One thing is clear after experts from around the country weighed in on the future of energy at Ohio State’s Energy 2012 Conference – numerous, and some difficult, tasks lie ahead.
The final panel, America’s Top Energy Challenges: The Next 50 Years, looked back over that last two days of input to see how land-grant universities might proceed in tackling these challenges.
You might think of it as the first steps.
"This is a springboard," said James Clements, a panelist from West Virginia University. "There is a lot of opportunity."
Certain “imperative” themes and areas needing attention and research, identified as “cross cutting,” emerged from the various keynote and panel discussions.
Those included: Partner or Perish; Test Beds; Workforce Development; Increase the Energy Literacy of Society; Regionalism; and Water, Water, Water.
Virginia Hinshaw, from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, noted that partnership was mentioned at every session. She said land-grant universities are uniquely positioned to tackle these challenges with the strong partnerships schools have already, but more funding is needed.
And, universities must turn up the volume on these issues.
"We’ve been taking baby steps, but we need to take leaps," she said. "We are the canary in the mine. The need is great, the time is now. That has got to be the message for everyone."
Clements made the point that land-grant universities can and should be “the voice” at the national level. The schools must continue to develop programs that cut across many disciplines, including science, technology, engineering, law and policy.
Jim Turner, senior counsel and energy director for APLU, said the conversation will continue at the organization’s annual meeting in November.
"My biggest conclusion was a lot of affirmation that we have done a lot of things right in the last 150 years," he said. "We have to figure out how to keep doing things better."
Stay tuned to this blog for a deeper exploration of these challenges in the coming days.