Opening Remarks Overview of the Energy Research Report

author: Susan Hockfield, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Ernest J. Moniz, Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: April 19, 2013,   recorded: May 2006,   views: 2824
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President Susan Hockfield unveils MIT’s grand-scale initiative to confront “the urgent challenge of our time: clean, affordable energy to power the world.” In much the same way that MIT “played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II,” she calls for the Institute to muster its formidable forces to speed a transformation of the global energy landscape. Hockfield explains how MIT arrived at this “defining moment in its history.”

An overwhelming consensus of faculty and students expressed passionate concern about energy, says Hockfield, and “when a community as brilliant and diverse converges on one issue, it’s a folly not to heed them.” And beyond MIT, for the first time in a generation, the public and politicians have turned to the subject. This may be one of those rare moments, says Hockfield, when society looks itself in the mirror and “admits the truth”: our “comfortable lives are due in large measure to cheap and abundant fossil fuels” for which we will pay a steep price.

The “hydra-headed,” intertwined challenges of energy supply and demand, security, and environmental concerns mean that MIT must pursue a set of solutions simultaneously. But there is no better institution than MIT, with its practical mindset and engineering know-how, says Hockfield, to be a “catalyst for this technological phase shift.”

In his overview of MIT’s Energy Research Council (ERC) initiative, Ernest Moniz describes the “crying need for new technological and policy tools” to contend with a “perfect storm of energy challenges.” This interdisciplinary venture, which attempts to envision the next 50 years of energy use and impact, has crafted what Moniz calls a “a robust set of tools” for dealing with growing energy demand, uncertainties about energy supply and security, and climate change.

The ERC’s approach to this set of issues involves developing science and technology for a clean energy future; improving current energy systems; and designing advanced and efficient energy systems for a world undergoing rapid demographic and climate change. MIT will once again bring “muscle to bear on a complex societal problem,” believes Moniz, and while the Institute can’t do it all, it can make a significant difference in terms of science, technology and policy options.

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