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New Stanford institute to address energy issues

Last week, Stanford University announced a $100 million research institute that will be dedicated to exploring energy issues. The Precourt Institute for Energy will adopt a multidisciplinary approach to solving the world's energy problems.

"The Precourt Institute for Energy ... will be a broad-based effort to attack the problem of providing energy in a sustainable fashion for the growing world," said Stanford President John Hennessy at a press conference Jan. 13. High and unstable energy costs, dependence on foreign oil and global warming are major energy-related issues America currently faces, Hennessy said.

The $100 million came from alumni donations and will allow Stanford to provide fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral students, hire faculty and create a $40 million research center, according to a statement released by Stanford. The PIE will draw most of its funding from private donations rather than industry or the federal government, according to a Jan. 23 Chronicle of Higher Education article.

The center will adopt a multidisciplinary approach, drawing faculty from Stanford's international studies, earth sciences and engineering departments, among others. Lynn Orr, currently the director of Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project, will lead the PIE, which will encompass both the GCEP and the already established Precourt Center for Energy Efficiency.

Steven Hamburg, an associate professor of environmental studies currently on leave from Brown and serving as chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said Stanford has established itself in the field of energy research, investing $30 million annually. Though there is a growing interest in energy research, Brown simply does not have the capacity to pursue a similar program, Hamburg said.

The creation of the PIE comes at a time when other colleges and universities are putting resources toward research on environmental issues. At Pennsylvania State University, the EMS Energy Institute - which has an $11 million annual budget and employs 150 graduate students, faculty and staff - conducts research on alternative energy technology including wind power and biofuel, according to its director, Chunshan Song.

"We're seeing a development of interest worldwide in clean energy research and alternative energy research," Song said. "It's important to train today's students" to use science and technology to address energy issues, Song said, adding that universities must "generate the people who will be needed to generate these technologies."

Colleges and universities have an obligation to work to resolve these problems, Song said. "These are real significant issues. Important issues challenge the very existence of our way of life."

Hennessy expressed similar sentiments at the press conference. "We can move forward in addressing the world's challenges, enabling universities to apply their vast knowledge and capability to help lead us to a better world," he said.



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