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New Purdue institute focuses first event on renewable energy, fossil fuels

September 17, 2013

The inaugural event planned by Purdue University’s new Institute for Civic Communication focused on renewable energy, fossil fuels and Purdue’s impact in these areas.

Purdue researchers, scientists, industry specialists and C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb spoke Friday in Purdue’s Loeb Playhouse at “A New Energy Future,” which was sponsored by PICC and Bloomberg View.

PICC grew out of Purdue’s Project Impact program. The university announced this month that a $1 million gift from a fund run by the late Bill Daniels, a cable television pioneer, will support the institute for four years.

“A forum that brings scientists, industry leaders and journalists together to address energy and environmental challenges is a great opportunity to move forward with the group’s next phase,” said Ambassador Carolyn Curiel, the founder and executive director of PICC.

The forum featured an interview between Lamb and UPS director Michael Eskew, a panel discussion featuring a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Energy Policy and the Environment and a Bloomberg View New Energy Finance analyst.

It also featured a discussion between three Purdue faculty members focused on possible “game changers” in the energy sector.

Maureen McCann, director of Purdue’s Energy Center and a professor of biological sciences, said her ideas for the energy sector — lose weight, recycle, consume locally, be efficient and mimic nature — remind her of a New Year’s resolutions list.

“What would happen if we could make ultralight, ultrastrong materials and reduce the weight of the vehicles we drive?” McCann asked. On average, between 14 and 26 percent of the energy from gasoline pumped into tanks moves cars, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “What would happen if we became energy locavores?”

James Braun, a Herrick professor of engineering, said moving toward a more sustainable path when it comes to buildings is a challenge that needs to be dealt with. Braun said it is often easier to make inroads in the automobile industry than in the building industry.

“It’s much easier to do that than to retrofit the building stock (across) the country,” Braun said. “Buildings are not mass-produced. There’s no chance to really test new concepts. You’ve got one shot at it.”

The key to solving these challenges, the professors said, is to train a new generation of scientists and experts that are trained in a variety of fields, including engineering, economics, biology, chemistry and computer science.

“The problems we have in energy and climate change are really complicated problems,” said Wally Tyner, the James & Lois Ackerman Professor of agricultural economics. “We need people who can speak languages across these disciplines to solve these problems.”

Journal and Courier Original Story

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