economics

National Academy of Sciences Report: America's Energy Future: Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass

Michael Ramage, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (retired);
James Sweeney, Stanford University

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | McCaw Hall, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center | Free and Open to All

National Academy of Sciences Report: America's Energy Future: Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass

The volatility of oil prices, the large proportion of oil importation, and the massive contribution of greenhouse gases from the transportation sector motivates the United States to seek domestic sources of alternative transportation fuels with lower greenhouse emissions. The abundance of coal and biomass in the United States makes them attractive candidates to provide alternatives to petroleum-based liquid fuels. However, there are important questions about the economic viability, carbon impact, and technology status of these options.

The National Research Council report Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts provides a snapshot of the potential costs of liquid fuels from biomass by biochemical conversion and from biomass and coal by thermochemical conversion. The report concluded that alternative liquid transportation fuels from coal and biomass have the potential to play an important role in helping the United States address issues of energy security, supply diversification, and greenhouse-gas impacts. The various options have different greenhouse gas impacts, and the choices will most likely depend on U.S. carbon policy. Cellulosic ethanol, coal-to-liquid fuels, and coal and biomass to liquid fuels can be available commercially in the 2020 time frame if large-scale demonstrations of the conversion technologies are pursued aggressively in the next few years.

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Why the United States Has Yet to Benefit from Electricity Industry Re-structuring (And What Can Be Done to Change This)

Frank Wolak, Stanford University

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

April 29, 2009 - Frank Wolak, senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, discusses restructuring the electricity industry in the U.S. and explains the problems involved in energy market design. He believes that the divergent goals of state-level and federal-level regulation of the energy industry are ultimately harming consumers, and that in the future, there will be a need to address government vs. private ownership. Wolak calls for the need to treat electricity like any other product in the U.S. and argues for changing the structure of the electricity network to a market-controlled system, rather than an explicitly regulated one. However, because the market system carries with it many problems that can lead to an imbalanced power structure, some regulation is necessary. Wolak believes the United States will need to protect consumers from price risk and ensure the right to electricity. Wolak also projects that installation of smart meters will lead to estimated savings on wholesale energy purchase costs. Currently, investor-owned utilities are installing hourly meters for customers, and this restructuring is a positive step.
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Taking Solar Seriously:  How to Run a Modern Industrial Civilization on Sunbeams

Denis Hayes, President and CEO, Bullitt Foundation, National Coordinator of first Earth Day

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Mr. Hayes spoke about taking solar seriously. Hayes, who served as national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970, is currently the president and chief executive officer of the Bullitt Foundation, which advocates for environmental protection and sustainability practices in the Pacific Northwest. Hayes also directed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under President Jimmy Carter's administration and served as President of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) in 1968.

No video or speaker slides available

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How Energy Policy is Really Made

Tara Billingsley, Professional Staff, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Tara Billingsley, professional staff, for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate, discusses current and proposed U.S. energy policy and the legislative process. The Energy Seminar meets during the academic year on Wednesdays, 4:15 to 5:15 p.m.

No video or speaker slides available

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Transforming Our Energy Economy: The Role of Renewable Energy

Dr. Dan E. Arvizu, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

April 1, 2009 - Dan Arvizu, director of the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), discusses the current state of renewable energy technology and implementation in the U.S., as well as potential advancements in the near future. He focuses on the need to increase energy efficiency and to expand the renewable energy marketplace in the United States. A recent increase in the laboratory's budget is promising, but they also need to increase the speed of technology uptake. Arvizu argues that local economics are encouraged by green techology. If the United States begins on the path to sustainable energy use, then these incremental changes will bring about a transition within the energy sector. The key challenges are implementing renewable energy at scale, displacing petroleum fuels, and reducing the energy demands of industry. He focuses on buildings as one of the biggest targets for emissions reduction because they are big emitters and there are low-cost options to reduce their carbon output. Wind and solar are also becoming more viable renewable energy sources, but Arzivu expresses a need to improve current technologies. NREL is positioned to address the large-scale deployment issues that also currently exist. The laboratory planning to implement different combinations of alternative technologies in each country where it works, based on their energy sector's adaptability to the various technologies.
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Coals’ Role in the Global Energy Mix: Coal Markets with a View to 2030

Richard Morse, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

March 4, 2009 - Richard Morse, research associate at the Stanford Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, discusses the role of coal in the global energy mix. He states that coal is the fastest-growing source of energy and that regulation and policy are beginning to play a larger role in the economy of coal power. Most of the current growth is happening in non-OECD countries, and many countries in Asia have made plans for additional coal-fired capacity. Since Asian development currently depends on coal, there is the need to understand Asia's coal markets and evaluate all posible mitigation options. Morse focuses on the market for steam coal, one of two different types, because it is very affordable. Morse predicts that after 2012, cap-and-trade may slow the growth of the global coal market. When carbon prices are high, regulation and policy could play a larger role in the energy sources that people choose.
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Can Nuclear Energy be a Sustainable Contribution to Address the Climate Change Concerns? The French Experience

Jacques Bouchard, former head of the Nuclear Energy Division of Commissariat a L’Energie Atomique in France

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

February 25, 2009 - Jacques Bouchard, former head of the Nuclear Energy Division of Commissariat a L'Energie Atomique in France, gives a comprehensive overview of France's innovative development of nuclear energy technology. He emphasizes the concern about climate change and the need to implement a new energy system that emits lower greenhouse gases as reasons for the necessity of nuclear energy around the world. Bouchard presents the French Act on Waste Management as a model for nuclear development in other countries: the EDF Generation Fleet focuses on optimization which is dependent upon consumption and has very low carbon dioxide emissions. France has developed large nuclear power capacity, but needs to have better use of uranium resources. The nuclear industry is now ready to implement newer and safer reactors. Bouchard explains that within 15% of the cost of a nuclear plant is set aside so that decommission can be conducted safely. Although Bouchard promotes nuclear energy as a positive path for many countries, he suggests the precondition of political stability for countries interested in nuclear energy.
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Smart Grids and De-carbonizing the Power Sector

Nicholas Jenkins, Shimizu Visiting Professor, Atmosphere & Energy Program, Stanford University

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 |

February 5, 2009 - Nicholas Jenkins, Shimizu Visiting Professor of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University, discusses the progress and implementation of smart power grids using cost-effective analysis. Jenkins discusses the drivers of innovation in the market, factors related to the internal market, security of supply, and the environment. Smart grids comprise a system of centralized and decentralized power generation that has the potential for economic and efficiency benefits. It is also expected to include benefits in customer service and convenience: smart grids increase demand side participation through smart metering, which allows for increased information and communication between energy providers and consumers. As an example of future potential, Jenkins provides the case study of the U.K. The U.K. has targeted wind as its dominant renewable technology, but these circuits can take 10 years to permit and construct, and they also require increases in transmission capacity. Thus, Jenkins poses major questions for future development of a smart power network, including the usefulness of smart meters, the coordination of a decentralized system, the need of communication from customers to the distributors, and the viability of a market-driven solution to decarbonizing the power sector.
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Sustainable Aviation: Future Air Transportation and the Environment

Ilan Kroo, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

January 21, 2009 - Ilan Kroo, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, discusses the impact of aviation on the environment and the idea of "sustainable" aviation. Transport is responsible for 13-20% of all greenhouse gases, and aviation accounts for about 13% of transportation. Additionally, burning fuel at higher altitudes has an increased effect on global warmingcompared to the same emissions at lower altitudes, which gives the airline industry a disproportionate impact on climate change. Kroo shows that airplane efficiency has improved by 70% since the first airplane design, but has a number of design recommendations for further increasing the fuel efficiency of planes. These include autonomous aerial refueling, formation flight, and altered wing shape for reduction of drag. Kroo recommends systems of fleet design, new configurations and technologies, and a new climate model as critical for future improvements.

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A Major New Initiative Focused on the Global Problem of Energy, and a conversation with distinguished panelists

President John L. Hennessy; Sally Benson, director, Global Climate and Energy Project; John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer, Google Inc.; Jim Sweeney, director, Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency; Jane Woodward, chief executive officer, MAP and consulting professor, Stanford University; Moderated by Lynn Orr, founding director, Global Climate and Energy Project

Monday, January 12, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | | Free and Open to All

Distinguished panelists discuss energy issues affecting the world today. Panelists: Sally Benson, director, Global Climate and Energy Project; John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer, Google Inc.; Jim Sweeney, director, Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency; Jane Woodward, chief executive officer, MAP and consulting professor, Stanford University
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