Our world is not lacking for Grand Challenges - that is, complex problems of great importance to society whose solutions require breakthroughs across multiple dimensions. I am sure that improving the productivity and quality of health care is in just about everyone's list. The effective management of our global, integrated, unpredictable economies and financial systems is probably going to be a newcomer to many Grand Challenge lists. But, most experts will likely agree that the search for clean, plentiful energy is the single biggest problem facing humanity and will be at the very top of Grand Challenge lists for the foreseeable future.
Why are breakthroughs in energy so critical? First of all, we face major challenges in finding reliable supplies of energy, and reducing the environmental impact of energy production and use. But, energy is also directly linked to some of the toughest problems we face in the 21st century, such as water, food, poverty, transportation, terrorism and war. Energy likewise plays the dominant role in determining the quality of our environment. It is a key factor in the quality of life for people around the world, arguably the single most important factor that impacts the prosperity of any society.
Tom Friedman, whose best-seller The World is Flat helped explain the forces of globalization to millions around the world, recently published Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution - and How it Can Renew America. In his new book, as well as in his articles and Op Ed columns, Tom has been vigorously talking about the power of green, the incredible economic opportunities available to those working towards an ET - Energy Technology - revolution, a revolution every bit as transformative and disruptive as the IT revolution has been.