A Brief History of Energy Policy

 

 

 

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy policy, however, is another matter. “As a nation, we do not have a clearly articulated energy policy that promotes economic growth, energy optimization, and technological development, all in the context of a sensible environmental backdrop,” says Scott Kleinman, C’94, W’94. And thanks to his $10 million gift to establish PennDesign’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy in July 2014, all that is ripe for change.

To celebrate its grand opening, the Center hosted a ceremony in its newly renovated Energy Forum, located on the upper floors of Penn’s iconic Fisher Fine Arts Library. Presented by faculty member and former Governer Ed Rendell, C’65, the first annual Carnot Prize, in recognition of distinguished contributions to energy policy and practice, was awarded to Pulitzer Prize-winning author and energy historian, Daniel Yergin. Honoring those who have revolutionized our understanding of energy policy, The Carnot Prize pays tribute to its namesake, French scientist Sadi Carnot, who in 1824 published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, thereby paving the way for global acceptance of the second law of thermodynamics.

It is no coincidence then that Yergin’s most recent book, The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World, ends with Carnot’s story. “Sadi Carnot played a decisive role in the energy transitions that have transformed the world, and I am so pleased that the Kleinman Center has named its annual award after this brilliant thinker,” explains Yergin. “I look forward to [visiting] with Penn faculty and students to reflect on ‘great revolutions’ in energy, past and future, and to help recognize the important contributions that the Kleinman Center and Penn will make to the understanding of our energy future.”

Mullti-disciplinary by nature, the Center aims to not only provide a home for teaching and learning about energy policy on campus, but also to raise visibility and the impact of energy policy work off campus while creating conditions for improved energy policy around the world. A lofty mission, but where better than Penn?

As Director Mark Alan Hughes observes, “The hope is that in ten years, there is a body of new alumni—young men and women—who have, regardless of their degrees from Penn, also spent time and were touched by the opportunities and work going on at the Kleinman Center, and that they take that experience forward with them as young professionals into their worlds of work; that we’ll have started to effect and improve policy outcomes on a whole range of topics that are bedeviling American politics now; as well as recognize and foster even more of the research that only Penn faculty can do so well, across disciplines, dealing with real-world, practical problems.” All this, of course, in the spirit of Benjamin Franklin.