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  • Hello, my name's Steve Chu. I'm the designee for the Secretary of Energy,

  • nominee by President-elect Obama,

  • and I'm delighted to be here to talk about a couple of subjects that I care deeply about

  • and so let me just begin.

  • I've been asked to comment on the U.S. and climate stabilization

  • and in the comment, it was a comment that says that

  • we have to press very hard to keep the average temperature of the world below a rise of two degrees centigrade.

  • I think this is an essential goal.

  • It'll be a challenge as to whether we can actually keep it to two degrees centigrade,

  • but we simply do not know what will be happening if we go to higher average temperatures in the globe,

  • four, five, six degrees.

  • Based on what we know before,

  • if you compare the temperature we are at today in the world to the temperature of the ice ages,

  • it was only about six degrees centigrade colder,

  • and we know that the ice ages, where Pennsylvania, Ohio were covered in a permanent glacier

  • and New York City in a permanent glacier,

  • that was a very, very different world than where we are today.

  • So it doesn't really take that much imagination to at least realize that if we go six degrees warmer,

  • it will be a very different world, and a world where it would be quite frankly in my mind, very hard to adapt.

  • So there's other issues:

  • We don't know about the certain tipping points. Let me describe one of the tipping points.

  • There is a tremendous amount of carbon in the frozen tundra in Russia, in Canada and other places.

  • As the earth warms up, the microbes in that tundra will begin to wake up

  • and they will begin to chew on this carbon in the form of dead vegetation

  • and reprocess it in the form of carbon dioxide and methane.

  • Once they begin to do that, scientists say that there will be a release of greenhouse gases

  • that will actually create a runaway effect;

  • and by that I mean that they begin to release more carbon dioxide and methane,

  • it goes up into the atmosphere, there's more greenhouse gases,

  • that warms the earth up still more and it creates a runaway effect,

  • so much so that there is a reasonable probability that once this starts,

  • the amount of greenhouse gases released could then be larger than, it could even dwarf

  • the amount of greenhouse gases that humans are putting in the air now,

  • and at that point, it's completely out of our control,

  • in the sense that even if the humans stop emitting more greenhouse gases,

  • the release of the trapped carbon material in the tundra just runs away.

  • We don't know exactly at what temperature this is going to occur,

  • but as we go to warmer and warmer temperatures, four, five, six degrees centigrade,

  • many scientists are feeling that this may really kick in.

  • We cannot go there.

  • I think a world of the one degree rise of the temperature of the world is already written into the system.

  • Even if humans don't emit any more, we're going to see a one degree centigrade rise on average.

  • But, and I agree completely, we have to do what we can to keep it to about two degrees or less.

  • We're going to do more research to find out when this tipping point is,

  • but the uncertainties are very large at this point.

  • It is certainly one of the main reasons why I took this job.

  • In fact, the entire, the main reason why I started getting interested in the energy problem

  • was because of climate change, and I share the concerns of many of the people who have commented on this.

  • Looking at another comment, it was to implement a nationalized smart grid.

  • I'd love to talk about this.

  • I have been on a committee called America's Energy Future.

  • It's a committee that the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering

  • has put together, and I'm on the parent committee,

  • but I've also put myself on the transmission and distribution subcommittee.

  • This is a very important issue.

  • As America and the world transitions to more and more renewable energy,

  • you need to be able to port energy from the areas of generation of this energy,

  • for example, the great wind resources that are in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and other states;

  • we have to ship that energy to population centers in the United States.

  • There are great solar resources in California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico.

  • Again, the good news is both the solar energy resources and the wind energy resources

  • are in areas that are not very densely populated,

  • and the bad news is they're not very densely populated

  • and so you have to move the energy to populations centers.

  • For that we need a long distance transmission system specifically to take the energy from those places

  • but in addition to that we need an overlay of the transmission and distribution systems in the United States.

  • There are roughly a half a dozen regions in the United Stated where we distribute electricity,

  • but as we go to more renewables, we have to start thinking in terms of a national distribution system

  • because these energy resources are in only certain areas of the United States.

  • And this is actually somewhat different because in the past, historically,

  • we generate electricity locally where we use it and it's just like a highway system.

  • In the early 1950s, President Eisenhower said:

  • "We need a national highway system" in large part because of national defense.

  • And where you had, let's say, a turnpike in New Jersey or a turnpike in New York State

  • but then, as soon as you got out of the state's boundaries, it stopped.

  • And we have to start thinking of a national distribution system

  • so we can use these transient energy resources like wind and solar-photoelectric, solar-thermal, geothermal,

  • and distribute that around the country.

  • There's another important reason why we need a transmission distribution system that's modernized:

  • And that is when a cloud rolls over, the wind just tops blowing, or, perhaps, it changes its intensity,

  • the electricity distribution system has to respond very quickly to these changes;

  • and by that, I mean, it has to be able to switch in conventional base-load generation of electricity.

  • The wider the distribution system,

  • the better you can switch the generation of electricity around in all parts of the nation.

  • In fact, I think you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize

  • that if you could, in the best of all possible dreams, have a distribution system that circles the earth--

  • somewhere in the Earth, the wind is blowing and the sun is shining--

  • and the wider the distribution system, the more even these renewable energy sources look.

  • If you're located in just a small area, then you're quite vulnerable to dark days and windless days and nights.

  • So this is a very important aspect of it. It is a huge task.

  • It will be costing hundreds of billions of dollars to somewhere close to a trillion dollars.

  • It has to be coordinated well, but it's very important that we move in this direction now

  • as the renewable energies in the United States begin to grow.

  • Another topic was whether we should develop a Manhattan-style Project to push for energy independence.

  • I'm very much in favor of this, but I have to say it's slightly different than the Manhattan style

  • in the sense that the Manhattan Project was a large project done in secret, secluded areas.

  • Price was not large an object.

  • This is a very different thing. The science and technology we need to develop

  • to give us much better choices for energy has to be done in a very open way.

  • Industry has to adopt it.

  • The best places for this are at universities, places like national laboratories,

  • and the university and national lab research should be feeding into industry in an intimate way.

  • I'm all for this. It is vitally important that we push very hard.

  • The reason fundamentally--and I'll be very brief on this--

  • is that science and technology will give us much better options.

  • Just as in the turn of the last century, from the 19th century to the 20th century,

  • German scientists invented a way to make fertilizer.

  • They invented a way to synthesize ammonia that could then be used to make artificial fertilizer.

  • It was that invention that totally transformed the way Europe fed itself.

  • It was that invention that enabled the population to grow,

  • and we could feed ourselves for many, many years.

  • Before that invention, Europe was thinking of actually importing soil from the New World,

  • or using their colonized areas to grow food for Europe

  • because they were suffering a huge depleted soil problem.

  • With the invention of artificial fertilizer, all of a sudden, Europe could feed itself.

  • I think, on a very similar vein, a lot of the things we're looking at in the energy challenge

  • to combat, mitigate climate change or energy security and independence,

  • a transformative invention could really transform our worries and what we can and can't do.

  • As a scientist, I remain optimistic that the intellect of great scientists

  • will enable us to provide again these wonderful discoveries and inventions.

  • Now, the last thing I want to comment on

  • is to encourage science and technology and it feeds directly into this.

  • It's very clear to me and to many other people who have thought about this

  • that the key to America's prosperity in the 21st century

  • is the development of its intellectual capital, particularly in science and technology.

  • The example I gave about the invention of fertilizer.

  • Another example I can give is the Green Revolution which occurred in the late 1960s, early 1970s,

  • in which a person by the name of Norman Borlaug was able to breed plants,

  • a dwarf strain of wheat that increased the productivity of wheat four to five fold per acre

  • not only in the United States, but in countries like Mexico, India, Pakistan.

  • That invention, again, prevented the mass starvation of hundreds of millions of people

  • that others felt was imminent.

  • Norman Borlaug got the Nobel Peace Prize for this discovery.

  • This comes out of basic science. He was a plant breeder.

  • I think with science and technology, that we can discover a new generation of photovoltaic cells,

  • artificial photosynthesis so that you capture the sunlight,

  • you use that energy to capture carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,

  • combine it with water and produce a hydrocarbon.

  • So it's essentially an artificial plant, but something in the end that can be made much better.

  • These are some of the things that I think science and technology can give us.

  • But let me just say one last thing,

  • and that is what is in the root of science is wanting to understand how the world around us works.

  • And this is something that is really part of the human condition.

  • How do you actually understand? Why is it that the sun is shining, and the sky is blue,

  • and all these other basic questions?

  • The discovery of how the universe started and how it evolved.

  • A deeper understanding of biology and the molecular dynamics of this biology are great intellectual triumphs,

  • and it is really part of the human condition, as I said,

  • that is another reason we should be supporting science.

  • But the reason why we should support it in a big way is the future of our economic prosperity.

  • So I hope this has been useful to you. Thank you.

  • Keep your comments and questions coming, and we will be glad to try and respond to them.

  • Thank you and goodbye.

Hello, my name's Steve Chu. I'm the designee for the Secretary of Energy,

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スティーブン・チューが市民説明会の本に反応 (Steven Chu Reacts to the Citizen's Briefing Book)

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    孫子文 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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