Much is being written about the new administration's energy policies, the choice of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for energy secretary and fossil fuels in general. There is concern about the environment, the performance of the Environmental Protection Agency and the new administration's view of an energy future for our country. All of this concern is often politicized, emotional and, frankly, it can be uninformed on both sides of the aisle.
Now is the time to establish an energy strategy that is sustainable for the future. We can't turn back or go sideways. We must create our path forward.
That path is energy sustainability — accessible and secure, affordable and competitive, and environmentally responsible energy for all our citizens and for the stability of the world. You can't pick either or at the expense of another and truly believe energy sustainability can be achieved. We want it all: We need it all.
Recent articles in Forbes magazine and in USA Today have featured a technological solution for CO2 from fossil fuels: Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS). This technology was debated in these articles as an essential CO2 mitigation process solution to climate change, an effective technology to produce more oil through enhanced oil recovery (EOR), but it was too expensive and a threat to advancing renewables technology. Some would believe CCUS is simply not necessary, as they deny the climate is changing and affected by man-made CO2 emissions.
The truth is simply that CCUS will mitigate CO2 emissions, will produce more oil from existing fields and will provide a cost-effective environmental solution that creates business and jobs. It can be realized with transformative technology and not arguing about politics or the science and personal opinions of global warming. Let's do what makes sense and use our federal policies to support progressive solutions that make our energy more affordable and secure — and environmentally responsible. It's essential.
Coal is unloaded at the NRG power plant in 2016, where a carbon capture system will soon be operating southwest of Houston in Thompsons. (Michael Stravato/The New York Times)
Here at Rice University's Energy and Environment Initiative, we embrace CCUS and other relevant and impactful transformative technologies for energy and the environment. Technologies that are enabled with advanced mathematics and big data, advanced materials, nanotechnology in materials and chemistry, water purification and utilization, productivity in oil and gas, and advanced sensing technology for environmental assurance in facilities, pipelines and underground.
Oil, gas and coal are the globally dominant fuels and will be growing, especially in the developing world, where the energy growth, according to the International Energy Agency, will double our world's demand for energy by 2050. Politics and manipulative policies to make our energy more expensive and less dependable are non-enlightened ways to lock us in darkness. They are no match for progressive transformative technology and clear leadership in government and industry to pursue our run to daylight in the pursuit of energy sustainability.
The world expects real leadership from the U.S., and leadership is realized by technology and not misguided ideology. That's what we must demand from our leadership in Washington and our industries globally.
Charles D. McConnell
Charles D. McConnell is the executive director of Energy and Environment Initiative at Rice University. He is the former Assistant Secretary of Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy.