Distinguished Lecture: "New Technology Allows Us to Keep Our Lifestyle and Save Energy" by Dr. Frederick H. Abernathy

Monday, September 10, 2018 2:00 pm - 2:00 pm EDT

" New Technology Allows Us to Keep Our Lifestyle and Save Energy "

Fred Abernathy
Speaker: Dr. Frederick H. Abernathy, Gordon McKay Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, Faculty Associate, Harvard University Center for the Environment


After the Big Depression and World War II, the U.S. economy expanded dramatically.  From 1950 to 1960 annual electrical consumption expanded by more than a factor of 2.  Factories turned out consumer products as rapidly as they could, adding features but without concern for energy efficiency.  Then came the U.S. energy crisis of 1973.  OPEC embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. and the Netherlands because these two countries supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War of early October 1973.  The embargo immediately disrupted distribution of gasoline in the U.S., and the price of crude oil rose from $3/barrel to $12/barrel.  There was no technology to reduce energy demand except for U.S. citizens to change their life style and consume less.  Driving speed limits on highways were cut back, and the President asked all to cut the temperature setting on their household thermostats.

Then electrical appliance manufacturers slowly began to produce products that were more energy efficient without decreasing features.  Just one example is the modern household refrigerator of a given volume capacity: it  now consumes 1/5 to 1/6 the energy such an appliance consumed in the 70s.  LED lighting consumes about 1/10 of that of incandescent bulbs of the same number of lumens.  Current automobiles get perhaps 3 times the mpg of 50s cars; many new technologies enable existing homes to reduce space heating or cooling (if climate demands) by factors of 2 to 3 if the homeowners install the appropriate technologies; and metallurgical wonders allow jet engines and gas turbines to operate at peak temperatures near or above the melting point of the metal blades.

The talk will explain briefly many of the new energy efficient technologies.