Scientist Steven Chu Cites Sustainable Energy Development as Crucial to World’s Future at Boston University Commencement

Contact: Phil Gloudemans, 617-353-6546 |

(Boston) – Speaking to over 5,700 Boston University graduates and 20,000 guests at Nickerson Field at today’s 134th commencement, alternative energy scientist and Nobel laureate Steven Chu underscored that solving the energy problem is the most important challenge ahead.

“We must develop a cost-effective, safe means of trapping and sequestering carbon emitted by fossil fuel power plants,” said Dr. Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, Calif. “However, for this technology to ever be deployed, the world has to put a price on carbon emissions…otherwise there will be no economic incentive. I believe there are creative ways of tilting the profit motive towards energy efficiency and more sound macro-economic decisions.”

Dr. Chu, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by BU President Robert A. Brown, has overseen the LBNL since 2004, and he has quickly led a multi-disciplinary effort to the forefront of non-carbon energy research.

“Bio-mass offers the hope of creating an alternative to oil,” declared Chu, a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. “Corn is definitely not the solution, but in Brazil it costs less to run your car on sugar cane/ethanol than on gasoline. I believe we can breed plants that will much more efficiently convert sunlight, carbon dioxide, precious water and nutrients into bio-mass. Already, wild grasses grown on non-irrigated, non-fertilized land in Illinois have yielded enough bio-mass to produce 10 times the ethanol per acre than corn.”

Bill Kovach, senior counselor to the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the former New York Times Washington Bureau Chief, delivered the baccalaureate address at Marsh Chapel to kick-off today’s formal commencement events at New England’s largest graduation ceremony.

“No matter what path you walk…your ultimate contribution and joy will be found fulfilling your responsibility to others…to community,” advised Kovach, who received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. “With the guidance of teachers who have invested their lives in helping you grow, you have learned how to test your conclusions against those of others whose experience and culture has taught them things you’ve never encountered.

“And now you will be able to invest this knowledge and experience not only in attaining your personal goals but in helping your community realize the ultimate promise of democracy: That the combined knowledge and experience of all the people can shape a more just and more secure society.”

Also receiving honorary degrees at commencement were renowned artist Brice Marden; Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves and a co-author of the groundbreaking book by the same name; Samuel O. Thier, M.D., former chief executive officer of Partners HealthCare System and president of Massachusetts General Hospital; and Peter H. Vermilye, former Alliance Capital CEO, Citicorp Chief Investment Officer, and current BU Trustee.

Walter E. Smelt III, a 2007 graduate of the University Professors Program, gave the student address.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.