MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia University is taking steps to enhance its position to become a leader in solving global energy and environmental problems.

The University has unveiled its "Strategic Initiative for Energy and Environment Research and Education -- 2006-2010," an initiative that will serve as the foundation and guideline for addressing state, national and international energy needs and priorities, with a focus on fossil fuels.

"There is no more important issue today that we can undertake to study," WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said. "WVU has a long history of expertise in this area, and is well suited to take on this challenge. There's no reason why we can't climb on to the national, or even international stage, as we have with other related issues."

The initiative was developed over the past year by the WVU Research Office with input from a number of key University administrators, faculty members and researchers.

"Overall, this initiative addresses the national priority of having a diverse supply and delivery of reliable and affordable energy," said John D. Weete, WVU vice president for research and economic development. "The plan includes substantial initiatives on fossil sources of energy, and also outlines a comprehensive spectrum of other strategic initiatives."

It also recognizes new environmental challenges, he said.

"WVU, as brought forth in this plan, is mindful of the need to develop clean coal technologies and alternative fuels, as well as address global warming issues," Dr. Weete said.

The plan includes four broad program areas:

* Exploration and extraction of fossil fuels - coal, gas and oil

* Fuel utilization and conversion - combustion and gasification, sequestration; power generation and distribution, system efficiency and reliability

* Non-conventional transportation fuels and other products from fossil and renewable sources - chemicals from coal, biofuels, bioproducts, etc.

* Energy efficiency and sustainability, economics and policy

Implementation of the plan will involve strengthening established programs at WVU, while forming new ones to take advantage of existing and emerging opportunities, Weete said.

"We hope to develop research clusters made up of faculty leaders to focus on specific cutting-edge problems," Weete said. "Additionally, we will continue to engage in mutually-beneficial partnerships that may include other academic institutions, government national laboratories, and the private sector on both a national and global scale."

Implementation also may involve increasing the core energy/environment faculty in targeted areas, securing new facilities and equipment, and putting in place an organizational structure for administering the plan, Weete noted.

"We want to think big," said Weete. "We want to address large and complex problems that will put WVU on the map. The University has everything in place to do this, but we just need to provide some direction. That's what this strategic initiative is designed to do."

To view the initiative in its entirety, visit the WVU Research Office web site at http://www.wvu.edu/~research/




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