Skip to main content

Holistic approach needed to gain energy independence

April 01, 2010

“There is no magic bullet and no great breakthrough, or even a few great breakthroughs, on the horizon that will lead the U.S. to energy independence and reduce our use of fossil fuels,” said Gary Dirks, director of LightWorks at Arizona State University.

Dirks was speaking at the “New energy forum: Can we achieve energy independence in our lifetime?” that took place April 1 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The forum included key leaders discussing energy independence and exploring options to move away from dependence on fossil fuels, toward environmental, economic and energy security.

In addition to Dirks, forum panelists included Arun Majumdar, director of the ARPA-E program at the U.S. Department of Energy; James Rogers, chairman, president and CEO Duke Energy; Sunil Paul, founder, Gigaton Throwdown Project; and Lisa Margonelli, director, Energy Policy Initiative, New America Foundation; and John “Skip” Laitner, director of economic and social analysis, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The discussion was moderated by Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University.

The United States is considering its options to move away from fossil fuels as its primary energy source. Fossil fuels have been tied to global climate change and their use pose national security issues.

Dirks, a former president BP Asia-Pacific and BP China, said one of the great energy policy failures over the last 30 years was that the United States continually sought the major breakthrough that would lead the country out of its use of fossil fuels. Fusion and paintable rooftop solar panels are examples.

Three things will be needed to be successful this time around, Dirks said.

“We need to acknowledge that there is no magic bullet that will reshape our energy use portfolio,” Dirks said. “We will need to rely on co-evolution of new technologies – new technologies will need to evolve into existing technologies and infrastructures as well as evolve from existing technologies.

“Finally, we need to take a holistic policy approach,” he explained. “This includes taking into consideration the social and political aspects of the new technology candidates, making sure people want them and that they are politically expedient to be sure they dovetail with the most promising new technologies.”

The new energy forum was co-sponsored by ASU and the New America Foundation.