Purdue News

July 2006

A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke

Dear Purdue Partners,

The Richard G. Lugar-Purdue Summit on Energy Security, being held August 29 on the West Lafayette campus, promises to be an exciting and enlightening day for everyone attending and a significant event for everyone concerned about America's economic future and our national security.

Dick Lugar will give the keynote address at the summit. Governor Mitch Daniels and Congressman Pete Visclosky also will have major speaking roles. C-SPAN founder and Purdue alumnus Brian Lamb will chair a panel discussion on strategies for reducing foreign oil dependence. Members of the panel include:

• Amy Myers Jaffe, Wallace S. Wilson Fellow in Energy Studies at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University

• Sue Cischke, Vice President for Environmental and Safety Engineering, Ford Motor Company

• Peggy Hudson, Vice President for Federal and International Affairs, BP America Inc.

The complete agenda and much more information are available online. Registration for the summit will be accepted through August 18 and may be completed online or by calling (765) 494-2758.

When Senator Lugar approached Purdue about hosting this summit, he pointed out that Purdue's strengths in engineering, science, technology, agriculture and business make it the kind of university that can and should play a leading role in developing energy sources that can be alternatives to imported oil.

I certainly agree with that assessment, and I believe Purdue is the right place to have a dialogue that addresses this issue realistically and begins to find solutions to the economic and national security problems that are rooted in our dependence on imported oil.

In his March 13, 2006, speech at the Brookings Institution, the senator summed up the situation eloquently when he said:

"Advocates of alternative energy must resist the rhetorical temptations to suggest that energy problems are easily solved. They are not. Relieving our dependence on oil in any meaningful way is going to take much greater investments of time, money, and political will. There is no silver bullet solution. But the difficulty of solving the problem does not make it any less necessary ...

"Whether or not one classifies America's oil dependence as an addiction, the bottom line is that with less than 5 percent of the world's population, the United States consumes 25 percent of its oil. If oil prices remain at $60 a barrel through 2006, we will spend about $320 billion on oil imports this year. Most of the world's oil is concentrated in places that are either hostile to American interests or vulnerable to political upheaval and terrorism. And demand for oil will increase far more rapidly than we expected just a few years ago. Within 25 years, the world will need 50 percent more energy than it does now.

"With these basics in mind, my message is that the balance of realism has passed from those who argue on behalf of oil and a laissez faire energy policy that relies on market evolution, to those who recognize that in the absence of a major reorientation in the way we get our energy, life in America is going to be much more difficult in the coming decades. No one who cares about U.S. foreign policy, national security, and long-term economic growth can afford to ignore what is happening ... No one who is honestly assessing the decline of American leverage around the world due to our energy dependence can fail to see that energy is the albatross of U.S. national security.

"We have entered a different energy era that requires a much different response than in past decades. What is needed is an urgent national campaign led by a succession of presidents and Congresses who will ensure that American ingenuity and resources are fully committed to this problem."

Petroleum remains the energy source of choice for America and most of the world for very compelling reasons: It remains available, despite rising costs; our vehicles and industrial equipment are designed to run on it; a vast infrastructure is in place to deliver it. But for the reasons the senator cites, petroleum's viability can no longer be assumed for the indefinite future. The technologies exist to meet a significant portion of our energy demands with other forms of energy, including liquid fuels that come from biological sources and coal. Perfecting those technologies and determining how much we can depend on these and other alternatives are the immediate challenges we face.

The Lugar-Purdue Summit will challenge us to break away from the conventional thinking so that we can begin to solve those problems. This is a challenge that I am excited about meeting, and I believe we will make significant strides on August 29.


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