Technology, policy and finance are key elements interwoven into a sustainable energy future. Dan Reicher feels confident technology will reduce the global carbon footprint; however, technological solutions require support through public policy and financial incentives.
“You can get effective policy if you get the right people at the table,” said Reicher, an entrepreneur, investor, policymaker and lawyer focused on clean energy and climate change. He served from 2011 to 2018 as founding executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, a joint center of the Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Reicher was a keynote speaker at the 74th annual meeting of the ORAU Council of Sponsoring Institutions on March 5 at Pollard Technology Conference Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “Ensuring a Robust U.S. Energy Future” was the meeting theme.
Carbon capture technology, employed in some of the nation’s oil fields, has worked well. Converting carbon dioxide into useful products has gained favor also. While acknowledging that the work of carbon capture is underway, Reicher said, “We have a distance to go.”
Financing and policy tools, such as grants, tax credits and loan guarantees help cut the costs of developing technological advances. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Program supports innovative advanced fossil energy projects to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution.
Rapid climate change is a driving force in the global race to develop carbon capture technology. Other countries are investing heavily in this technology, so it is in America’s best interest to be a leader in this research field, emphasized Reicher.
Three panelists continued the discussion of carbon capture. Lynn Brickett called for strategies that support a multitude of energy resources—“an all-of-the-above strategy.” She is manager of Carbon Capture and Carbon Use and Reuse R&D Technology at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. “Finding solutions takes time, lots of starts and stops. That’s how R&D works,” explained Brickett.
Klaus Lackner called for negative carbon emissions. The challenge is not how to mitigate the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but how to manage the waste. “Carbon storage has become unavoidable. There is no way to solve this problem anymore without storage,” said Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University.
Solutions for carbon emissions can be attained through collaborative science, including the fields of geology, geophysics, hydrology and geomechanics, according to Brian McPherson. Using an animated graphic, he showed the process of injecting carbon dioxide (captured from an industrial source) into a subsurface rock formation. McPherson is Utah Science, Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Utah.