Friday, June 12, 2009

Energy Secretary Chu At CalTech

According To Paul

Full Speech Here

I heard that Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, was giving the commencement address at CalTech this morning, so I jumped in our solar-powered RAV and drove over to Pasadena to hear what he had to say.

Pasadena is a beautiful city, and the section of town where CalTech is located is old and very wealthy. Walking through the leafy campus, Jacarandas in full bloom, I admired the buildings that for decades housed some of the smartest students our country ever produced as well as a sizable number of foreign kids intent on getting the best education possible in their chosen fields of mathematics, science and engineering. My anticipation over Dr. Chu's speech grew with each step.

He did not disappoint.

Those of us in the EV movement were overjoyed when Obama picked Dr. Chu to head the Energy Department. An actual Nobel-winning PhD in physics who has a deep understanding of our predicament regarding energy and climate change in charge of the Energy Department. A true breath of fresh air!

He broke the ice by defining the term, nerd, using the Wikipedia definition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd), since most in his audience proudly considered themselves as such. I think it's actually on the form when you apply to CalTech.

Having dispensed with the obligatory humorous start, he got down to business by reminding the audience that, in the early 70's, scientists solved the pressing need to grow more food in order to keep millions from starvation and expressed that our problems today are every bit as important if not more so. He implored the students to take seriously the need to act fast in solving these problems and to not allow those who prefer faith over reason to interfere with the task at hand.

As one would expect, he talked about energy mostly, but my ears pricked up when he said we needed to prepare for the "inevitable transition to electricity as the energy for our personal transportation". While most may have missed the importance of this comment, it meant everything to me. Those at the top of the Obama administration understand the need to move from dirty fossil fuels to renewable electricity, and their efforts so far show they are serious.

Chu's defunding, at the federal level, of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle means he knows we need to put our efforts toward solutions that are ready now, not some expensive, inefficient technology that requires us to continue buying our energy from oil companies.

As the speech ended and I started to go, the strains of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Ode to Joy" flowed out of the loud speakers and I walked through the beautiful purple flowering Jacarandas happier than I've been for a while. Maybe these scientists, engineers and mathematicians can indeed help us to ward off the worst of what will come.


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