Market Research and Insight

Stanford University announced this week that it’s establishing a new institute to focus solely on energy issues. The Precourt Institute for Energy gets kicked...

electricity_distributionStanford University announced this week that it’s establishing a new institute to focus solely on energy issues. The Precourt Institute for Energy gets kicked off with $100 million (US) in new funding.

That money comes on top of the $30 million Stanford’s already spending on energy research. The funds will go toward everything from research on new nanomaterials to boost the efficiency of solar cells to global strategies for reducing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“Universities such as Stanford need to focus their full talent on the greatest challenges facing the world today,” said university president John Hennessy. “Energy is certainly one of those issues, posing a threat to our economy, to national security and, through the use of fossil fuels, to our environment.”

And who’s plunking down the $100 mill? Donors supporting the new institute include Jay Precourt, chairman of Hermes Consolidated (which deals in crude oil) and a board member of Halliburton (yes, that Halliburton). He’s a Stanford alum who’s contributing a full half of the institute’s seed money. Fellow Stanford alums Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor, a husband and wife team, are coughing up $40 million of the remaining funds to support a new center within the institute: the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.

While Precourt says his donation stems in part from a desire to combat climate change, his background in the oil industry pointed to concerns about energy security as well.

“”I’m quite concerned, having been in the energy business my whole life, with the fact that we are importing energy from insecure, unreliable sources who are, in many cases, not friends of the United States,” he said.

The new institute will be housed, appropriately enough, in one of Stanford’s greenest buildings: the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building already consumes only half as much energy as other laboratory facilities at the university, and sips only 10 percent as much water.

Dan Ilett