I had an Op-Ed out today in The Diamondback on RE-ENERGYSE, a federal clean energy education initiative the Obama administration is proposing.
Clean energy education: RE-ENERGYSE America
As far as states go, this state is fairly ambitious when it comes to producing clean energy, creating green jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, Gov. Martin O’Malley approved a law mandating the state to reduce these emissions to 25 percent below 2006 levels by 2020. This can largely be achieved by reaching for low-hanging fruit, such as energy efficiency and deployment of existing low-carbon technologies. But what about after 2020? What about the other 75 percent?
We shouldn’t just be asking this question about emissions for the state but also the United States and the emerging clean energy industry throughout the world. As countries and states pick the low-hanging fruit, they’re going to look for more advanced, innovative and efficient technologies to get steeper emissions reductions. Is the United States going to be importing them or exporting them?
RE-ENERGYSE, a new federal education initiative centered on the exploding clean energy sector, has been proposed by President Barack Obama’s administration. If funded by Congress for fiscal year 2011, RE-ENERGYSE would be run by the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation with an initial investment of $74 million in clean energy-related education at K-12 schools, universities, and community and technical colleges. The beloved Solar Decathlon, a competition to build the most attractive energy-efficient, solar-powered house in which this university won second place in 2007, would become part of this program.
RE-ENERGYSE would create cutting-edge undergraduate and graduate clean energy programs in universities, provide scores of scholarships and fellowships for aspiring scientists and engineers and equip thousands of technically skilled workers at community colleges for clean energy jobs. It has a goal of putting up to 6,000 professionals into the clean energy sector by 2016, and up to 13,000 by 2021.
This support could see scientists from this university playing a key role in the development of new energy sources. Our scientists are already working on cellulosic ethanol and biofuels from algae. The Chesapeake Bay region could significantly benefit from the commercial development of cellulosic ethanol, considering the large amount of biomass we get from all the feedstocks grown. Scientists are experimenting with growing algae at wastewater treatment plants, which could filter a source of the bay’s water pollution and then produce a renewable fuel.
I constantly read about the potential for new breakthroughs such as solar panels that capture infrared radiation, meaning they would work at night, or a new test plant in Norway that uses the simple process of osmosis to drive a turbine and generate electricity. I’m not kidding — Google it.
Funding RE-ENERGYSE is far from a slam dunk. In 2009, the Obama administration appropriated it in its fiscal year 2010 budget, but it was nixed in the Senate’s appropriations process. This is why it’s important for students to write to their representatives in support of RE-ENERGYSE.
In order to lead the world in global energy technology this century, we have to do more than invest in green-collar jobs for today. We need to create an unparalleled clean energy education initiative to give our up and coming scientists the support they need to innovate for America. This will ensure the green jobs of tomorrow are ours. RE-ENERGYSE is an important step in the right direction — a step toward that other 75 percent. Let’s go for it.
Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.