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Energy in Focus at Oct. 25 Event


By Ed Hayward | Chronicle Staff

Published: Oct. 17, 2013

US Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) ’68, JD ’72 and former state and federal energy official Susan Tierney will be the keynote speakers at an Oct. 25 Sesquicentennial symposium on the science of energy generation and the politics and policies of energy use.

Markey and Tierney, a one-time assistant secretary for policy at the US Department of Energy, are part of an agenda that includes two panels drawing on faculty experts from the University and other institutions, said Ferris Professor of Physics Michael Naughton, an organizer of the event that is being held in the Heights Room of Corcoran Commons as part of BC’s 150th anniversary celebration.

The symposium, “Energy: From the Last to the Next 150 Years,” will focus on both an historical perspective on energy use and the importance of plotting a future course that is economically and environmentally sustainable, Naughton said.
“It seemed appropriate, as we celebrate BC’s 150th year, to look back at human history and to look forward, because we can potentially harm ourselves by failing to look in both directions,” said Naughton. “We have been using the Earth particularly intensively for just about 150 years. We should learn from what we have done in order to ensure we’ll be here in another 150 years, with water to drink, air to breath and future generations.”

The symposium will examine questions related to discovering new forms of energy, finding efficient routes to energy conversion, and developing national and global agreements on energy management, Naughton said.

Markey, who served 18 terms in the House of Representatives, has been a congressional leader on energy and climate change. He was chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Ranking Democratic Member of the Natural Resources Committee, and the second-ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He worked successfully to pass comprehensive climate legislation in the House, increase fuel economy standards and hold BP accountable after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Tierney is a former Massachusetts secretary of environmental affairs and state public utilities commissioner. She is now managing principal at Analysis Group, where she consults on energy policy and economics. She is a member of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board and serves as an ambassador for the US Clean Energy Education & Empowerment program.

In addition to remarks from Markey and Tierney, two panels will be held to focus on current energy science and on politics and public policy.

Naughton said the founding of the University in 1863 coincided with the rise of the industrial age, an era of growth and development that has left an indelible mark on the environment and forced an erosion of the earth’s climate. The widely viewed “hockey stick” graphic, which portrays a steady level of global temperature data, begins its dramatic upward rise at the mid-century mark of the 1800s, Naughton noted.

Today, the Boston College research portfolio includes professors and labs dedicated to projects focused on solar energy, thermoelectric innovations, harvesting hydrogen from water and learning more about materials with novel electronic properties that could help advance new energy applications.

In addition to Naughton, whose research has focused on developing new solar power technologies, Boston College faculty speakers will include Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Noah Snyder, a co-organizer of the event, Associate Professor of Physics Cyril Opeil, SJ, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Dunwei Wang.

Panelists from other universities include MIT’s Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering Yang Shao-Horn.
Snyder said the symposium highlights the need to bring together experts from the fields of scientific research and public policy in order to develop cogent strategies for energy use and curbing global climate change.

“The linked problems of meeting growing energy demands and halting the rate of climate change are two of the greatest challenges of the 21st century,” said Snyder. “We’ll be looking at what the next 150 years may look like in terms of energy science and solutions to the energy-climate policy puzzle.”

To register for “Energy: From the Last to the Next 150 Years” and for information on other Sesquicentennial events, see