge the responsibility and the urgency of this calling: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"
Note to Journalists:
A satellite uplink from the summit will be available later today; additional information is available online.
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