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Calling All Innovators!

If you see a problem, fix it – it’s the American way, and also the simple yet potent impetus behind some of America’s most successful products and companies.  

One of the biggest current and future problems facing America is its severe dependence on oil, which brings with it very negative economic and national security implications.  The United States consumes approximately 19 million barrels of oil per day, with petroleum fuels accounting for 37 percent of primary energy demand.  Even more tellingly, the U.S. transportation sector relies on oil for an astounding 93 percent of its fuel. 

Perhaps the most daunting aspect of America’s oil dependence is that it is not expected to abate any time soon –  the Department of Energy projects that oil will still account for 34 percent of U.S. primary energy demand and provide 91 percent of transport fuel in 2030.  That is, of course, unless we do something to change the game.

This month, Securing America’s Future Energy announced its inaugural “Energy Security Prize” competition for emerging and advanced technologies with the ability to significantly reduce America’s dependence on oil.  The Prize is designed to both recognize and reward innovators who are changing our nation’s energy landscape by helping to solve the oil dependence crisis. 

The Prize is divided into two categories:

  • The Emerging Innovation Award (EIA) will recognize up to three technologies not currently in the marketplace that are expected to be available for sale within five years.  The technology must have the potential to meaningfully reduce long-term U.S. oil consumption.  The first place winner of the Emerging Innovation Award will receive $125,000 in prize money.  The first runner-up will receive $35,000 and the second runner-up will receive $15,000.  
  • The Advanced Technology Award (ATA) will recognize up to three groundbreaking technologies already established in the marketplace today that reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States.

The competition is currently open and accepting applications.  Winners will revealed at SAFE’s upcoming energy conference, “OPEC Oil Embargo +40: A National Summit on Energy Security,” which will be held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 2013. 

That this prize will be awarded at an event coinciding with the 40
th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo is no accident.  More than any event before or since, the sudden 1973 embargo and corresponding energy crisis confronted Americans with the stark reality that our entire economy could be held hostage by geopolitical events beyond our control.  Forty years later, energy and transportation markets in the U.S. are experiencing dramatic changes, but our economy remains heavily dependent on oil, and just as vulnerable to sudden supply or price shocks. 

But neither the Summit nor the Prize are meant to spread a message of doom and gloom.  Contrarily, both are about the technologies that can enable us to, at long last, throw off the albatross of oil dependence.

Simply put, the United States has never been better positioned to reduce oil dependence and achieve lasting energy security than it is right now.  The nation’s vehicle fleet is becoming increasingly efficient, and public and private investment in energy-related research, development, and deployment (RD&D) has led to the proliferation of advanced transportation technologies, including vehicles powered by electricity and natural gas.  Plug-in electric and natural gas vehicles are now widely available to U.S. consumers and businesses at prices that are becoming increasingly competitive.  

However, for all of our advances and accomplishments, much more remains to be done. American investment and innovation focused on advanced transportation must be supported, encouraged, and accelerated, and we hope that the Energy Security Prize can make a small contribution to that national effort. 

If you are part of a company or a team that is working on technology that can help reduce America’s dependence on oil, we hope to hear from you.  Please visit http://secureenergy.org/projects/energy-security-prize for information on how you can apply. 

To everyone else, we hope you will follow this competition as well, and help us select the winner in October by voting for the technology which you believe will have the biggest impact.

Oil dependence is not going away on its own.  But with a little old-fashioned American hard work and ingenuity, we can secure a future without it. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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