March 10, 2009

CU will play role in global energy future, says Clancy

How to provide energy to an estimated global population of 10 billion people by the next century. That is the greatest challenge of this century, according to Professor Paulette Clancy.

The greatest need for sustainable energy goes beyond creating new energies, said Clancy, the William C. Hooey Director of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, speaking March 7 at the annual meeting of the President's Council of Cornell Women (PCCW), held on campus March 6-8.

"It's not just about all of those energy technology issues, but it sits in a greater milieu in which science and technology have to be allied with economics, with policy, sociological issues, with geopolitics and poverty," she said.

She noted that in unison with other top-ranked agriculture, engineering and business schools, "Cornell has positioned itself well to address energy technology issues and also be in position to relate to economics and policy."

However, funding for energy research at universities has been nearly nonexistent, and this is where the Obama administration must step in, she said. In the past, such funding has been left to the Department of Energy (DOE), which funds federal labs at the expense of universities.

With the recently signed stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the DOE has designated 10 programs for building a clean and efficient energy supply, and Cornell is very active in nearly all of these areas, she said. Cornell will closely watch these initiatives to match researchers to the funding, which she expects will flow to universities from the stimulus package in the near future.

Cornell's role in the energy future is also largely educational, she said. "For undergraduates, our role is to create energy-literate graduates ... and for graduates, we are going to try to train a new generation of [students] who not only look at the energy creation and conversion side, but also at the environmental impact," Clancy said.

Additional measures Cornell has taken toward sustainability are establishing the Center for a Sustainable Future in 2006 and President David Skorton's signing of a campus carbon-neutral statement in 2007, which Clancy described as a great challenge and an opportunity for the university to take a leadership role in upstate New York.

The PCCW is an organization of Cornell alumnae who are leaders in their fields and are dedicated to the interests of Cornell women. The council was formed in 1990 primarily to consult with the president on important women's issues at Cornell and has since provided guidance and support to women through such projects as career mentoring for students and grant awards to increase women faculty retention.

Graduate student Sarah Perdue is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.