NREL & ExxonMobil Team Up For Renewable Energy Research

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In a real life version of the movie Sleeping With The Enemy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado has teamed up with ExxonMobil to “pursue new breakthroughs in low-emission energy technologies,” according to the Denver Post. By the terms of the aggrement, ExxonMobil will invest $100 million over the next decade in the NREL’s research programs.

NREL research laboratory
Credit: NREL

Bill Farris, NREL’s associate lab director, says scientists from NREL and ExxonMobil will focus on the dual challenges of providing energy for a growing global population while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It is the largest investment from an external partner in the history of the NREL, which gets 80% of its funding from the US Department of Energy.

To date, NREL has been awarded more than 550 patents for the technologies it has created. The lab has 817 active partnerships with industry, universities, foundations and governments. “Exxon envisions a lot of their researchers being sent to NREL. It increases the speed of collaboration,” Farris adds.

The collaboration will permit ExxonMobil to work with researchers at the other 16 federal laboratories without having to go through the normal process of developing individual agreements with each one. NREL in Colorado will act as the conduit.

“Ultimately, our goal is to advance the fundamental science and to demonstrate scale,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Ashley Alemayehu says. “For example, the partnership will explore ways to bring biofuels and carbon capture and storage to commercial scale across the transportation, power generation and industrial sectors.” Bill Farris adds, “Research proposals will come from both sides. We’ll decide which projects have merit and will become funded.”

Does any of this make you queasy? ExxonMobil, the climate criminal extraordinaire and one of the most profitable business corporations in the history of the world, is going to invest an average of $10 million a year in carbon capture research? Excuse me while I vomit. After writing this, I feel like I need to take a shower to get the stink of fossil fuels out of my pores.

At the same time, Exxon Mobil will be hard at work pushing for more oil and gas exploration in the oceans, in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, and in America’s national parks. This sounds like more self serving greenwashing from a company that is a leader at polluting the atmosphere with carbon dioxide emissions.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. Perhaps some of that oil-soaked money will actually help develop technologies that will mitigate global warming. The best possible outcome is that ExxonMobil will go bankrupt before its ten year deal with NREL is completed. That would be the best news of all for the environment.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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