Developing Alternatives to Oil as Feedstocks for our Chemical and Liquid Fuels
Barnard Trustee Dr. Karen Goldberg '83,
Vagelos Professor of Energy Research at University of Pennsylvania
The call for reducing CO2 emissions and moving to renewable energy sources has never been louder than it is today. But as society moves away from oil as a primary energy source, we need to develop other sustainable sources for our liquid fuels. Furthermore, we must also re-envision our chemical industry and economy. Gasoline and other liquid fuels are the major products that are made from oil, but oil is also the source of the chemicals that are used to make most all of the consumer goods that we have come to rely on. Our medicines, detergents, paints, plastics, fibers, fabrics, and almost everything we use on a daily basis, are currently derived from petroleum. The carbon-based building blocks used to make all these consumer goods have been available in sufficient supply and at low cost due to the economy of scale of the enormous oil refining industry. Fundamentally new pathways, from new sources, to the chemicals and liquid fuels that we depend on must be developed to successfully transition to a sustainable future. In this presentation, I will describe how we arrived at our current energy landscape, projections on where we are going, and some of the exciting strategies that scientists are pursuing to allow us to use natural gas and carbon dioxide to prepare our chemicals and fuels in the future.