Last week at CHISA 2006 in Prague the keynoe speach "Possibilities into reality to create a greener energy future" was given by the Australian Greg Lewin, who is President of Shell Global Solutoins International. The key message was that chemical engineers were uniquely positioned to help solve the worlds complex demand that the climate change must be taken seriously and the world is ever more hungry for energy.
I agree, that chemical engineers will be part of the solutions as they have been part of the problem. This appears to be the track history of the profession!
After WWII ever larger chemical plants was created. The old approach of learning by doing failed, and we experienced Flixborough (1974), Seveso (1976) and Bhopal (1984) to mention just a few of the hundreds of events which helped give the chemical engineer a tainted image.
Then the politician introduced controls - after a very long delay. After the introduction of the controls we saw an industry trying desparately to change. They merged and divested, so today it difficult to recognize many of the giants of the early nineties.
Can this industry really be trusted to create the sustainable energy solutions of tomorrow?
Then today the Statoil Magazine arrived stating, that the gap between energy production and consumption is widening due to huge demands in China and India. I find this very hard to believe!
If production is short of demand, then according to comming economic theory the price of oil will go up. Sure, the price of oil has increased, but appears to happen more based on weather and politics, than based on equating supply and demand.
Nonetheless, we do have a problem if the world hunger for energy must be satisfied. Last week I enjoyed lunch with a researcher from ISPRA - EU's Research Center in Italy. In his group they very working on the next generation nuclear reactors. It was a fascinating story. The bottom line will be no more long distances transportation of highly radioactive vaste. In situ regeneration of spent fuel.
All with zero CO2 emissions! Can we ignore this solution?
You don't need to answer today, because the new technology will take some years to mature, but your children may have to deal with this question and similar once.