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"Fueling the Future: A Place for Coal?" is Free Public Lecture on 26 January 2008

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"Fueling the Future: A Place for Coal?" is a free public lecture that will be given by Harold H. Schobert, professor of fuel science at Penn State, on 26 January 2008. The event is the first of six lectures in the 2008 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, which has the theme this year of "Running on Empty?: Strategies for Our Energy Future." This free minicourse for the general public consists of six lectures concerning current research on various energy options and the environmental consequences of their use. No registration is required. The lectures take place on six consecutive Saturday mornings from 11:00 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus.

Schobert will discuss current patterns in energy consumption and those that are likely in the future, as well as the potential for coal as an energy source. "Coal currently provides over half of our electricity, and interest in coal-to-liquids technology has been rekindled by oil prices and world geopolitics, yet many regard coal as the ultimate "bad guy" in the energy picture because of the potential environmental consequences of its use," Schobert says. Coal is the fossil fuel producing the greatest amount of CO2 per unit of energy. "The clean and cost-effective conversion of coal to liquid fuels can be realized, and the transportation sector is likely to rely on liquid fuels for many decades, so this use represents a significant future for coal," Schobert explains. Schobert also will discuss coal-to-liquids technologies, including Penn State's developments in this field, and the challenges that must be met, including carbon-capture and storage methods.

Schobert has been active in coal science for about thirty years. His research has focused mainly on conversion of coal to clean fuels--coal gasification and liquefaction--and on conversion to value-added carbon materials and specialty chemicals. For about twenty years, he has led a large effort at Penn State aimed at developing the next generation of aviation fuels using methods that introduce coal or coal-derived materials to oil-refinery processes. These methods promise to be faster and much less costly to implement, compared to building an entirely new synthetic-fuel facility. Penn State's liquid fuel has been tested successfully in a turboshaft engine and in a diesel-engine light truck.

Schobert was honored in 2004 with the Henry H. Storch Award, presented by the American Chemical Society's Division of Fuel Chemistry, for lifetime excellence in coal research. His previous honors and awards include the Richard Glenn Award for best paper in fuel chemistry at the 3rd North American Chemical Congress; the College of Earth and Mineral Science's Matthew and Anne Wilson award for excellence in teaching, a second Wilson award for excellence in research; and selection by the Golden Key Honor Society as Penn State's outstanding faculty member.

Schobert received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Bucknell University in 1965. He received a doctoral degree in chemistry from Iowa State University in 1970. He held several managerial positions at the University of North Dakota's Energy Research Center and its predecessor organizations from 1976 to 1986. Schobert joined the Penn State faculty as associate professor of fuel science in 1986 and was promoted to professor in 1994. He was chair of the Fuel Science Program from 1988 to 1996, and was director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Energy Institute from 1998 to 2006. He has served on energy-research or energy-policy committees at the state, national, and international levels. Schobert has held appointments as a visiting scholar at Osaka University in Japan and at Çukurova University in Turkey, and he currently visits North-West University in South Africa as extraordinary professor of natural sciences.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science are a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science. The 2008 series is sponsored jointly by the Eberly College of Science and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Financial support is provided by a gift from the Chevron Corporation and by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Public Information by telephone at (814) 863-0901, by e-mail at science@psu.edu, or on the Web at http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/frontiers/

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