Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, December 3, 2010

U-M professors contribute to presidential report on America's energy system

Two U-M professors contributed to a White House report this week that calls for the United States to craft a governmentwide federal energy policy and update it regularly with strategic reviews every four years.


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President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
Streamed news conference

The report provides a roadmap for the federal role in transforming the U.S. energy system within one to two decades — a transformation that is necessary, the report concludes, for reasons of economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship and national security.

U-M contributors were Rosina Bierbaum, dean and professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and a member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST); and Dennis Assanis, the Jon R. and Beverly S. Holt Professor of Engineering and director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute. Bierbaum and Assanis were members of the PCAST Energy Technology Innovation System Working Group.

Some of the recommendations in the report, titled "Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy," directly address universities. For example, the report calls for creating training-grant programs at universities similar to those in place at the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. Programs modeled after NIH and NSF would help address critical energy work force needs by supporting graduate students and curriculum development in areas such as energy storage, power electronics and related information technology and social science research.

"The next generation of scientists and engineers must be trained with a new set of tools to address critical issues such as climate change, energy security, water scarcity, pollution, ecological degradation and biodiversity loss simultaneously," Bierbaum says.

The report found that federal investment in energy-related research, development, demonstration and deployment is considerably less than many other industrialized countries as a fraction of gross domestic product. It recommends a substantial increase — to about $16 billion a year, from about $5 billion currently — and suggests that President Obama engage the private sector, consumer representatives and Congress to explore options to provide about $10 billion of the additional funding through new revenue streams.

"The recommended level of investment is needed to accelerate progress towards energy innovation. I believe that the increase will provide the U.S. with the potential to leapfrog to development and deployment of low-carbon energy technologies for improved economic competitiveness and a cleaner environment," Assanis says.