Palo Alto Daily News: Power panel talks on energy

Palo Alto Daily News

Tuesday Apr 10

Victor Maccharoli / Daily News file

Sen. Barbara Boxer and Stanford President John Hennessy spoke Monday in Sunnyvale at a summit on alternative energy and how local companies can reduce their energy consumption.

Power panel talks on energy

Summit focuses on possible cures for global warming

By Kristina Peterson / Daily News Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Stanford University President John Hennessy agreed Monday that it would take one kind of green to fund another.

“We need support from Congress to ensure that we can do research,” Hennessy said during a panel discussion with Boxer, D-Calif., at a summit on alternative energy solutions hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group at the Advanced Micro Devices headquarters in Sunnyvale.

Boxer, now the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, vowed to seek funds for local research, touting new technology as a potential “cure” for the problems of global climate change.

“Alternative energy doesn’t mean clean energy,” Boxer told the assembled group of Silicon Valley executives and local municipal employees. “Renewable is what we’re looking for.”

Hennessy warned that no single source of energy would provide all the answers.

“Ethanol from corn will not solve our problem in the long haul,” he said.

Stanford and other local research institutions and companies must look into converting other materials into energy, including biofuel and cellulosic fuel, which is made from sugars distilled from plant fibers and is “the largest bio-manufactured substance in the world,” Hennessy said.

Boxer and Hennessy said that nuclear energy, which does not release harmful greenhouse gases, will likely play a larger role in meeting the nation’s energy demands in the future.

“Nuclear does have to be part of the puzzle,” Hennessy said.

Boxer said that while “most of Congress” supports using nuclear energy, she still has concerns over the safety of nuclear power plants, which should not be built on earthquake faults.

“We can’t give huge subsidies to nuclear companies,” she said. “They should compete like anybody else.”

Local executives voiced their enthusiasm for a wide range of energy sources.

“It’s time to warm up to nuclear energy,” said Sass Somekh, president emeritus of Novellus, a company that produces semiconductor equipment.

Charles Gay, vice president of Applied Materials, called solar power “the only big solution that’s out there,” citing its rapid price drop over the past 30 years. He noted that the “payback time” for an average installation of solar panels is now less than seven years.

Boxer said the next steps in addressing global climate change would include bringing the Environmental Protection Agency before her committee in an attempt to create new standards of carbon dioxide emissions. She said she would also use her position as chair to make alternative energy “one of the biggest issues in the presidential race.”

E-mail Kristina Peterson at

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