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Role of Technology in Addressing Energy and Environmental Issues



"All of us know the problems rooted in our addiction to foreign oil - it constrains our economy, shifts wealth to hostile regimes, and leaves us dependent on unstable regions," President Barack Obama said at a Chicago press conference in December announcing his choices to lead his administration’s energy and environmental policies. "These urgent dangers are eclipsed only by the long-term threat of climate change, which - unless we act - will lead to drought and famine abroad, devastating weather patterns and terrible storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline at home," Obama said.

President Obama comes to the White House signaling his seriousness about combating climate change and curbing emissions of greenhouse gases. He has said he wants to spend heavily to boost energy efficiency, promote renewable and sustainable energy, create a more efficient national energy system, and reverse our nation’s declining environmental quality.

There is certainly an urgent need for the Obama administration to address these long-standing issues, and to develop and implement a National Strategy for Energy and the Environment. Our nation’s economic future, its role in the world, its foreign policy and the vitality of American industry depend on the administration and the Congress seizing the moment at hand, reaching agreement on important issues, and charting a future course that will keep America strong. With the recent reduction in oil prices, it would be unwise to lose sight of the broader global energy issues. In fact, now is exactly the right time to accelerate the efforts needed to address the looming worldwide energy and climate crisis. There are no quick-fix solutions, but we believe that there are a set of practical and effective actions that can be taken in the near term.

The new administration must consider and make use of alternative power sources, find a means to decentralize energy production and move toward local, sustainable sources to reduce the carbon footprint both in the production and transmission of energy. Policies must be adopted to help alter consumer and business attitudes, creating a culture that makes efficient use of energy a priority. Using today’s information technology, small and medium-size companies can measure their carbon footprints. We need to encourage green information technology solutions including server consolidation, virtualization, new storage solutions, and alternative energy sources to power data centers. The federal government must serve as a model with pilot initiatives and long term approaches that demonstrate economic and environmental benefits.

In this paper, we offer our assessment of our current energy and environment posture, identify areas where actions can be taken by the new administration, and discuss areas where information technology can help the nation better manage energy resources and improve the environment. We hope the time is at hand for a new direction on energy and environmental policy.

This paper was prepared as part of the 2008 ACT-IAC Presidential Transition Study

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ACT-IAC Report