Sally M. Benson

Co-Director, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University

KEYNOTE:  "The Global Climate and Energy Challenge"


There is growing and unassailable evidence that accumulation of atmospheric greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels is changing our climate. Every day we fail to act, the greater the damages and cost of addressing climate change. Beginning in 2002, Stanford University launched a major new research program in collaboration with ExxonMobil, GE, Toyota, Schlumberger, Dupont, and Bank for America called the Global Climate and Energy Project. Fundamental investigations into a suite of new technologies that could provide affordable, abundant energy supplies with low or no greenhouse gas emissions spurred a wave of innovation in better engines, new ways of making more efficient solar cells, carbon capture and storage, renewable fuels from CO2 and water, longer lasting batteries, a smarter electric grid, mobile wireless charging for cars, and cooling by radiating energy back to the space. This talk will discuss the nature and scale of the climate and energy challenge and review emerging solutions to provide secure, affordable, and sustainable energy for the 9 billion people expected on Earth by 2050.


Sally M. Benson, who joined Stanford University in 2007, is the co-director of Stanford's Precourt Institute for Energy and the director of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP). A Professor in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, she studies technologies and pathways to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Prior to joining GCEP, Benson was a staff scientist in the Earth Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). In 2004, she completed a four-year term as Deputy Director of Operations at the lab. Benson also served as Division Director for Earth Sciences and Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences at LBNL.

A ground water hydrologist and reservoir engineer, Benson has conducted research to address a range of issues related to energy and the environment. Her research interests include geologic storage of CO2 in deep underground formations, technologies and energy systems for a low-carbon future, and geotechnical instrumentation for subsurface characterization and monitoring.

The author or co-author of over 160 scientific publications, Benson is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Chemical Society.