Reinventing our Climate Future

By Audrey Ogurchak
July 5, 2016

Reinventing the future of climate change.Climate change is a growing threat to our planet. In late November of last year, the United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Paris, France. This conference negotiated the Paris Agreement, which is a global agreement on the reduction of climate change. On December 12, 2015, 195 participating countries agreed to reduce emissions as part of the method for reducing greenhouse gas. The participating countries agreed to reduce their carbon output as soon as possible and to do their best to keep global warming to below 2°C, or 35.6°F.

On Wednesday, June 29th, the United States Patent and Trademark Office hosted a panel titled Innovation to Power the Nation (and the World): Reinventing our Climate Future. This panel featured several important players involved in climate change within the United States. USPTO Director Michelle Lee delivered the keynote address while the panel was moderated by Amy Harder of the Wall Street Journal, who posed interesting and through provoking questions to the panelists. The panel comprised, Dr. Kristina Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Cube Hydro Partners, Dr. Bantval Jayant Baliga, Director of the Power Semiconductor Research Center at North Carolina State University, Bob Perciasepe, President of the Center or Climate Change and Energy Solutions, and Nathan Hurst, Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer at Hewlett Packard, Inc.

The panel began with Dr. Baliga, holder of 120 patents and a recent inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, discussed his invention, Insulative Gate BiPolar Transistor (IGBT). The IGBT is a three-terminal power semiconductor device primarily used as an electronic switch, combining high efficiency and fast switching. This invention is used in almost every electronic and mechanical device and has saved enormous amounts of gasoline and electricity since its invention in the 1980s. When later asked what the upcoming President of the United States could do to better combat these climate change concerns, he responded that the “low hanging fruit” is technology relating to energy efficiency. Dr. Baliga discussed how lighting consumes 1/5 of the electricity within the United States and how a simple change from the incandescent bulb to the Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) blubs can lead to a reduction of electricity use by up to 75%. However, in the United States, only 2 billion out of 5 billion sockets use CFL bulbs.

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Dr. Johnson, also a recent inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, an advocate for hydropower energy as an alternative energy source, discussed ways that hydropower could be integrated into the existing ecosystem. Dr. Johnson explained the concern with wind and solar panel, pointing out that wind energy is most efficient at night, solar panels are the most efficient during the day, and hydropower energy can fill in the gaps left by wind and solar energy. Dr. Johnson went on to say that future innovation in this area needs to come up with an integrated solution. Pump storage would be part of this solution, even with efficiency loss, as no carbon based electricity is used.

Nate Hurst addressed the actions that large corporations can take in order to encourage innovation in the climate change and renewable energy field. Hurst explained the most effective method is for large corporations to “look across the entire value chain” and drive energy efficiency throughout the supply chain. In addition, providing sustainable options to consumers, such as CFL blubs, at competitive prices is an effective way of promoting sustainability and energy consciousness. Hurst also discussed reasons why it is difficult for corporations to transfer to a 100% sustainable energy model, emphasizing that price is a factor. He pointed out, however, that government incentives and credits can do a lot to address this and encourage sustainability.

Bob Perciasepe answered the question of what the Federal Government can to do combat this climate challenge. Perciasepe discussed how patents can stimulate innovation surrounding renewable energy, however, there must be policy context behind this. He further explained that a good policy would make it more expensive to emit greenhouse gases. “This would stimulate innovation to reduce greenhouse gases, thus to reduce cost. Right now we do not value the reduced emissions. Society has put a moral value on that, but not a monetary value…Expecting the Federal government to craft something that is rational and in that mode is not likely to happen.” Perciasepe went on to discuss how a lot of action to address this is taken at the local, state and corporate level, referencing the Paris Conference mentioned previously in this article. Ten states now have a price on carbon, and it is important to get more states and cities involved by putting a monetary value on greenhouse gas emissions.

The panel further addressed many important and interesting topics, such as localized smart grids, public attitudes and hurdles to sustainable consumer products, and global energy consumption and responses. The panel concluded with a discussion from each panelist on one of the most important inventions that society will have to make and bring to scale in order to address the climate change challenge. For Dr. Baliga and Bob Perciasepe, a new source of energy is required, either through discovery or more research into already known technologies, such as nuclear fusion or wave energy. Nate Hurst discussed how the use of renewable materials in consumer products is an important step to solving this challenge. Finally, Dr. Johnson explained that the right economic incentives are required to encourage scale up of existing technologies that we know are able to work.

As USPTO Director Michelle Lee pointed out in her Keynote Speech, “a complex problem, such as this, needs a complex solution approach from all angles by many creative minds; one that embraces scientific and economic innovation.” This panel provided an optimistic and informative look at where this country is in solving this complex problem, currently being addressed by these four creative minds.

The Author

Audrey Ogurchak

Audrey Ogurchak is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law, pursuing a JD/MS in Computer Science. Audrey also received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Ohio University. She is currently focused in patent law and technology transactions. Audrey has spent a portion of her legal education assisting start up companies navigate through intellectual property, regulatory and market issues. She is currently the Technology Editor for Syracuse University's Journal of Science and Technology Law and the President of Syracuse's Intellectual Property Law Society.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 10 Comments comments.

  1. Benny July 6, 2016 5:18 am

    “a simple change from the incandescent bulb to the Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) blubs can lead to a reduction of electricity use…” Actually CFLs are fast on their way to becoming obsolete, with LED lamps replacing them (a few percent points more efficient). Europe has banned incandescent bulbs of 60W and over after realizing that too many citizens aren’t smart enough to figure out the savings for themselves. The US, too, will only see significant energy savings if it mandates them.
    IGBTs are only used in high power applications – virtually all appliances use MOSFET technology, which is more efficient at low power.

  2. Anon July 6, 2016 10:31 am

    There is a fundamental “error” of perspective in the very first sentence of this article (and of the larger climate discussion).

    The planet is under NO threat.

    Rather, it is man (and his particular desired “order”) that is threatened.

    And I would love to see more than just “surface effects” treated in these discussions. To wit: the real driver to the “threat” to man is the plain fact that our population is simply at an unsustainable level.

    But that point brings about true answers that just do not want to be pursued. Until those true answers are willingly put on the table, ALL other answers are just window dressings.

  3. Eric Berend July 6, 2016 10:40 am

    This is but another ‘kangeroo court’ style pomp staged by the “efficient infringer’s” appointed liason atop the gatekeeper bureaucracy known as the USPTO. Yet another farce, in the ongoing racket designed to ensure all financial remuneration for genuine inventions accrues solely to billionaires or large institutions. Once again, as with HD television, a pretentious conference conducted with no individual inventors bearing new innovations allowed to attend.

    While I respect the presence of Dr. Belaga, the technology he is honored for is already well established; and, is also a product of multi-billion dollar large corporate research resources. To the point: what new technology relevant to the subject matter, did he describe here?

    As an individual inventor who has innovated a seminal, ‘keystone’ improvement in wind and water power generation; but whose prospective property rights to the same are now severely compromised by the actions and influences of ‘Big Tech’-owned anti-inventor sycophants such as Ms. Lee, the mere existence of such a forum is outrageous in its egregious pretentiousness.

    Much as with the U.S. Senate hearings conducted by Sen. Leahy, Sen. Schumer, et al, that purported to consider inventors and small businesses yet were a mere whitewash show for the Congressional Record, these meetings are a travesty to the U.S. Constitutional basis I am supposed to rely upon in disclosure; amounting to little more than a pompous show of exclusionary power.

  4. Eric Berend July 6, 2016 10:50 am

    ^^^ correction: instead of “Dr. Belaga” please read as “Dr. Beliga”, in comment #3, above (pardon the small keyboard error).

    Anon (comment #2): that one is truly ‘the big kahuna’ of survival concerns. But it’s going to come down to which women will get told by groups of other women exactly how many children they each will be allowed to bear. Political correctness has shut men out of that sensative and contentious debate.

  5. Anon July 6, 2016 2:58 pm

    Not having a uterus does not stop me from using my brain to reason.

    We are well beyond any self-sustainable level of population, and this means that at best we will be chasing ultimately ineffectual band-aids for whatever label is the cause celeb of the day.

    And not to be insensitive, as I fully realize the collision between and single individual’s penultimate “right,” and the plain fact that there are just too many of “us” right now.

    At some point – and perhaps that point has already been passed – the system WILL (forcibly) correct itself. That system does not mandate that man remains in the ascendant position we currently enjoy. That system WILL survive regardless of whether we do.

  6. Benny July 6, 2016 3:40 pm

    Anon,
    Been reading Thomas Malthus lately?

  7. Anon July 6, 2016 6:37 pm

    Benny,

    No.

    This has long been a concern of mine. It just irritates when other consequences of overpopulation are treated as if “more efficiency” will solve the problem – it won’t. At best, it prolongs the problem, and at worse, it exacerbates it.

  8. Anon July 6, 2016 6:40 pm

    It is just not too difficult to figure out that we too live in an ecosystem, and the forces involved are far more powerful than man. We hurt nature?

    Right.

    Nature will crush us, and move on just fine. Let’s at least be honest about our concerns.

  9. Benny July 7, 2016 1:39 am

    Anon,
    Genesis 1:28 tells us to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth…” Logic dictates that if you follow this instruction, at some point the Earth will, indeed, be full, standing room only. But how much is full? Of course, you do have a solid argument, though it is a politically sensitive topic.

  10. Anon July 7, 2016 6:23 am

    Your “logic” is faulty, and your post at 8 is problematic as you even note that “full” is not defined.

    “Full” should be at or near ecological equilibrium.

    If not, than so be it – and then so be the consequences as well. Even man cannot simply deny consequences with impunity.

    And yes, I am fully aware of the “sensitive” nature of the topic – and my initial post here seeks to – at the minimum – insert a proper focal point to this sensitive nature. I have learned long ago that chasing band-aids is far inferior to addressing root problems.