U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Wednesday joined a chorus of energy industry leaders in calling for an all-of-the-above approach to energy that relies equally on traditional resources and emerging technologies.
“You don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket,” Chu told columnist Thomas Friedman at The New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference, which is sponsored by GE.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Chu said industry should continue to develop domestic energy resources such as shale gas in order to keep energy affordable in the U.S., but also heed concerns about the impact of hydraulic fracturing.
“It’s in the industry’s best interest to do it in an environmentally responsible way,” Chu said of the fracking discussion.
He also noted the role of natural gas in promoting renewables, particularly since new gas power plants can go from a cold start to 99 percent in minutes, which makes it “perfect” for pairing with intermittent energy sources like wind and solar.
Chu’s discussion with Friedman came after a morning of panels featuring industry heavyweights like famed oilman, and natural gas supporter, T. Boone Pickens, President Obama’s former industry Czar Carol Browner and IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates and Pulitzer-prize winner Daniel Yergin.
The morning’s talks found the panelists generally upbeat about America’s decreasing dependence on foreign oil and abundant natural gas but mindful of the challenges of developing the next generation of energy solutions.
But the environmental challenges posed by fracking, including the disposal of frack water, and the effect the natural of gas has on other energy sources loomed large in the discussion.
During the late morning session, Friedman asked Chu, “Will [natural gas] kill the cleantech industry?”
On the contrary, Chu said, renewable technologies such as solar were swiftly reaching parity with traditional sources like natural gas. Chu said cleantech, despite some well-publicized hiccups, had made amazing advances in recent years – from a four-fold decrease in the cost of solar modules to vast improvements in battery technology.
Chu stressed that investing in renewable technology, even in the face of an abundance of gas, was the right approach for a number of reasons.
“Clean energy shouldn’t be a political debate… it’s the sensible thing to do, it economically propels us forward,” he said.
Top image: Driving into the future, North Palm Springs, Calif. Courtesy Flickr user kevin dooley