EU-US Conference Explores Roles of Energy, Innovation in Low-carbon Global Economy
A two-year E.U.-U.S. summit on science, technology, innovation, and sustainable economic growth concluded in September with a plenary conference at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
“Visions of Sustainable Economic Growth: A Transatlantic Dialogue on Energy, Water, and Innovation” drew an international audience of policymakers, elected officials, scientists, venture capitalists, planners, and academics and featured expert presentations on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, conflicts over finite energy and water resources, prospects for a low-carbon future, transportation, energy security, energy-water links, and emerging energy and environmental technologies.
Launched in September 2010, the summit comprised two plenary sessions and four workshops hosted alternately in the United States and Europe. The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, the European Commission, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars organized the summit, with sponsorship from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the European Commission.
“Today we are addressing a critical issue: how we can use the tools of science and technology to create sustainable economic growth,” said Jane Harman, Wilson Center director and former U.S. Representative from California, in opening the conference. “To achieve a sustainable future, we must explore available resources and as well as environmental barriers that challenge growth across the globe.”
Since World War II more than half of U.S. economic growth can be attributed to the development and adoption of new technologies, said Barton Gordon, former chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives. “The path is simple,” said Gordon. “Research and education lead to innovation, innovation leads to economic development and good paying jobs, and economic growth produces revenues for more research.”
Bertrand Château, co-founder and president of ENERDATA, an independent energy research and consulting firm based in Grenoble, France, explored possible scenarios for the European Union’s transition to a low-carbon future despite an aging population and increased energy intensity resulting from households with fewer residents.
David Greene, a Baker Center senior fellow and ORNL corporate fellow, asserted that “U.S. energy security is, by and large, about petroleum,” with the U.S. transportation sector consuming 6,500 gallons of petroleum every second. “Provided that we aggressively improve energy efficiency and work on low-carbon energy sources,” said Greene, “there is a window of time between now and 2025/2030 in which we can increase our petroleum production without damaging the effort to protect the climate.”
Marilyn Brown, a professor with the Georgia Institute of Technology, discussed the potential contributions of a “smart” electric grid and advanced heat pumps in improving energy efficiency. George Crabtree, a scientist with Argonne National Laboratory, explored “transformational” future technologies, including the capture and storage of carbon dioxide in the form of carbonate rock that could be used to construct houses and roads.
The summit was initially planned as a one-year activity but grew in dimension as participants broadened their perspectives on the many interconnected issues associated with energy, water, and technology. The summit has created a fruitful and very useful process for both sides of the Atlantic. Over the coming years the Baker Center will continue the dialogue and further strengthen the relationships that have been forged through the Summit’s activities.
The journal Futures will produce a special edition devoted to presentations from the conference. Two workshop reports have been completed and additional reports on summit activities are in production and will also be posted on the Baker Center website.
Access the conference agenda here:
Access photos from the final meeting here
Access presentations here
Access workshop reports here