A Message From the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

This is the first director’s column written in my new office in our new Schatz lab. It’s just wonderful to be in this modern, well-designed building that will certainly increase our productivity and has already made us proud. You can read about some of the details and see a picture in the building update in this issue.

But while the Schatz Center has been upgraded, the U.S. hydrogen and fuel cell technology program has fallen from sight. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has suggested that the hydrogen program be zeroed out in the next DOE budget. There is plenty of funding for battery research and plug-in hybrids, but not a penny for fuel cell vehicles. Secretary Chu tried to do this in last year’s budget cycle but was rebuffed by a strong coalition of legislators who insisted that the funding be restored.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

As I wrote in this column last time, the November election in California was crucial to our progress to address climate change. Whatever else resulted from that election, one thing was clear – Californians are solidly behind their state’s efforts to limit our effect on climate. Voters soundly defeated Proposition 23, which would have undermined the Global Warming Solutions Act, California’s landmark bill to tackle the difficult climate change issues facing us.

The California Air Resources Board lost no time. It recently approved a cap and trade program to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases. Though many details are still to be worked out, this is the first effort in the U.S. to set a meaningful price on emitting carbon and start us on the path to repairing our atmosphere. Once again, I’m proud to be a Californian.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in Climate Ride California (www.climateride. org), a bike ride from nearby Fortuna to San Francisco over five days. Participants raise money for bicycle and climate advocacy organizations and enjoy beautiful scenery, camaraderie, and plenty of fresh air while pushing the pedals. Caeli Quinn, one of the organizers, recruited me for their after dinner speaker series and I got to ride my bike the first day to Richardson’s Grove State Park. I presented a talk about our renewable energy efforts in Humboldt County and SERC senior research engineer Greg Chapman drove our Toyota fuel cell vehicle down for riders to see and learn about. It was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable days I’ve experienced.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

Three months ago in this column, I took the Obama administration to task for announcing that vast tracts of seabed were being opened to oil and gas exploration and exploitation.    It turns out that the administration’s timing could not have been worse. The oil spill in the Gulf has highlighted in a stark and graphic fashion one of the many ways that our dependence on fossil fuels is dangerous.

The image that keeps going through my mind is kids playing with matches. We’ve unleashed forces that we don’t completely understand and can’t control. The marine life, the coasts, the wetlands, and the people who live in that biologically rich area will pay the price for our carelessness for decades to come.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

Just as I write this column comes the disheartening news that the Obama administration has called for opening vast tracts of the American seacoast to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. This is in addition to an earlier announcement from the President supporting the expansion of nuclear power generation in the U.S. This is evidently an effort to win political support from oil, gas, and nuclear interests in hopes of getting climate change legislation through Congress before the midterm elections in November.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

There have been several firsts at the Schatz Center recently and you can read all about them in this newsletter. We are all very proud of our first Fulbright Scholar, Richard Engel. Richard won his prestigious award competing against many PhDs and as he describes in his article, will be helping Don Bosco University in El Salvador to establish an energy efficiency and renewable energy curriculum. We wish Richard all the best as he extends our promotion of clean and renewable energy to Latin America.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

The Schatz lab celebrated its 20th year anniversary with a gala picnic and reunion last month. The food was delicious, the fog lifted just in time, and Schatzers new and old got to enjoy a wonderful afternoon at Freshwater Park.

So much has happened since that first phone call with Mr. Schatz and the first meeting that Charles and I had to plan the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project. At last count, 77 people have worked and studied at SERC. SERC alumni have gone on to become professors, fuel cell researchers, engineers of all sorts, and energy aware citizens. We’ve developed the first PEM fuel cell car, two patents, and three still-running licenses for our technology. Soon, our new 6600 square foot lab and office building will be complete and we’ll have our dream home for decades to come. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this 20 years ago, but I feel fortunate to have had so many wonderful people as colleagues and that we have accomplished so much to promote clean and renewable energy.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

Well, that didn’t last long. The honeymoon that new Secretary of Energy Steven Chu enjoyed has ended, at least among hydrogen energy researchers and advocates. With the announcement that funding for the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle program has been eliminated in DOE’s 2009-10 budget request, Chu caused consternation, even anger, in the hydrogen world.

Chu explained his choice by saying that when he asked the question of whether or not hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would contribute to our economy in 10 to 15 or even 20 years, the answer he felt, was “no.” Instead, Chu wants to focus funding on plug-in hybrids and battery technology.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

Over the years I’ve given numerous talks about energy to audiences ranging from university students to citizen groups. Whenever I speak about the renewable energy future that we must someday achieve, a frequent question is, “What do we need to get there?” My answer has always been, “The most important thing we need is political leadership at the top.”

About two months into the Obama administration, we finally have that leadership. The President has recognized and has said out loud numerous times that energy issues are crucial to our economic health and our national security. He has proposed increased energy efficiency standards, a cap and trade system to address carbon emissions, and a 10 year, $150 billion investment in clean energy, among many other proposals. His goals are ambitious, too ambitious say some, in light of the host of problems we all face, but we at the Schatz Center applaud him for his vision and his courage. It’s about time our nation has a forward looking energy policy and we wish the President and DOE Secretary Steven Chu luck in moving their agenda forward.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

It was a great thrill for us at SERC to finally have a signed contract in place for the construction of our new lab/office building. After years of planning, we now have a design we can dream about and a date we can look forward to for completion of our new home. I walked up to the site the other day. The building corners are marked and I was able to imagine what it will be like to walk into a modern, energy-efficient facility right in the middle of the HSU campus. Our cover story shows the building rendering so you can dream along with us. We’ll keep you informed with updates in each forthcoming issue.

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