Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 2:15 PM


TINKER, Scott W., Geosciences, Bureau of Economic Geology, P.O. Box X, University Station, Austin, TX 78713 and LYNCH, Harry, 1905 N. Lamar Suite 103, Austin, TX 78705,

The world contains abundant energy resources. The challenge is extracting and utilizing these resources affordably and in an environmentally responsible way. The link between energy, the environment, and the economy is strong and involves the geosciences at its core. Today, fossil fuels—coal, petroleum products, and natural gas—represent an important 85% of the global energy mix. Nuclear energy is very dense, has no emissions, is highly efficient, and is very affordable on a kilowatt-hour basis. “Renewable” forms of energy will increase as a proportion of the energy mix but are currently limited by their lower energy density and intermittency. Almost without exception all forms of energy involve the geosciences. Coal mining requires geologic understanding and geologic carbon sequestration will involve advanced subsurface characterization and monitoring. The subsurface understanding and technology required for conventional and unconventional oil and gas exploration and extraction is substantial. Nuclear energy relies on sources of uranium, plutonium, thorium, and many other mined products and geologic repositories are required to store the waste products in certain regions. Production of biofuels involves soil science, hydrogeology, fertilizers, weather, and climate. Harnessing geothermal energy involves the ability to characterize the subsurface geothermal resource. Generating power from tides and waves involves oceanography and analysis of coastal change. Utilizing wind depends on weather patterns and geomorphology for the siting of turbines, as well as the mining of copper, carbon, and other materials. Producing solar energy involves the geosciences, with the need for silicon, gallium, cadmium, copper, and other materials. Large-scale energy-storage solutions require input from the geosciences rangin from characterizing the subsurface for compressed-air storage to mining rare earth elements for chemical batteries. “Above-ground” environmental and policy challenges are as great as the “below-ground” technical challenges. Environmental geologists, biologists, energy economists, and policymakers must come together to develop sensible policies and regulatory rules that make it possible for industry, government, academe, and NGOs to work together to deliver balanced solutions.