“Energy Security: From Deal Killers to Game Changers”
Raymond L. Orbach, UT Austin
Five energy security “deal killers” are identified: 1) global warming and CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 2) intermittent energy sources (wind, solar) and the presence and stability of the grid, 3) penetration of plant defenses to produce transportation fuels from biomass, 4) mimicking nature: artificial photosynthesis for solar energy to fuels and 5) spent fuel from nuclear power reactors. Transformational basic research is required to successfully change the ground rules, to transform these “deal killers” into “game changers.” They are: 1) offsetting carbon capture and storage costs through enhanced oil recovery and methane generation from high-temperature geothermal saline aquifers, 2) electrical energy storage through batteries and super-capacitors, 3) genetic modification of plant cell walls and catalytic methods for transforming plant sugars into fuels, 4) separation of solar-induced electrons from holes, and catalysis to produce fuels, and 5) closing the nuclear fuel cycle. Basic research can revolutionize our approach to carbon-free energy by enhancing nature to achieve energy security.
Raymond L. Orbach is director of UT Austin’s Energy Institute, a multidisciplinary effort to advance solutions to today’s energy-related challenges. Prior to joining UT Austin he spent three years as the U.S. Department of Energy’s first undersecretary for science. He was the chief scientist of the Department of Energy, and adviser to the secretary of energy on science policy. He was also responsible for planning, coordinating and overseeing the Energy Department's research and development programs and its 17 national laboratories. He also spent seven years as director of the DoE’s Office of Science, managing an organization that was the third-largest federal sponsor of basic research in the United States. He holds a PhD in physics from UC Berkeley, and his research in theoretical and experimental physics has resulted in the publication of more than 240 scientific articles.