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Director for Science
the EnergyEnvironment Challenge
current energy crisis has put energy issues onto the front page
again. Our societys immediate concerns have focused on ensuring
adequate power supplies, avoiding rolling blackouts, and reducing
stratospheric energy bills.
At the same time, a growing number of people have cited the environmental
and public health consequences of unfettered energy consumption.
The rising debate over the environmental aspects of the energy crisis
has many elements, including the buildup of greenhouse gases, the
recent Kyoto accords on limiting nations atmospheric emissions,
spills and leakage of fuels, and the general environmental degradation
associated with extracting and transporting our energy resources.
events, discussions, and debates of the past few months have again
vividly demonstrated that the nation wants energy that is cheap,
reliable, and clean. We do not want to be forced to choose between
having adequate energy supplies and enjoying a healthy environment.
one of the nations most pressing challenges is solving our
energy needs while lessening the environmental effects of energy
production and consumption. Several trends have emerged that are
leading to a national mandate to address the coupled energyenvironment
issue. These trends include the increasingly strong evidence of
climate change, a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, the unrelenting
U.S. energy appetite, the possibility that the developing world
will dramatically increase its consumption of fossil fuel, and growing
international pressures on the U.S. to curb its carbon dioxide emissions.
Livermore possesses a wide range of technical assets that position
us to comprehensively address the energyenvironment issue.
They include the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison,
the development of carbon-sensitive energy production and conversion
technologies, carbon-cycle and climate simulation, terascale computer
hardware and expertise, and expert knowledge in risk assessment
and decision support. Together, these assets provide a deep understanding
of the energyenvironment issue as well as innovative energy
and environmental remediation technologies to address the issue.
recent merger of Lawrence Livermores Energy Directorate and
Earth and Environmental Sciences Directorate into the Energy and
Environment Directorate has enhanced the Laboratorys capabilities
to combine traditional lines of research in energy and in climate.
In that light, Livermore scientists are pursuing several integrated
initiatives to advance scientific understanding of the energyenvironment
issue. The initiatives include integrated climate and carbon-cycle
a zero-emission steam technology research facility, solid-oxide
fuel-cell technology development, methane-hydrate risks and opportunities
assessment, and carbon sequestration in the ocean or subsurface.
of the most promising long-term technology options is direct carbon
conversion, featured in the article entitled Turning
Carbon Directly into Electricity. Future energy technologies
must be cost-effective, meaning that the technologies must be modular
and scalable and not as capital intensive as previous technologies.
They must also be clean and efficient to minimize injury to the
environment and facilitate the mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions.
carbon conversion fuel cells offer the potential to be economical,
clean, and efficient while using the vast fossil energy resources
of oil, coal, natural gas, and biomass. The technology offers high
electrochemical efficiency with the added advantage of controlled
emission of carbon dioxide that can be disposed of in an environmentally
acceptable way. It is a breakthrough based on a new understanding
of how to use carbon fuel particles that are extremely small and
have a high degree of disorder on the atomic scale.
challenges remain to be overcome, including how to use dirty fuels,
scaling up the technology to significant size, and performing thorough
systems engineering. Nevertheless, direct carbon conversion is a
promising candidate for the nations energy future.
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July 23, 2001