Energy Under Secretary for Science: Who Is Franklin Orr?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The nomination of Franklin M. (Lynn) Orr Jr. to lead the Department of Energy’s Office of Science was approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on January 14, 2014. Orr is awaiting confirmation of his appointment by the full Senate. If approved, Orr will oversee all science and energy research by the Department of Energy. He will also be in charge of most of the national laboratories.

 

Orr is a native of Texas, attending high school in Houston. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1969 from Stanford University, the institution where he would end up spending much of his professional life. While an undergrad, Orr was named a Rotary Undergraduate Scholar and studied at Imperial College in London. He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1976.

 

In the midst of his graduate work, Orr took two years off, from 1970 to 1972, to serve as an officer in the U.S. Public Health Service. He served first at the National Air Pollution Control Administration and then at the Environmental Protection Agency upon its creation.

 

After leaving the University of Minnesota, Orr initially worked in the private sector as a research engineer for Shell in Houston. However, he returned to a college setting in 1978, becoming an adjunct professor at New Mexico Tech.

 

In 1985, Orr returned to Palo Alto to teach at Stanford in its department of petroleum engineering. He was made department chairman in 1991. He was named dean of Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences in 1994, a post he held until 2002. Also in 1994, Orr was made a member of the Department of Energy’s Task Force on Strategic Energy Research and Development.

 

Orr’s next responsibility was the founding of Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP). The purpose of the energy industry-supported project was to research technology options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use. In 2006, Orr appeared in a documentary, A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash. That film dealt with the planet’s dwindling oil supply.

 

In 2009, Orr helped found the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford. According to the institute’s website, its mission is to provide funding and associated support for cutting-edge energy research, support effective communication and intellectual exchange among scholars and others seeking energy solutions, and fostering knowledge of energy issues through educational programs and the dissemination of research results.

 

In recent years, the focus of Orr’s research has been into carbon capture and storage, in which emissions from power plants and other pollution sources are injected into the earth. The carbon dioxide is stored in underground formations where it can’t reach the atmosphere.

 

Orr is married to Hewlett-Packard heiress Susan Packard Orr, whom he met while attending Stanford. She is on the board of trustees of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where her husband was formerly a board member. Orr is a licensed private pilot.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Lynn Orr to be Nominated by White House to Head DOE Energy Research (Stanford Report)

Statement of Franklin M. Orr, Jr. Nominee to be Under Secretary for Science U.S. Department of Energy (pdf)

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