America as a nation still has miles to go before solving the energy crisis, said Norman Augustine ’57 *59, former president and CEO of Lockheed Martin.
Augustine has served as Under Secretary of the Army and later Acting Secretary of the Army. In addition, he taught for two years at Princeton.
Most recently, Augustine joined the American Energy Innovation Council, a conglomeration of current and former CEOs of major corporations, including Bill Gates. This organization’s stated purpose is “to foster strong economic growth, create jobs in new industries, and reestablish America’s energy technology leadership through robust, public and private investments in the development of clean energy technologies.”
“America is spending more money on potato chips than it is on clean energy research,” said Augustine, “it’s a fact.”
Moreover, despite advances in alternative energy fields, the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels is not likely an issue that would be solved in the near future, he said.
“We’re very likely to have hydrocarbons play a major role in our energy, and the world’s energy supply, for decades to come no matter what we do,” said Augustine.
Augustine also noted that many current sources of renewable energy simply would not be sufficient to provide for the growing demands of a world economy. Instead, he noted the importance of nuclear fusion, a technology that has been under research at Princeton since the early days of the Cold War.
“As I see it, the only lasting solution to our planet’s energy challenges is nuclear fusion,” said Augustine.
Still, it is unclear if and when this technology will become advanced enough to be practical, according to Augustine. Scientists have, since the mid-1960s, been saying that the technology will be ready “in 30 years,” although apparently that number hasn’t changed since then, he said.
“I told [the scientists] that I was very curious that they hadn’t lost any time,” said Augustine, the audience responding with laughter.
Augustine said that he does see hope in the future, and credited the University with taking steps toward fostering necessary interdisciplinary scientific and industrial research, including support of the Andlinger Center. He stated that he believes that the government’s role should be to support as much research as possible, and to do a better job of convincing students that a career in research is meaningful and valued.
Augustine’s lecture, titled “Energizing the Effort to Meet the Energy Challenge,” took place on May 19 at 1:30pm in Maeder Hall, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, as part of its Building Opening Celebration and Symposium.