To highlight the excellent, cutting-edge alternative energy field testing conducted by the U.S. Postal service (USPS), National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story on their Web site today entitled, “Postal Service Takes Lead In Going Green”. The story compliments a five-minute NPR radio spot in which reporter Libby Lewis interviews Walt O’Tormey, USPS vice president of engineering.
O’Tormey’s commentary covers the wide range of USPS testing programs underway to reduce energy costs using alternative energy technologies. My favorite part of the interview is when O’Tormey says, “We’ll test anything!.. propane, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, electric.”
To me, this attitude and approach represent exactly the kind of leadership federal agencies must take with respect to emerging energy technologies: put as many different ideas in the field as possible, run them until they fail, learn which technologies are best of breed, and determine how to improve upon them. Most often, progress in engineering is evolutionary not revolutionary. Evolutionary improvement requires new energy technologies to be tested under real conditions to make them robust enough to commercialize while being cheap enough to compete with fossil fuel. My compliments go out to Walt O’Tormey and the USPS for their leadership at the federal level at putting new technologies to the test.
Recently, I touched on some of these ideas in my blog post, “US Postal Service Pioneers Renewable Energy and Transport Tech”. However, I wanted to give today’s NRP spot a little shameless plug because, if you read about halfway down the page, you will discover that I was interviewed as a technical expert for the piece.