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Pondering energy’s future

first_imgEvery day, the United States sends $1 billion offshore to finance its appetite for fossil fuels, a situation recognized for decades as a threat to national security and energy independence.In 1974, President Richard Nixon was the first in a long line of chief executives to promise reductions in energy from abroad. But the percentage of U.S. oil imports since then has nearly doubled.Meanwhile, fossil fuels are the source of the greenhouse gases blamed for global climate change, an ongoing problem that has engendered another round of presidential promises. The Obama White House recently pledged to reduce such gases 83 percent by 2050, with 2005 as a baseline year.Reducing dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases are the two major challenges of U.S. energy systems, a visiting federal energy official told a Harvard audience Tuesday (Sept. 21). To meet these challenges, he said, the government’s best role is to mitigate risk in the energy industry and to leverage innovation.Theoretical physicist Steven Koonin, undersecretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), opened this year’s Future of Energy lecture series, sponsored by the Harvard University Center for the Environment.Koonin is a rare veteran of all three spheres in the energy puzzle: academe, business, and government. He has been a professor and provost (California Institute of Technology), an industry chief scientist (BP), and since last year a federal bureaucrat. At the DOE, Koonin is the science office’s chief research officer. If you count last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he has influence over $100 million in funding for energy-related research, loans, and loan guarantees.Koonin offered a broad perspective in his session opening the series. Center director and climate scientist Daniel Schrag said that the next lecture — coming Oct. 12 by an executive whose company makes tiny $2,000 cars — will get down to the details of managing Earth’s energy future.Koonin told a capacity crowd at Science Center D that the U.S. energy business is complex, operates by calculating risk and profit in the long term, and approaches innovation slowly and conservatively. After all, he said, any decision on technology will create infrastructures — and costs — that last for decades.“The energy business is not simple,” said Koonin, “and the people in it are not troglodytes.”Nor are they venture capitalists, said Koonin. In that economic sector, risk and innovation are king, but profits get taken fast. “Exit time” is measured in years, not decades. And average funding pools — at $150 million — are not enough to prompt scaled-up change in energy systems. “The energy business,” said Koonin, “is not the venture capital business.”He said government does not have sufficient capital of its own to scale up the needed changes in energy systems, which remain largely in private hands. Change only will happen if it is profitable or mandated, said Koonin. Government tax credits are powerful incentives for change, he said. Wind industry installations went up when the credits were in place, and slipped when the credits disappeared.Government can also play a big role in the essential steps that Koonin outlined to improve energy security and reduce greenhouse gases. Among them:Promote vehicle efficiency. The technology is in hand to increase the fuel efficiency of American cars by 30 percent, for about $2,000 a vehicle.Conserve. Koonin offered “a sense of what is possible” in one example. If all motorists in Texas simply drove at the speed limit, U.S. gas consumption would come down 12 percent.Gradually electrify the U.S. vehicle fleet.Pursue unconventional fuels.Decrease the energy intensity of buildings. Heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilating use 40 percent of U.S. energy.Develop “smart grids” for energy transmission and storage. That means adding digital sensing, measuring, and control devices to increase reliability and efficiency.Set a price for carbon, by cap-and-trade or other means.Explore emerging technologies such as concentrated solar power and carbon capture and storage.Changing energy systems is difficult and slow, said Koonin, who reviewed the historical record from 1850 onward. Industry favors change on “decadal time scales,” he said. The gas-scrubbing systems for coal plants, for instance, took 40 years to develop and perfect.But government can help industry to manage the capital risk of energy innovation, said Koonin, and is already accelerating invention in what he called “a new set of research structures.” These include a network of national labs, the federal “energy hub” concept, and, for short-term projects, the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy.Koonin’s decades of research often involved large-scale rapid computing, so he sees another bright side to the energy innovation picture: big and fast computer simulations of the kind that in the 1990s were used to replace U.S. nuclear testing. That alone, he said, accelerated computer technology by a factor of 10,000.The same predictive simulation capability can be focused on U.S. energy issues, said Koonin. “We need to do more of this, faster.”last_img read more

UK passes 100,000 coronavirus deaths as outbreak still rages

first_imgLONDON (AP) — More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus. The health department said 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday. Britain is the fifth country in the world to pass that mark, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest. The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s. The U.K. toll is 30,000 more than the total number of British civilians killed during the six years of World War II. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says a public inquiry will study the U.K. response and learn lessons “in due course.”last_img read more

Senior Class Council tickets vie for votes

first_imgTwo tickets will compete to be elected to the executive board for Senior Class Council. Elections will take place today from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to Judicial Council. Because tickets for Junior Class Council and Sophomore Class Council ran unopposed, they were declared winners by Student Senate last Wednesday.Eric Richelsen Senior Class CouncilKatelyn Wray, Clare Geraghty, Zach Bequette and Celanire Flagg designed their platform to focus on four main pillars — experiencing the city of South Bend, providing outlets for students to develop professionally, building lasting memories with friends and leaving a class-wide legacy at Notre Dame.“Utilizing the diversity of the senior class, we strive to have programs that bring the entire community together and create opportunities for people who may no longer be involved through dorm life,” Wray, the ticket’s presidential candidate, said in an email. Wray said the ticket has identified events affiliated with each pillar that are both feasible and innovative, including a signature class of 2017 event during Antostal, a class service day and an event for seniors to take professional headshots to use in résumés or portfolios.“Remember how fun Hip-Hop Night was freshman year? We are going to make Legends great again with Senior Night. Live music, cheap drinks and all of our friends in one place — Legends, as Legends was meant to be,” she said.Wray, Geraghty and Flagg all served on Sophomore Class Council, and Wray currently serves as vice president of Junior Class Council. Geraghty, the ticket’s vice presidential candidate, now serves as Cavanaugh Hall president. Bequette serves on the Club Coordination Council, which allocates funds to student groups on campus and facilitates University-club interactions, in addition to being a member of the officer board of the club sailing team.Geraghty said the ticket’s top priority is to foster a tight-knit class community, despite the fact many seniors live off campus.“It can be difficult to have class cohesion when everyone has such diverse involvement and interests within the Notre Dame community,” she said. “ … It is our goal to extend our reach to the entire class by putting on events that all members of the class will genuinely enjoy. We are dedicated to bringing the class together for a final year under the dome and making memories to last a lifetime.”The other ticket for Senior Class Council consists of Patrick Tinsley, Noelle Gooding, Jake Dunigan and Andrew Thomas. The campaign said the central theme of its platform is “the notion of building bridges.”“Senior year, for many, represents a number of separations — separating from your on-campus friends if you move off campus, separating from college life when you graduate and separations between different aspects of Notre Dame student life as a whole,” Tinsley, the ticket’s presidential candidate, said in an email. “Our goal is to bridge those separations.”The ticket hopes to work with University administration to improve the shuttle system to and from off-campus housing sites and designate certain parking spots closer to academic buildings for off-campus students for a limited period of time during the day, Tinsley said.“At the core of our platform lies a tremendous respect for next year’s graduating class,” he said. “As to-be seniors ourselves, we respect the remaining time we have at this university, time that should be used most effectively during our last year.”Tinsley said that if elected, the ticket also plans to host regional mixers that would allow students to meet classmates that plan to work in the same city after graduation.“Meeting some other soon-to-be Notre Dame alums who also will be living in an area might help ease that transition and provide you with a built-in network of friends before you ever arrive at your job,” he said.No members of the ticket have served on a class council before, which Tinsley said would allow the group to provide a fresh perspective to the role. Tinsley served as the Transfer Welcome Weekend co-commissioner last fall and is currently the Student Union Board representative for Alumni Hall and a dorm judicial council member. Gooding is president of Notre Dame’s branch of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and has been active in her dorm’s hall council in the past. Dunigan co-founded and is currently vice president of Notre Dame’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, while Thomas currently serves as the Stanford Hall senator.The ultimate goal of the ticket is to bring seniors together with events like class Grotto trips, service projects, South Bend Cubs games, a senior class formal and a revamped Senior Week, Tinsley said.“It’s our last ride — we want to make it count,” he said. “Four years is all we get with our friends, roommates and fellow Domers. In recognition of the fleeting nature of our college years, we are hoping to provide several events for the senior class as a whole to better cherish and appreciate our final year together.”Junior Class CouncilSara Dugan, Janet Stengle, Paul Stevenson and Matthew Peters said they hope to foster a sense of unity between members of the junior class, both on campus and in study abroad locations.“For the first time since we have gotten to Notre Dame, our class will be significantly separated,” Peters, who will assume the position of secretary, said in an email. “We will be divided by oceans, with students studying in countries across the globe. Furthermore, our class will be significantly subdivided into their respective majors. For these reasons and many more, it is not hard for the junior class to appear divided or fragmented. It is our goal to mitigate these effects.”The executive board plans to increase advertising for class council events, such as South Bend Cubs games and brother-sister dorm Olympics, to increase participation and maintain accountability, Dugan, Junior Class Council president-elect, said.“Junior Year is a unique time for students at Notre Dame,” she said. “As the Junior Class Council executive board, we really want to focus our efforts on catering specifically to those unique qualities. In addition, we hope to bring the Junior Class Council’s events to the attention of campus by staying visible, both online and around campus, and to stay accountable to our goals by adhering to the plans we make at the beginning of our term.”Dugan currently serves as Parliamentarian for the Ricketts-Ruelas administration and works as a student assistant in the Student Activities Office. Both Stengle and Stevenson served on Freshman Class Council and Sophomore Class Council. Stevenson also works for the Orientation Steering Committee and the University Communications Department. Peters has had no student government experience. Stengle, who will serve as vice president, said they plan to restructure Junior Class Council based on feedback and experiences from previous years.“Our goal is to assign task forces during the council application process based on work style, strengths and personalities to ensure that each event is executed to its fullest potential,” she said. “This will also allow for members of the council to hold greater responsibility and to build camaraderie through collaboration.”Sophomore Class CouncilMichael Conlon, Mary Ninneman, Jane Driano and Chris Lembo said they hope to recognize the diversity of their class and use it to bring people together during the upcoming year.“We would like to be a more open class council,” Conlon, who will assume the role of president, said in an email. “It is our responsibility to serve our constituents in the class of 2019 and to promote their ideas in future decision-making.”Conlon said his executive board plans to host events that promote class unity through prayer, service and fun.“There is no better instrument of unification than serving our South Bend community,” he said. “Additionally, we will offer opportunities to reflect on our Notre Dame experience together.”All four members on the ticket serve as officers on the current Freshmen Class Council, Conlon said. “With our previous student government involvement and individual interests, we look forward to serving our class for another year to the best of our abilities,” he said. “We have formed extensive connections in the Notre Dame administration and the other class councils, and we look forward to collaborating with and expanding our network to further foster community within our class.”Tags: class council elections, junior class council, senior class council, sophomore class council, Student governmentlast_img read more

Gieves & Hawkes to target tykes

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