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Environment & Energy

CMU's Cohon to Head Energy Institute

A former president of Carnegie Mellon University is bringing his clout and his ability to raise money to a relatively new institute on campus designed to explore the intersection of energy use, production and policy.

Starting July 1, CMU President Emeritus and University Professor Jared Cohon will add to his business card the title of Scott Energy Institute Director.

CMU, under the direction of Cohon, launched a $100 million dollar fundraising effort in 2012 to build the institute and has so far made it about half way to the goal. Finishing off the effort will be a big part of Cohon’s job. He will also be involved in bringing staff and students into the institute.

“By my count, we have at least 35 faculty working on Marcellus Shale issues,” said Cohon, “water impacts from Marcellus Shale as well as water treatment technology as well as air quality impacts. And we have a lot of faculty working at the intersection of technology and policy, which is really a sweet spot for CMU.”

Cohon said the idea of the institute is to unite experts in various disciplines across campus for a single cause.

"There are few more pressing problems facing the world than the cluster of scientific and policy problems related to energy," said Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh.

Along with working on today’s issues, Cohon believes the members of the institute will spend time looking at the future of energy policy.

“The world will move eventually to a fossil free, or an energy future much less based on fossil.  The question is how do you get there?  What does that future look like? What does that transition look like?” said Cohon, who admits the transition will take decades and will be both expensive and challenging.

Before becoming an administrator Cohon was an engineer and says he brings to the position expertise in water resource issues in general and the overlap of water and energy in specific.

Cohon thinks shale resources can be developed with known and acceptable water impacts but he said it is still unclear what the long term impacts will be to ground water.

“We just don’t known enough, and won’t for I think many years to come,” Cohon said. “We need more research on that.”

Cohn will be raising funds to make sure that research is done at CMU.