Rolling in the green

Apr 092007
Authors: Daniel GibsonReinemer

The future will be green.

Green technology, or technologies which allow us to use more sustainable energy sources or traditional sources with greater efficiency, represents the future of energy.

Coal and oil come with heavy environmental and political burdens but are increasingly in demand both at home and in the emerging economies of India and China. As billions of new capitalists come into the market, they want cars and electronics; the industries supporting the economic growth require increased energy sources as well.

Traditional energy sources cannot provide for such increased demand without leading to unacceptable environmental impacts and funding unsavory regimes in the Middle East.

China is already experiencing the effects of too many cheap, dirty engines and a dense concentrations of cars. A major concern for distance runners training for the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing is how to perform in the city’s monstrously polluted air.

There is a growing market for more sustainable energy sources. If American corporations fail to capitalize on it, someone else will – and soon.

The problem of deriving new energy sources is interdisciplinary, requiring the collaboration of experts in fields like engineering, biology, chemistry and physics. To rise to the challenge, we must do what Americans do better than anyone else: use the world’s best universities to derive innovative solutions.

Researchers at CSU are at the forefront of this emerging race. Their research is on display this week at the research colloquium “BioFuels: Opportunities and Challenges” in Fort Collins. The colloquium is chaired by Biology Department Chair Daniel Bush and supported by the Office of the Vice President of Research.

In an e-mail, Dr. Bush described how “current and future research in these critical areas of energy research at CSU will generate new discoveries that unlock the potential for viable, clean energy.”

To further this research, the administration at CSU is considering a “Supercluster” in clean energy. Superclusters combine expertise in research areas at CSU with business models designed to get products to the marketplace faster. In essence, Superclusters accelerate the transition from academic theory to practical use.

Given the number of fields involved with green energy development, universities are a natural incubator for new ideas. The experts we have at CSU make it a great place for development to take off.

An essential part of nurturing key breakthroughs and innovation is providing the support necessary for success. This is the Achilles heel of our school.

We are losing professors involved in cutting-edge research because we cannot supply them with the funding they need. When these professors leave, they take their labs and funding with them – and when they leave, they leave Colorado. The lack of funding at CSU hurts the entire state.

Money poured into research often reverberates throughout the economy of the state. By creating a base of experts and talented graduates with state money, CSU fosters economic development that benefits every person in the state.

The critical importance of funding for CSU has been lost amidst the headlines of tuition increases. In areas like clean energy and infectious disease research, our university is both outstanding and economically important to Colorado.

Unfortunately, Colorado is dead last among states in spending per student for higher education. As President Penley has noted, CSU has received the short end of an already short stick when it comes to the distribution of state money.

The current debate about tuition levels and the politics of proposed increases ignores the greatest problem facing Colorado. If we fail to give our public schools the funding they need, we are in effect sacrificing the future of our state. The research conducted at CSU will move to other states, and they will be the ones reaping the rewards for years to come.

We need to realize tuition increases at CSU will yield enormous benefits for the state economy because they will nurture the knowledge base and human capital we need for business to flourish.

Unless we increase funding, ventures like the clean energy Supercluster will not be viable.

But if we have the foresight to fund programs which will contribute so much to the state for decades, we help make the world greener and our own state wealthier. Fitting for a school whose colors are green and gold.

Daniel Gibson-Reinemer is a fishery and wildlife biology masters student. His column appears every Tuesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to

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