Grantmaking in this small interdisciplinary program looks for unique opportunities to expand our understanding of the economic, technological, organizational, regulatory, national security, and environmental consequences of energy production and consumption.
Past grantmaking in this program has led to the publication of the influential MIT reports, The Future of Nuclear Power (2003), and The Future of Coal (2007) and the Foundation is currently supporting a similar project which focuses on economic, technological, and institutional issues associated with the use of solar energy. Other recent Foundation grants in this area support the exploration of strategies for the safe, responsible expansion of nuclear power around the world, a project to examine the feasibility of extending the life of existing nuclear plants, a project to disseminate safety guidelines for the responsible use of radioactive materials at academic, industrial and medical institutions, a project examining a variety of questions related to energy security, and three projects on natural gas: one examining the economics of state-of-the-art natural gas extraction based on detailed analyses of the geological and economic attributes of five important U.S. shale gas deposits; one examining environmental and regulatory issues surrounding shale gas exploration and extraction; and one examining the politics associated with the development of public policies toward shale gas exploration and development. The Foundations most recent large grant in the energy area provides start-up funds to create a research center to study the impacts of government and utility programs to promote energy efficiency.
Due to the significant funding available from both public and private sources for energy and environmental research, the Foundation is very selective in the grants it makes in this area, supporting only projects for which non-partisan funding is not readily available, projects related to other Foundation programs or priorities, or projects where Foundation support could be leveraged to significantly raise the chances of the project’s success.