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US Energy Secretary Resigns 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-energy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Today Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy, released a letter indicating he won't continue to hold the job for President Obama's second term. He'll continue until the ARPA-E Summit at the end of February, and then perhaps a bit longer until a replacement is found. MIT's Technology Review sums up his contributions thus: 'Under his leadership, the U.S. Department of Energy has changed the way it does energy research and development. He leaves behind new research organizations that are intently focused on solving specific energy problems, particularly the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy as well as several Innovation Hubs. The latter were modeled closely on Chu's experience working at the legendary Bell labs, where researchers solving basic problems rubbed shoulders with engineers who knew how to build things. At one Innovation Hub, for example, researchers who are inventing new materials that can absorb sunlight or split water are working together with engineers who are building prototypes that could use those materials to generate fuel from sunlight. Chu also brought an intense focus on addressing climate change through technical innovation, speaking clearly and optimistically about the potential for breakthroughs to change what's possible.'"
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US Energy Secretary Resigns

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  • by Bruce66423 (1678196) on Friday February 01, 2013 @05:50PM (#42766427)
    There's a West Wing episode called 'Take out the Trash' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_out_the_Trash_Day [wikipedia.org] where it's laid down that Friday is the day to announce things because they get lost over the weekend, and by Monday there are other things to talk about. So this is a good demonstration; watch to see if the story does disappear over the weekend...
  • Re:And thus... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @05:58PM (#42766529)

    Because plants don't do it very efficiently. If they did, we could just generate all our power from burning wood, and the forests would be able to regenerate faster than we could burn them up. Something like this won't be useful (in the sense of being able to replace most of the fossil fuels we use) unless it can be a lot more efficient than chlorophyll. And doing better than a billion years of evolution isn't that easy. People have been researching this stuff for at least 20 years (that I can remember, probably longer) and nothing practical has come of it yet. Don't expect it in the near future.

  • by beckett (27524) on Friday February 01, 2013 @06:16PM (#42766733) Homepage Journal
    Dr. Steven Chu brought authority and evidence-based science to the US Cabinet. Former professor of physics at Stanford [stanford.edu], he shared a Nobel prize for physics in 1997 [nobelprize.org] for cooling and trapping atoms with laser light. he continued to publish [nature.com] science [nature.com] while serving as Secretary of Energy.

    His very expertise and lifelong, professional interest were very lamely attacked by the right wing machine, typically accusing him of avocating raising oil prices [mediamatters.org] and gas prices [heritage.org].

    Having Dr. Chu there did more to forward the cause of science in the US Government in generations. How many administrations could walk down a hallway and access a scientist at the top of his game? He should be held and paraded around on slashdot's shoulders for his hard work.
  • Re:so long winded (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday February 01, 2013 @06:25PM (#42766821)

    It looks like he's trying to put as good a face as possible on his tenure. The real issues such as declining energy return from the world's remaining oil, what to do about the nation's vulnerable, aging, and dangerous nuclear infrastructure, the global warming consequences of frakking natural gas and increased use of coal... He can't discuss any of this without severe political and possibly personal consequences. He's bowing out while he can, and given the magnitude of the problems, I don't blame him. He can't win. He can only escape.

  • Re:And thus... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:16PM (#42767327) Journal

    Nonsense. Plants don't do it efficiently because they occupy only a small area and must chemically store energy for an extended period of time, because they might not get much sunlight for six months out of the year.

    Most of our power needs as a society don't require such long-term storage. The power that lights up a city is largely transient. It does not need to be stored except to provide a temporary reserve for when energy production is not available, and even then, only to the extent that we don't have enough of a superconducting power grid to bring in power from other areas that are capable of producing power. Similarly, our production capacity need not be self-contained within a single small area; we are capable of moving energy from place to place with relative ease.

    We should have no difficulty powering the future with solar power. We just have to spend the money to build superconducting grids, solar towers, and other similar systems. The only reason we're not doing it on a large scale is that the folks designing the hardware haven't gotten the cost down to a point where it is cheaper than burning quarter-billion-year-old dead plants and animals yet.

    Better battery technology would be useful for certain things, such as laptops, cars, etc., but it isn't essential. Given a superconducting power grid and ultracapacitors, it would not be catastrophic if you had to stop your car and plug in for ten seconds to recharge every couple of hours of driving. And that's possible with the power storage technology we have today, although the cost is still prohibitive.

    The only thing we're really missing is infrastructure and capacity. There is no huge gaping hole in our energy tech picture. There is only a lack of resources to build what needs to be built.

  • by beckett (27524) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:12PM (#42767805) Homepage Journal

    Then he became Secretary of Energy and it became inconvenient and he retracted it.

    thanks for confirming my point.

    Some of the other ideas Chu proposed were a glucose economy [aspenideas.org] as part of a progressive, diverse, alternate energy plan, and was decried for practical ideas such as smart grids [time.com] and painting house roofs and pavements white [wsj.com] to reduce heating and cooling costs.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein

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