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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

Rice announces Energy and Environment Initiative

By Nicole Zhao     9/27/12 7:00pm

 

Rice University is launching a long-term interdisciplinary research plan called the Energy and Environment Initiative (E2I) that will bridge faculty researchers across schools at Rice with Houston's energy industry to work toward models of sustainable uses of energy, according to Provost George McLendon. 

According to McLendon, more than 100 faculty members from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering schools, as well as faculty from the Jones Graduate School of Business and the Baker Institute for Public Policy, were involved in launching the faculty initiative. 



"We are blessed to be in Houston, the energy capital of the world," McLendon said. "This sets up natural partnerships with industry to address one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: the sustainable uses of energy."

Associate professor of anthropology Dominic Boyer, a member of the committee leading E2I, said the initiative is unique because it integrates humanities and social sciences research. 

"The genius of E2I is that it is the first such initiative to really take the expertise of the humanities and social sciences seriously," Boyer said. "Many scientists and engineers would agree that we already have much of the technology we need to create a more sustainable energy situation across the world. The problems tend to come at the implementation end."

Boyer said to implement alternative energy solutions more successfully, more research on the political, cultural and social facets of energy use is necessary. 

"We need to understand the meanings, ideas, values and ethics associated with particular forms of energy and what the social and political obstacles are to change," Boyer said. "That research can help to inform better policy, and it can also help in the implementation of technologies that we already have and in the design of new technologies in the future."

The initiative will strive to address a number of challenges to meeting the rising global demand for energy, according to chair of the committee leading E2I Pedro Alvarez. 

These challenges include how to enhance hydrocarbon discovery and recovery with lower economic and environmental costs, how to develop shale gas and unconventional hydrocarbon reserves eco-responsibly, and how to manage the interdependency between energy security and water security, which encompasses water management and technological innovation for water treatment and reuse, Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said. 

According to McLendon, funding for the initiative is coming from energy companies in Houston, which will be collaborating with Rice faculty in the initiative, as well as from donors. 

Alvarez said E2I stemmed from faculty members. 

"The impetus came from the faculty who collectively recognized that ensuring reliable and affordable access to energy without significant damage to the environment is one of the greatest global challenges - and opportunities - of the 21st century," Alvarez said. 

The end result of the initiative would be interdisciplinary collaborative projects with industrial support to address challenges regarding sustainable uses of energy, according to Alvarez. 

"We envision Rice as a leader in studying how society will transition to an efficient, equitable and secure global energy landscape that is scientifically, environmentally and culturally informed," Alvarez said. "Eventually I envision Rice as a place to go for technological innovation and strategic strategic advice about a wide variety of energy issues."



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