SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: So I started out my remarks thinking that President Vest would be here, or former President Vest would be here of MIT. I used to work for him. I felt like I was on a 30-year training mission to come back home to Cornell. And I'm glad I was at MIT because it really prepared me for some of the challenges we have here.
Both schools are land-grant institutions, but as good as MIT is, it doesn't have a college of agriculture, it doesn't have a vet school, and it doesn't have what I would call the bench strength in diversity that's really needed to tackle a lot of these sustainability problems. So what I hope to share with you is first, a little bit about how the challenges that we have to deal with, both as a country, and more generally globally, and what kind of approaches might work. And then because this is a meeting at Cornell, I thought I would share with you some of the innovation and things that are actually happening here that I think tie together these pieces that Frank and David Skorton alluded to.
But to begin with, I want to start with an advertisement, because it will tell you why I'm here, in some sense, and how complex and challenging this sustainable energy area is in and of itself. Although it's only one piece of this three-dimensional picture that Frank presented on energy environment and economic development, it took us a long time when we started working on this when I was at MIT to understand how you actually are going to put this together into a course.
In fact, we teach this here now, and what I'm going to try to compress in 25 minutes thanks to Norm's insistence, we do in 25 hours of lectures. And so it's somewhat of a compression. So hold onto your hats here as we move forward.
So to begin with, I thought it would be helpful to share a few quotes, since this is really what this is about-- both factual material and predictions far into the future that carry uncertainty and risk assessment with them. So this is one of my favorites. This is attributed to Niels Bohr and Yogi Berra simultaneously, but it has a lot to do with the uncertainty that we face in trying to chart a course when we're not exactly sure how it will all play out.
This other one is clearly Yogi, and I think describes our lack of commitment, both as a country and perhaps even globally, to really mapping out a plan and sticking with it for a long enough period of time to make a difference. This next is Mark Twain. And when we talk about footprint and the footprint of an energy technology, or the footprint of what humans have done to the Earth, and trying to make that work, where ecology, and biodiversity, and all the other aspects that we need to keep the civilization running, and to keep the planet healthy are tied to land use in a big way.
And this one is the last one. And this is clearly the big challenge we face when we talk about transformational energy change that we have to change something. And there's an enormous infrastructure in place already for supplying energy, and distributing energy, and using energy. And to make substantive changes will require us to do something different and to invest in that. I'm sure when we hear the next talk that Tom O'Rourke will cover some of these, but infrastructure is a big, big piece of this.
Since this is a meeting for engineers, I thought I'd give you our view as an engineering point of view, but this is the grand challenge, I think, from my own perspective, and many of my co-faculty that think about this. It's really the human footprint that we have and trying to deal with it in an appropriate manner that reflects stewardship and invoking new technology.
So if we start to look at the modification slightly of the Brundtland definition of sustainability, this is about actually doing things now, so both characterizing measuring things, understanding them in the context of producing the kind of white papers or documents that are necessary to inform the process, managing it, and certainly getting started with mitigation of all the impacts that we have to deal with so we have the safe and secure future for coming generations.
So Frank alluded to these three E's. We like to use this triangular diagram every once in a while to show how interconnected all the pieces are. And so this is one example of that, where you could move some of those subtopics from the energy box into economic development, and vice versa into environment. We have a lot of intersections here. And the real interesting piece for many faculty that we have here at Cornell and other locations is to actually come up with ways where you can do deep work, emphasizing fundamentals in your own discipline, and connect it to another set of high level activities in another discipline, and work on problems at that interface.
So the publication of papers in traditional journals that are very much in a disciplinary silo has to be broken down somewhat if we're going to do this kind of work. So it's important to think about that in that kind of context. So usually when you start to talk about energy, someone will immediately say it's all about climate change, or it's all about solving sulfur emissions, or particulates, or maybe just security.
But really, you have to look at these together because they're all necessary to have a functioning society. And national and international energy security, and the geopolitics of that political instabilities, as Frank has mentioned, are clearly important. But this idea of having accessible energy, high-performing energy systems, much higher than we have now, and making it affordable, and all the intersections that occur in interactions with the environment across all these scales, and length, and time are really at the heart of this struggle.
And engineers have to deal with this. And they have to understand it better. And certainly, the paradigms are changing rapidly as to what we teach in class and how we get that message across. So I thought I'd share with you a few of the challenges that are out there. This is a graph that I just updated this morning. It's hard to keep track of these things, using, of course, our two reliable sources of information-- the [? DOE/CIA ?] site and the CIA Factbook.
And if you go out to the web and look at this, you can get a lot of different answers. Over on the right side, this represents rank order of the countries that consume oil, that import oil. And these are pretty factual. I think most of those, you could argue, have little uncertainty. Over on the left side, however, these are listed reserves rank ordered by the way in which you classify oil, and the way in which countries report their own reserves, which clearly has an economic feature to it and some high level of uncertainty.
If we were to look at this slide 15 years ago or 10 years ago, China wouldn't be even on this graph. Either over in this column is number two, consumer. And most of this is going into transportation fuels, as you know. So we should consider what will happen in China when we evolve from a country like ours, where we have basically one automobile almost per person in the country, to China, which has much fewer number of automobiles, and light trucks, et cetera. So they are very quickly going to be number one on this right-hand list.
On the left-hand side, 10, 15 years ago, Canada wouldn't be on here either, because now the so-called heavy oils are being factored into this reserve, and it's large. Venezuela also would be way down on this list. There are not a lot of strong allies of the United States on the left-hand side. And plus, we're number 13 down here, and China is right behind us, and we're the two biggest consumers.
So that's a dynamic has to be dealt with. The other is electricity. This is a reconstructed diagram put together by GE, and there have been projections going forward. What might happen if we were to envision a planet in 2030 where we double the power? So just in an iconic sort of way try to represent that. That's a big number, and we're certainly headed in that direction with respect to generating capacity.
The other piece of this has to do with the way in which we supply this primary energy. A lot of you in the room, I'm sure, know that a large fraction of our energy of this massive number here, which is a quad-- for those of you who aren't familiar with it-- is 10 to the 15th BTUs, British Thermal Units, or 10 to the 18th approximately exajoules. Exajoule and a quad are roughly equivalent. So 10 to the 18th joules is equal to an exajoule.
And so if we were to evolve to the end of this current century in the manner which we are now, not necessarily saying where the fossil fuels would come from, because there'd be a lot of unconventional oil, some shifts back and forth with unconventional gas and coal, but that's what it would look like. And the projection is that we would roughly be consuming five times the amount of energy. I think most people would argue that this is not-- business-as-usual strategy is not sustainable.
The other idea is engineers like to think about asymptotes. I think even David Skorton mentioned this in his remarks about what might we actually end up. And this is a great exercise in uncertainty as well. But if you start to look at the numbers-- and frequently you'll see these global energy units-- quads, billions of barrels of oil, terawatts, and the like, those are going to have to come from somewhere and be produced somehow, either with a portfolio of energy supply options or with some large energy source that has been yet undiscovered. But it is a big demand on the system.
We have a lot of cars and trucks already. Recently we broke the barrier of 1 billion of these worldwide. If all of the citizens of China and India drive the same way we do, we'll easily get to this high level. It's almost unfathomable to me to imagine how we could supply the transportation fuels we're using today to that large of a fleet. Likewise, electricity, US, as you'll see, alone, is it a terawatt itself, a million megawatts. But the rest of the world is growing rapidly. This was a few years back, just 4 terawatts of electric generating capacity, 4 million megawatts. And now it's already increased by 20% or 25%.
Climate change. Frequently, you'll see many descriptions of this, but clearly tied to anthropogenic forcing, driven by CO2 emissions, of which we generate a lot by the way in which we use fuels today. But even if you don't really believe in that this is really driving climate change, there are a lot of other indicators that suggest that we have to migrate away from our addiction to hydrocarbons to a much more sustainable destination.
Depletion of conventional resources. Uncertainties in supply. The political instabilities. Uncertainties in prices of imported oil and imported resources. Security implications that surround this. The very large environmental impacts that come with some of these unconventional fuels. We're living with some of this right in our own backyard with the Marcellus Shale and the implications of that. But also shale oil in the Bakken location in North Dakota is a very different approach than conventional oil over historical times, and the heavy oils of Canada. And certainly, if we are to get started with extraction and utilization of oil shales, that will create other environmental stresses that we haven't had to live with so far.
The growing demand on water and land use, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services also is a piece of this. And this ties nicely into one of the other E's, and is clearly what engineers have to understand. If you're going to try to work on a solution space, you've got to clearly quantify some of those effects. So here's the US picture, the same kind of asymptotic idea.
You can look at where the population might migrate to. We're certainly not moving in a totally stable direction right now. The issue of the number of cars and trucks we have, and how much that might grow, and more importantly, the number of vehicle miles that are driven per year, and in what kind of a fleet, how efficient that might be, is important. A few years back, we crossed the threshold of a million megawatts of capacity. Hard to believe. This is not total energy. This is just the electric sector. So these are very, very big demands, and you have to keep this in mind.
Now, again, recently, we were the leader both in consuming energy and emitting CO2. We have now lost that number one spot. You could see from the earlier slide where China is with respect to oil. Well, they're burning a lot of coal for sure, and will continue to do so to drive their own economy and the manufacturing sectors that are growing so rapidly there.
Another piece of this. This was some work that we did a year or two back to re-examine how we actually use energy and what temperature it's actually used at. We now take fuels, some of our best fuels, and we combust them at high temperature. And we actually produce things that are much, much closer at room temperature.
So this graph is a presentation of that data. It represents about 40 years of data averaged for the United States alone. And were plotting exajoules here. So these are big numbers. These are quads or exajoules. So when we look at 10 on this scale, it's 10% of the total US energy consumption per annum. And you can see the space and water heating aspects, the air conditioning, other home conditioning and building conditioning, tying in nicely to this built environment and sustainable community idea.
Almost all of that is at temperatures-- a significant fraction of that-- 100, if you will, 100 quads, is really utilizing and providing energy way below the boiling point of water, at the boiling point of water or less. And if you add it all up and do a cumulative distribution function, you find that about 25% of our energy use comes at temperatures less than 100 degrees C, and almost all of it comes from burning natural gas and oil.
In this course that we offer on sustainable energy, one of the important thermodynamic lessons is to look at how much exergy, or availability we have available to us, with these very high-grade, high temperature fuels, and how much of that we should be utilizing on the way down to where we deposit that energy back into the environment. This is not doing it in a thermodynamically efficient fashion. It's maybe an economically efficient fashion, because we've had such affordable fuels of heating oil and gas for so long, but it certainly violates a lot of the principles of conversion.
So where do you go from here? Usually you'll see a collage of these beautiful pictures of renewables. And if you're a person who loves solar energy, you say, well, all we really need to do is put up solar collectors, or if you love wind power or biomass-- biomass has such diversity to it we have to use more than one picture. But it's not really easy to imagine what this future might look like, so this gets into the idea of making choices and trying to do appropriate analysis, where engineers, particularly engineers who have been well-taught and well-versed in all of these attributes of sustainability, could make a difference.
So this is a vast landscape. And I heard the words in the question period about discovery. I view this as a five-dimensional problem to start with. Discovery is the first D, definition the second. This is the basic research part of it, things that universities traditionally do well. But the development of that technology, the demonstration of it at commercial scale, and ultimately the deployment are what it's really all about. And this is where obviously the large amount of money is spent.
So what you can do to help inform that process to work on things that actually are scalable and deployable is important. There are a lot of options. There are options on the supply side. There are many, many different needs for supplying electricity or thermal energy at a kilowatt level, even less than a kilowatt if we're talking about small batteries, but certainly up to thousands of megawatts if we talk about mega-cities and large load centers.
Multiple end uses. So there's heat, power, combined heat and power, et cetera. There are a lot of attributes to sustainability. Frank shared some of those with you. That list can grow very large. What's different about it is that different people weight different aspects, different attributes different ways. And this is where the social and public outreach part comes into this, as well as education.
And there are a lot of metrics. Engineers love metrics in terms of performance as how you might view system-- let's say energy efficiency, conversion efficiency, transformation between various parts of an energy chain. So if you just add it all up and take the product of this, you can get a dimensionality. If you like this kind of way of doing it, that's pretty big.
We like to work on big problems. This is certainly one of them. And there's obviously no simple optimal solution. There's a lot of noisy highly structured surface to where you might make choices, and this is important. This is why computational aspects-- and I'm sure [? Carla ?] will talk to you about, are important to understand. We've got a bunch of rules here that we have to deal with too. First and second laws. Heat and power aren't the same, even though they carry the same units.
All parts of the system-- this is a system problem-- have to work well. And the idea of competing with the stored chemical energy that's in carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds is not easy to do, whether it's a solar source, or a geothermal source, or some other energy supply system that you're envisioning as a transformation, you've got to be careful that the competition is [? steep ?] here, in terms of energy density and the intensity, let's say, of a process.
And infrastructure for storage supply distribution is essential, especially if you're going to reach these levels that are important to make a difference, the exajoule and terawatt levels. And an idea of full cycle accountability, although it's talked about a lot, needs to enter more into the dialogue space in making decisions. So these three critical elements of scale, intensity, and density, and dispatchability are things I like to keep in mind. So we could start all over, wipe the slate clean, and decide to find the best energy solution for the future.
So what would be some of the attributes? Well, you clearly like high energy and power density. You don't want it to be depletable. You want very low impacts. All of these important resources, across the full lifecycle of this energy system. Accessibility and distribution, so they aren't just sitting in a few places where there would be some geopolitical stress. You want emissions to be low. You'd like them to be absent totally in some cases, but low, very low, and certainly not affecting health or the climate.
You want scalability, dispatchability, robustness. Important that it be simple, reliable, durable, and safe to operate as well. The situation in Japan and the reaction to that should be another sort of shot over the bow, so to speak, of concern about the reliability and safety of large systems, large, complex systems, and what can happen if things really go wrong in terms of interaction with the natural environment.
Flexibility and economically competitive are there. So let's start to look at a few options. We have fossil is out there. There's a lot of good things about fossil energy. There are a lot of other things that come with it. This is depletability, the fact that we are transitioning from conventional to unconventional resources. The change of that in terms of the political structure and resource availability is big, but it comes with a price, a price that we have to bear with and deal with in terms of trade-offs.
In addition, if we are to take on a path where we start to capture every molecule of CO2 and try to sequester it somewhere, not only will this be costly, it's certainly not a permanent solution. So the kind of capital investment that would go into that would be enormous. So before we get on that path, we should think carefully about all the options.
Fission, that I mentioned briefly, but the area of waste proliferation and safety still are dominant. In some countries, they have dealt with this. Certainly France is one. The United States hasn't quite done very much in terms of building new plants for the last many years, but that could change, particularly if carbon dioxide gets a little bit more sense of urgency in trying to control that. And fusion, as nice as this might be as a wonderful solution for the future, it's far from being ready for prime time, and the costs are very uncertain. So again, you go back to this picture of the renewables. They score high on sustainability metrics, but they vary tremendously in their quality, and the resource availability. And the costs, very frequently, particularly in today's energy markets, are very high.
So what would Cornell do? And this is the last part of the talk. And I'll get off the stage quickly, Norm. But I thought it would be good to share with you a little bit about how the Atkinson's Center and the Cornell sustainable campus activities are trying to work together to do certain things. So there are a number of examples here of our involvement in energy. One is a systems approach to energy transitions that has to do with both our land grant commitment in the region, of thinking about how to deal with the transitions that are undoubtedly going to occur in shale gas and other renewables if we have to capture carbon and sequester it.
Wind and water power is another area that's been an interesting collage of both fundamental interests in fluid mechanics and large structures. The fact that the lab of ornithology is here and has been looking at effects of bird migration, and what might happen if we were to have very, very large scale deployment of wind. That's an important area that I see a lot of growth that could work well at Cornell.
The area of earth energy. We're one of the few universities that has its geologic sciences department embedded in engineering, and there's a lot of interest in dealing with subsurface science and engineering, and trying to understand it better. So this is, again, another intersection. The other part of this is sustainable communities, an area that Norm is very interested in and many of us. It ties to the built environment, but it also shows how you have to put all the pieces together in a way which would lead to not only a better energy supply and use system, but also one that would use water and land, and have agriculture and other infrastructure aspects in place.
And the last example is in biofuels and bioenergy. Cornell, for a very long time, l had investments in ignocellulosics to alcohol, that platform. But expanding that to a range of the diversity of biofeedstocks, particularly, algae and dairy waste is an area of growing interest here now. So in the systems approach, you have this picture of the country, the local region, dealing with people, and the reality of climate change.
And how do you inform this process? How do you make informed and balanced decisions? Our role as a land-grant institution has to come forth here. We have to carry an even-handed approach, and not try to push one side or the other, but trying to just inform what we know and don't know. So this has involved a group of faculty and outreach extension staff working together in this issue.
The other example that I'll show in detail, and then we'll quit here, is this idea of the campus itself, which David Skorton remarked on in his opening remarks about what they've done. And much of this can be applied to engaging students and faculty to understand it better to improve it. Lake source cooling, as some of you know, was implemented 10 years ago. This has been a big savings of electricity. We've upgraded our hydro plant and made it operational. We've made a big transition from coal to gas. That was mentioned early on.
We're probably not going to do solar energy in an optimal fashion for combined heat and power at Cornell. It could be used on buildings, of course, in a passive and active way. The wind resource is good, but turbine siding faces issues. But we have biomass and a lot of land that Cornell owns, 14,000 acres of active agriculture and forest land. And as it turns out we, actually have a geothermal resource under our feet here that's bigger than many might have anticipated.
So this is a heat flow map of the US. You all know where Ithaca is. If you don't, you couldn't get here today. But you can clearly see the darker colors, the reddish and orangish color, the western part of the US is where we have high heat flows. But if you look carefully, there's a little orangish blop there in Tompkins County and the surrounding counties.
We started looking at that more carefully, and this is now a translation into what the temperature might be at 6 kilometers, 18,000 feet. As you can see, this would be clearly in a workable temperature range for both generating power and providing a lot of district heating for the campus or for other communities. This has gone to higher resolution, where we've looked at improving this. A good group of talented students that are working with me have re-examined the new data that's been available due to drilling for gas and other resources in the area.
So there's been thousands of wells that have been drilled in Pennsylvania, many in New York, and we have gone back and looked at this more carefully. That's also true down here in West Virginia, where they've discovered even higher grade resources. But we can say much more quantitatively what we have here in Ithaca. And the idea would be if we're going to transform the campus to zero carbon, we're going to have to do something to replace even natural gas. So coupling both biogas and geothermal in a hybrid type mode is what's on the table, at least in a very preliminary way, to see whether this could make sense and whether we could promote such a development.
So let me leave you with 10 guidelines and we'll be done. We've got to raise the bar higher. This is adoption of continuous improvement ideas and advocate high performance. We've got to support resource assessment, both regionally and nationally, much more aggressively than we have. In-depth analysis and full lifecycle assessment is important, playing by the rules, et cetera.
Collateral benefits, this idea of coupling heat and power together in an integrated system approach with co-generation has enormous savings. Cornell does that now, but we need to make an even further transformation in other areas of the country. Critical infrastructure and the balance of systems issues, which I'm sure Tom will talk about shortly in his remarks. Transparency and the ideas that probability and risk assessment ought to be embedded in public policy, as well, and public outreach.
Workforce development. Sound public policies that drive new energy markets, which are severely lacking, particularly the sustainability of those policies beyond a year or so. And this balanced portfolio. And we have a constant tension between a commitment for short-term and long-term strategies. We need to really do both simultaneously and use some of the resources that we have, financial resources, by this area of low cost gas to make investments in much more longer term, more transformational strategies. Thank you very much.
--team of us now. I've got a group of 16 students. This nice connection between the geologic sciences and conventional engineering has been playing out quite well. I did this also earlier in my life. I was actually fortunate to be at Los Alamos in the evolution of that team that went from making just weapons to thinking about hot dry rock and EGS. So it really got started there, which was kind of an interesting history. I spent the early part of my career there.
So that's a good point. So far too little is being invested right now. In fact, if I were to quote the words of Steven Chu, our current secretary of energy, and also simultaneously, Al Gore, two people who think a little bit differently, they view geothermal as the most under-valued and misunderstood resource that we have in the country today. If I had more time, I would show you my favorite transformation slide.
Iceland, in 50 years, went from a country that was 100% dependent on imported fuels, particularly coal and oil, and they had made that transformation. And they did it by deliberate policy and exploiting the two big resources they have, geothermal and hydro power. And Iceland's only a factor of 1,000 smaller than we are, but they did it, and they committed to do it. And I think it's the kind of vision we ought to have, that we can make transformations like this. They used what was in their backyard. We've got to do a better job of that.
And this is as much about value systems and how people view what their responsibility is going forward. But we think that this idea of sustainability literacy is important. Frank talked a little bit about this in the educational side of it. We want to bring the next generation of people forward that actually understand the challenges of this and the trade-offs that are involved. You rarely hear trade-offs talked about.
We need energy, one way or the other. We've got to provide it, and we've got to do it in a manner which I think ultimately is sustainable and carries intergenerational responsibility for stewardship. And that message has got to come out loud and clear. It's as much about social, and political values, and ethical values as it is about technology. That's for sure. Great question.
SPEAKER 3: Thanks.
SPEAKER 2: OK. Thank you.
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Professor Jefferson Tester, spoke about "Sustainable Energy-Choosing among Options When Everything Matters" at the National Academy of Engineering Regional Symposium on May 16, 2012.
Cornell University and the College of Engineering hosted the Regional Symposium of the National Academy of Engineering on the topic, "Toward a Sustainable Future." The symposium brought together distinguished Cornell University faculty members to address the numerous elements of sustainability from the perspective of the physical sciences and engineering, environment, economics, business development, international implications and social sciences.