Academic journal article Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Redefining What's Possible1

Academic journal article Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Redefining What's Possible1

Article excerpt

GOOD MORNING. It's a great honor for me to be here this morning. I come to you with a perspective that I get from being the leader of technology for General Electric, which has businesses that span NBC Universal, where we make films and television shows, to our capital business, to our infrastructure businesses, which have in their portfolio the world's leading aircraft business, the world's leading energy business, the world's leading oil and gas business, a great water business, and the world's leading health care business. So I get to see a lot of very interesting things and talk to lots of interesting people. I thought I'd share some of the perspectives that I've learned in the energy space.

My job is to lead the GE Global Research Center. We were the first industrial research laboratory in the United States, formed when Charles Proteus Steinmetz, an original genius of the great electric company that we were first formed around, built the lab in Schenectady, New York, in a barn in his back yard, where he brought a great professor out of MIT to start the laboratory. The barn burned down, and we moved over to Niskayuna, five miles away, where we've been since then. We now have a great research center there, with other centers in Bangalore, India; Shanghai, China; and Munich, Germany. We will soon have one in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. I'm the ninth leader of this great organization and I'm proud to tell you that my great predecessor, Walt Robb, is a member of your society and is here with us today.

You've heard a lot about the world today. We see from our perspective the same global trends around population growth, consumption growth, people demanding energy security, and people concerned as we are today about the environment. These are big challenges.

This drives a reality where we see the world's economies growing and changing. Look at our projection of the economies in India and China in the not too distant future (fig. 1). Oil prices are always interesting. I keep changing this chart, but by any measure you can see that oil prices are up a lot from the not too distant past. Water scarcity is a very real pressure all around the world and it will only become more of a pressure in the future. And regulations are tightening everywhere. We see strong environmental pressures here in the United States today, certainly in Europe and Japan, but China and India are coming on board with their own regulations around environment. And technology is the answer to all these pressures.

Here is a projection for tomorrow: demand for electricity only growing everywhere. We heard today about the links between electricity, energy consumption, and GDP. I don't think that trend will change.

Here's a look at just electricity demand by 2030. You can see we're looking forward to an increase in electricity demand everywhere in the world, but most notably Asia, which rests at the top of these bar charts (fig. 2). We see today an explosive growth in electricity demand and a projection of that continuing into the future. Again, technology is the only answer.

At GE we formed about five years ago something that we call ecomagination. It is a corporate thrust that our chairman launched. It has five commitments that we made: the first one is to double our research and development spending to $1.5 billion per year around ecomagination-type solutions. The second is to introduce more ecomagination products. These are inherently green technologies or technologies that are recognized by an outside agency to be substantially better than their predecessor technologies. Third, we committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Fourth, we pledged to make customers true partners- - and I must tell you that when we first started, some of our customers were unhappy with GE's stepping out with a leadership position on this, but many of them have come on board in a very significant way.

And, fifth, we promised to keep the public informed. …

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