Heriberto Cabezas on the future of fuel efficiency

by in Science & Health.

The Tesla logo. Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

The Tesla logo. Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

Among the interdisciplinary conversations held at the Blouin Creative Leadership Summit emerged one of the most pressing discussions on the international agenda: global warming and its inevitable effects on the human population and the planet.

As an engineer and scientist, Heriberto Cabezas offered insight into how the progression of renewable energy and technology will aid in the global effort to stem the use of carbon-based emissions. Cabezas is the Senior Science Advisor to the Sustainable Technology Division in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development. He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Systems Technology at the University of Pannonia in Hungary.

As part of several panels at the 2014 Summit, Cabezas emphasized that one way we can begin to address the problem of climate change is to produce less of our power by burning fewer fossil fuels. “We have the means to produce electricity, relatively cheaply, using photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, and those are two well-known ones,” he said in an interview with Blouin News. Photovoltaic technology has become cheap, but the tech is “intermittent” — as in, the sun is not up 24/7.

This is where storage comes in. He mentioned that the importance of thinking about this technology applies to the future generations. Shaving off even a bit of the burden for those generations to come will have an impact. For example, the infrastructure for solar cells is growing, but investment takes time.

And the energy problem is multi-faceted. “On the transportation side, technologically it’s feasible,” Cabezas said. But it is expensive. For example, he noted that Volkswagon is making a car that can run 300 miles per gallon, but it costs $150,000 per car.

One of the main obstacles to sustaining consistent use of renewables is the fact that there are huge infrastructures in place that are based around fossil fuels. There are enormous investments that are impossible to just leave behind, Cabezas noted. “The legacy technology is embedded in our systems,” he said. It is going to take time for changes to take place and to find the middle road of decarbonization.

Still, Cabezas is “cautiously optimistic,”  namely because fuel efficiency is a greater public concern now. Solar power, wind power, and other renewables are increasing in usage. “It’s hard to tell what technology will be feasible in a mass market. It might be a mix of electric cars, and fuel engines, or it might just be purely electric,” said Cabezas. The future of the energy efficient market is still anyone’s game.