Of all the global challenges that are out there, I think that developing clean, low-cost energy sources is about as important as any. It could do a lot to reduce poverty and build stability in the world’s poorest countries. And the whole world would benefit if we could find economic alternatives to high-carbon fuels, which otherwise will continue to make the world a hotter place. That could have all sorts of catastrophic consequences, like causing the sea to rise and creating weird weather patterns. Increased droughts and floods could bring crop failures and starvation in poorer parts of the world.
I think the United States can and should lead the way in finding new energy solutions, and I’m optimistic about our ability to innovate our way to a better future. But we need to get going. Developing new ways to generate enough clean, reliable, low-cost energy could take 10 or 20 years, and then it will take more time to build out a new energy infrastructure.
That’s why I joined The American Energy Innovation Council, a group of business leaders that also includes Jeff Immelt from GE, Ursula Burns from Xerox, John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins, Bank of America’s Chad Holliday, Tim Solso from Cummins, and former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine. The Council has come out with recommendations for U.S. policy initiatives that could help really jumpstart the process of discovering and commercializing new energy technologies.
We’d like to see the United States get serious about innovation by investing $16 billion a year in clean energy R&D. We recommend creating Centers of Excellence with strong expertise in specific areas of energy R&D, and a center for advanced research modeled after DARPA, the agency that gave us many incredible breakthroughs like computer networking and hypertext.
We’re hoping that our recommendations will generate more thought and discussion about how the United States can lead the way to solving the big energy challenges and opportunities that confront rich and poor societies alike.