Yanjiao Xie completed his PhD in the Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering and has accepted an offer as Senior Chemical Engineer at Nalco Company, a world leader in water treatment and process improvement. Yanjiao will be working at the world headquarters of the company in Naperville, Illinois, where he will conduct research and engineering studies on water quality and wastewater treatment.
A graduate of Academy partner Peking University, Yanjiao was in the first cohort of Scholars who came into the Academy in 2006. While working on his PhD, he also completed an internship at Cabot Corporation, a corporate sponsor of the Academy, in the summer of 2008.
Reflecting back on his time in the Academy, Yanjiao writes, “The Academy has been a platform for to learn, interact and grow. It is also a place where I have felt at home in my schoolwork and in the world. All sorts of economic, cultural and political events organized by the Academy not only cultivated my leadership, communication and networking skills, but also provided me with close friends, mentors and a large family.”
The Real Solution to America's Thirst for Energy
U.S. politicians sometimes approach the energy problem politically, rather than through technological innovation and public education. In the presidential primaries Hillary Clinton lined up with John McCain to propose suspending the federal excise tax on gasoline, implying that the dream of a future with sustainable energy was forgotten, or at least postponed once again.
At first glance it might appear that the gas tax holiday would be a great benefit to people in the U.S. However, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposal would save the average person only $30 over the summer. That is just 33¢ per day! What’s worse, the 33¢ could go into oil companies’ pockets because they might respond by pushing up their prices. In addition, there would be some unfortunate side effects from the gas holiday proposal: less money for the federal budget and fewer job opportunities created by this budget.
In the view of Barak Obama, “This isn’t an idea designed to get you through the summer. It is an idea designed to get them through an election.” From this perspective politicians were utilizing the energy issue as a political tool to gain the crown, rather than truly caring about the future of energy and the environment.
Consider what has been proposed and what has actually been accomplished. Some presidential candidates have claimed that they wish to discourage gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars by raising taxes and at the same time to encourage alternative energy by reducing taxes on new, renewable energy technologies. However, they sometimes seem to be doing the exact opposite. The gas holiday proposal suggests that at least some energy plans are just fragile air bubbles.
In contrast to gas holiday proposals, the energy independence and security act outlined by Mr. Bush in 2007 appears serious. However, when we take a closer look, the so-called “energy independence” is just another political solution that is far from a real solution for a sustainable world. Instead of investing in renewable energy, the plan calls for increasing oil storage to attain energy independence and staying longer in Iraq. At the same time, Mr. Bush would veto both tax increases on gasoline and extending tax credits on alternative energy.
Germany has a 20-year incentive program for solar energy, and Japan has a 12-year program, but the U.S. allows only 2 years at most. Mr. Bush’s plan would continue to rely on oil but just try to use less of it, rather than implement alternative energy strategies like biofuel, an approach that has allowed Brazil to achieve “sustainable energy.”
Climate change associated with energy use is the issue that Mr. Bush is least willing to touch. It is as if he takes the attitude: “Oil is our blood, and it comes first. Why should we care about our lungs or skin?” This all misses the common sense point that sustainable energy could lead to a win-win solution for both the economy and environment!
What is really needed is investment in technology for alternative energy and a strategy for commercializing it. There are two ways to approach this.
The first is through government subsidies and tax incentives for the alternative energy industry. Brazil has followed this path by supporting the biofuel industry thereby lowering cost and enabling biofuel to be cheaper than gasoline, and China has built the largest hydropower plant in the world with the help of huge government investments, including support for the relocation of affected people.
A second energy strategy is through investing in research at universities and other institutions. For instance, Washington University in St. Louis has recently initiated two international research programs on energy and environment, the McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environment Partnership and the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability. Both call on students, faculty members, and administrators from Washington University and from universities in other countries to join in the effort.
Finally, we need massive public education efforts to help people understand the importance of sustainable energy and environment. More people must become involved in saving energy and the environment. All of these steps are required if we are to develop a renewable energy industry and ultimately achieve a sustainable society.