The evolving technologies for drilling and hydraulic fracturing of shale to release oil and gas show how the combination of science and engineering may open up resources and then reduce the costs of energy, increasing societal economic reserves. Accumulating industrial experience in a competitive market then contributes to further efficiency improvements and increasing value to society.

In a similar way, the decline in the cost of renewable energy technologies is continuing, making the world richer. Deutsche Bank recently reported that solar is now the cheapest source of new power in Chile and that solar and wind both outcompeted all proposed fossil fuel based electricity generators in a 2015 procurement round. Renewable energy achievements have provided hope that the combination of global economic progress and effective policies to avoid climate change risks is feasible.

In recent issues, Energy Science and Engineering has published papers describing progress and issues in these areas of development, disseminating ideas for progress.

From a debate ten years ago, dominated by scarcity and peak-oil theories, it appears we are instead entering a period where the dominating perception is one of plentiful energy and falling prices. One may fear that, as a result, some public research funding may be withdrawn from the energy field. Energy companies, both in the electricity and fuel sectors, at the same time are in economic difficulties as a result of falling energy prices. Consequently, industrial finance may remain only for short-term research and industrial development, cutting costs of technologies already demonstrated.

Still, we are easily reminded of the huge challenges of global energy supply: the 2015 Asian air pollution episodes, the vulnerability of global oil supply to conflicts in exporting regions and the inability of global leaders to provide binding agreement to avoid climate change risks.

Continued progress of energy science and engineering efforts are clearly essential to provide for global health and wealth. Open access publication of results contributing to this end may speed up progress. Authors providing results deserve fame for their publications but even more when their ideas and results have been turned into practice, satisfying human needs and desires.

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Published on 01/06/17
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