Tuesday, July 21, 2009

US Energy Secretary meets DME producer and academics in China

As reported on both the US Department of Energy's (DOE) website and EGovMonitor.com, among others, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke were in China from July 14-17 to "highlight the tremendous potential for mutually beneficial relationships in the clean energy sector."

“Clean energy will drive the economy of the future, both in the United States and around the world,” Chu said. “From renewable energy to more efficient buildings to carbon capture and storage, clean energy technologies can create millions of jobs. Working together, we can accomplish more than acting alone. It’s in our interest and China’s to explore ways to cooperate for our mutual benefit -- by promoting renewable energy, encouraging energy efficiency and cutting pollution.”

Besides meeting with important Chinese government officials such as Zhang Ping (Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission) and Wan Gang (Minister of Science), Secretaries Chu and Locke had two important sessions extremely relevant to the Blue Fuel/DME world.

On Wednesday, July 15, "Secretary Chu delivered a major address to an audience of top scientists, faculty and students at Tsinghua University focusing on the growing threat China and the U.S. face from climate change, from extreme heat waves to declining rice and agricultural production to flooding of major urban areas in coastal regions. He stressed that dealing with climate change presents opportunities as well as challenges, including the opportunity to create millions of jobs in the clean energy sector. He also outlined a number of solutions that the two countries are working to address, such as developing more efficient batteries, lower cost photovoltaics, and commercial scale carbon capture and sequestration technologies."

The significance of the Tsinghua University address for the Blue Fuel/DME industry is that one of Tsinghua University's leading environmental scientists is Professor Ni Weidou, well known for his innovative research into making the production of methanol/DME "greener" by integrating wind power with the modern coal chemical industry. Also, as an interesting human aside, Secretary Chu noted in his talk that both his parents were graduates of Tsinghua University and that his aunt was a chemistry professor at Tsinghua as well.

On the final day of their official trip, Secretaries Chu and Locke visited ENN headquarters in Langfang, Hebei Province (population approx. 62 million) in northeast China. ENN is an "innovative and integrated 'new energy' company founded in 1989" and is now China's seventh largest private company. On its Langfang campus, ENN "has a cutting-edge underground low-temperature coal gasification plant producing dimethyl ether and has also "recently signed a contract to build a plant in Egypt that will produce 200,000 tons of dimethyl ether annually."

That Secretary Chu, arguably the world's most influential environmental policy maker, met with such important DME players as ENN and Tsinghua University academics (and where he has personal connections, as well) during his trip to China seems fortuitous and good news indeed for anyone involved in the Blue Fuel/DME world.

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