Seminar Archive Summaries

California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard: A Debate

David Stern, ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Company and
Dan Sperling, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California at Davis

Please note different venue (320-105) and day (Wednesday)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | | Free and Open to All






Dr. David Stern
Advanced Fuels Senior Advisor
ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Company


Professor Dan Sperling
Director, Institute of Transportation Studies
at the University of California, Davis


Abstract from Daniel Sperling:

The low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) is being implemented in California and the EU and is under serious consideration in over 10 states and Canadian provinces.  The LCFS provides a promising and durable policy framework to decarbonize transportation fuels.  It is performance based, harnesses market forces (through credit trading), and utilizes lifecycle principles.  Though one might prefer more theoretically elegant policies such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade, those other instruments are not likely to be effective in the foreseeable future with transport fuels.  They would not be sufficient to induce large investments in electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and advanced biofuels.  The implementation of LCFS faces various political, scientific, and implementation challenges, but that is not surprising for a policy that aims to transform the oil and biofuels industries.

Abstract from Dr. David Stern:

Challenges to Meet a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

As part of AB32, California’s Climate Change Act, the California Air Resource Board (CARB) has enacted a Low Carbon Fuel Standard.  The LCFS mandates a reduction in fuel life-cycle carbon intensity (CI), versus a petroleum fuel (gasoline/diesel) baseline.  At low CI reduction targets, increased use of biofuel is needed to meet the target, but higher CI reduction targets (e.g., 10%) are infeasible without large numbers of electric vehicles, large use of very low CI biofuels, or both. 

This talk will review the challenges in meeting the LCFS, and why LCFS is a complex, cost ineffective, and non-transparent policy to reduce GHG’s.

  • On a cost per unit GHG reduction, transportation-fuel-related cost reductions substantially exceeds the cost of other GHG reductions
  • If policy goals are to promote biofuels or to electrify the fleet, direct and transparent regulations are better ways to meet these goals
  • If the policy goal is GHG reduction, the most efficient and cost effective approach is a broad based, revenue-neutral carbon tax

Our discussion will also review principles to consider in policy development. If society chooses to implement climate policy, such policies should: ensure a uniform and predictable cost of GHG emissions, let market prices drive the solution, minimize complexity, maximize transparency, and adjust to future developments in climate science and the economic impacts of climate policies.


Related Themes:

What is Happening in Japan and What Does It Mean for the Future of Nuclear Energy?

Burton Richter, Director Emeritus, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Matthew Wald, Washington Bureau, The New York Times

Monday, April 11, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | Hewlett Teaching Center, Auditorium 200 | Free and Open to All

Note different location, Hewlett 200


Burton Richter
Director Emeritus of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory


Matthew Wald

Washington Bureau
The New York Times


Nobel Laureate Burton Richter and New York Times journalist Matthew Wald will discuss what is happening in Japan and what it means for nuclear power.  Mr. Wald will describe the sequence of events that occurred at the Fukushima nuclear plants following the earthquake in Japan.  Dr. Richter will cover the technical issues of what happens in a nuclear reactor under these circumstances.  Dr. Richter will review the current use of nuclear power worldwide and the main issues that nuclear regulators must address when assessing risk in disaster scenarios.  Mr. Wald will describe the nuclear renaissance before and after Fukushima and report on what he has been hearing from legislators, regulators, industry experts, and the public. Mr. Wald and Dr. Richter will provide their perspectives on the future of nuclear power.


Related Themes:

The Status of Concentrating Solar Power Development

Dr. Thomas Mancini, Concentrated Solar Power Manager, Sandia National Laboratories

Monday, April 4, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP, aka Solar Thermal Electric Power) comprises three system architectures:  line focus (parabolic trough and linear Fresnel), point focus central receiver (power towers), and point focus, distributed receiver (dish Stirling).  In all of these technologies, solar energy is collected, converted to thermal energy, and used to drive heat engine generators.  In this presentation, we will review the current status of these technologies and contrast their relative strengths and the value of thermal energy storage. The availability of cost-effective thermal energy storage for power towers and troughs increases the value of electricity produced by these systems because it provides dispatchability.  We will also review the deployments of CSP systems around the world and the current plans for deployment in the U. S.  Last, we will discuss future R&D directions in terms of the recently announced SunShot Initiative.

Related Themes:

Stanford’s Energy Story: Present and Future

Panelists from the Stanford Sustainability and Energy Management Department

Joseph Stagner, Executive Director

Gerry Hamilton, Associate Director, Facilities Energy Management

Fahmida Ahmed, Associate Director, Sustainable Stanford Programs

Monday, March 28, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Stanford is embarking on a new era of sustainable energy management to further improve its operation efficiency and reduce its energy footprint, which is no small task for a growing campus.  Speakers from the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management will talk about the three key prongs of the balanced approach that has shaped Stanford’s long range energy and climate plan - high energy efficiency standards in new buildings, energy conservation in existing buildings, and greener and more flexible energy supply for campus.  The plan intends to reduce Stanford’s GHG emissions well below 1990 levels by 2010.  The presentation will also touch on the untapped potential of behavioral programs on campus that can motivate individuals to conserve energy without compromising their quality of life at Stanford.

Transportation in a Climate-Constrained World

Andreas Schäfer, University of Cambridge

Monday, March 7, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Transportation consumes two-thirds of the world’s petroleum and has become the largest contributor to global environmental change. Most of this increase in scale can be attributed to the strong desire for personal mobility that comes with economic growth. This talk will cover the past and future travel demand; the influence of personal and business choices on passenger travel’s climate impact; technologies and alternative fuels that may become available to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from passenger transport; and policies that would promote a more sustainable transportation system. And most important, when all of these options are taken together, it will consider whether a more sustainable transportation system will be possible in the next thirty to fifty years, or whether we must accept a future where transportation remains a major contributor to climate change.
This talk is based on a recently published book “Transportation in a Climate-Constrained World” (MIT Press), by Andreas Schäfer and three MIT-colleagues, John B. Heywood, Henry D. Jacoby, and Ian A. Waitz.
Related Themes:

Global Cookstove Problems, and the Berkeley Darfur Stove

Ashok Gadgil, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California,  Berkeley

Monday, February 28, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In parallel with his research in Indoor Environment, Dr. Gadgil has a long record of innovative solutions to problems in the developing world. He has pioneered the way to accelerate access to compact fluorescent lamps for poor households in developing countries; invented and commercialized a method to affordably disinfect drinking water for poor communities; designed, tested, and then found a way to build, field-test, and disseminate thousands of fuel-efficient stoves to refugee women in Darfur; and invented and is currently field-testing an extremely low cost, robust, and technically reliable method to remove arsenic from drinking water in Bangladesh and nearby regions.


Followed by a MAP Energy Social held in the Huang-Foyer (next to the NVIDIA Auditorium)

Related Themes:

Joint Address to Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and Energy Seminar

Bill Gross, Founder of Idealab, Board Member of eSolar and Energy Innovations

Please note new date for (only) this seminar, Wednesday, February 23rd

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 04:30 PM - 05:30 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Bill Gross is a lifelong entrepreneur and proponent of solar power. While still in college, Mr. Gross founded Solar Devices, a firm that sold plans and kits for solar energy products. As the CEO of the technology incubator Idealab, Mr. Gross has founded several extremely successful companies, including Overture (acquired by Yahoo!), CarsDirect, and Picasa (acquired by Google). Idealab recently moved into the renewable energy market with Energy Innovations, a sister company to eSolar that focuses on the retail rooftop solar market.

Related Themes:

Canada's Oil Sands; Warts and All

Bob Skinner, Advisor to Statoil

Monday, February 14, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Canada’s oil sands constitute one of the largest concentrations of hydrocarbons in the world with nearly two trillion barrels of bitumen in place.  Current production is about 1.5 million b/d, half from open pit mines, half from wells relying on steam injection to stimulate production.  Unconventional oil derived from bitumen, extra heavy oil, shale, coal and converted natural gas, is projected to grow as a share of world oil supply. While all are underpinned by immense resources, unconventional hydrocarbons are unlikely to exceed 10% of global supply before 2035. Biofuels, if included, would increase the share of unconventional oil to about 13%.


Extracting, upgrading or converting these forms of oil into useful products economically and in environmentally and socially acceptable ways faces major challenges.  Their development amounts to either reversing or accelerating geological processes, which requires prodigious inputs of energy, materials, labour, technologies or other resources, especially water.  Even as oil prices rise, the cost of production rises because of competing demands for, and therefore higher costs of, these essential inputs, some of which are themselves energy-intensive.  This conceptual framework for discussing their potential contribution to the future energy mix and their political economy is illustrated in the case of the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta.  There are many environmental and social challenges in the development of the oil sands; these are being addressed, albeit slowly. The presentation will discuss the resource, its geology, the technologies and the issues and expectations for development of this resource.

Related Themes:

Our Energy Future: Lessons from the Heartland

Nancy Jackson, Founder and Chair, Climate and Energy Project, Kansas

Monday, February 7, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In America’s Heartland, where many if not most are skeptical about climate change, a tiny nonprofit has successfully promoted energy solutions. While we certainly wish to change policy, we know that policy alone is not sufficient – the will to implement must be steadfast as well. So we have worked from the ground up and the top down to connect with citizen’s core values, to identify shared goals, to raise the voices of local champions, and to take action together. Our Take Charge Challenge – an energy efficiency contest between communities – harnessed the competitive spirit and transformed efficiency from “sacrifice” to “win.” Energy forums, an economic development tour, a workforce development survey, and booths at the Kansas State Fair in addition to legislative briefings and endless testimony transformed wind energy from “pipe dream” to “a key part of the energy mix.” The Climate & Energy Project seeks to set new defaults for energy use, identifying efficiency as the obvious first fuel and renewables like wind as cost-effective options that “just make sense.”

Related Themes:

Solar Geoengineering as a Tool to Manage Climate Risks

David Keith, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Calgary

Monday, January 31, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The combination of inertia and uncertainty makes the coupled climate-economic system dangerously hard to control. If the climate's sensitivity is at the high end of current estimates it may be too late to avert dramatic consequences for human societies and natural ecosystems even if we could quickly cut emissions to zero. Emissions cuts are necessary to manage climate risks, but they are not necessarily sufficient. Prudence demands that we study methods that offer the hope of limiting the environmental risks posed by the accumulation of fossil carbon in the atmosphere. The engineered alteration of the earth’s radiation budget—geoengineering—offers a fast means of managing climate risk, but it entails a host of new risks and it cannot fully compensate for the risk posed by carbon in the air. I will review the science and technology of solar geoengineering and then argue that systematic management of climate risks may require the capability to implement these technologies. Finally, I will speculate about the elements of a geoengineering research program needed to build and regulate such capability.

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