ASU and the AZ Science Center Spotlight the Future of Energy


On January 24, 2013, ASU students, faculty, researchers, and members from across the Phoenix metropolitan area attended a public event titled “The Future of Energy: Brown, Clean, or In Between?”. The event included booth displays by the Arizona Energy Consortium and the university community, a compelling panel discussion, and a dinner reception. The event was hosted by the partnership of Arizona State University and the Arizona Science Center.

After welcoming remarks from Chevy Humphrey, President and CEO of the Arizona Science Center, ASU President Michael Crow introduced the panel discussion by providing important insight about the future of energy:

“If you plan to be here for the indefinite future, we must find a way to produce a different kind of person, a different set of ideas, and a different set of ‘stuff’ to think about our energy future in a different way.”

In order to produce the successful solutions we wish to see, we must toss political positions aside and come together to generate ideas that will benefit future generations. Deciding the route for our future energy policy is not easy--Should we go full scale renewable energy? Stick to fossil fuels? Invest in a mixture of both? Regardless of how one wishes to answer those questions, it is time for the critical discussions to be made. This was the goal and purpose of the Future of Energy panel discussion, hosting the opinions of three very different panelists.

The Panelists:

Mark Jacobson
Director, Atmosphere/Energy Program, Stanford University

Mark Jacobson believes that the first step for our transition is to start today. The energy future he envisions is a full conversion to clean energy by the year 2050. He breaks down the divisions noting the transition should ultimately be 50% wind and 50% solar. When asked if natural gas, an in-between option, would be an acceptable energy plan, Jacobson said, “Natural gas still puts out CO2. Why would we start there?” In terms of the future of energy, Mark Jacobson believes in an energy system that will reduce our carbon footprint.

Peter Byck
Director and Producer, Carbon Nation

Peter Byck believes that the future of energy will need to initiate a coming together of communities. Byck said, “I want to go to a low carbon community as quickly as possible”. Byck noted that corporations and communities have a more similar role in succeeding in that goal than most people might think. Byck’s view is that we are not polarized as a country in terms of the energy issue and that if we are able to see past that then we are able to really get some great things done in implementing clean energy.

John Hofmeister
Founder, Citizens for Affordable Energy. Former President, Shell Oil Co.

John Hofmeister looks at energy as an operator. Unlike Peter Byck and Mark Jacobson, Hofmeister sees the shortcomings of renewable energy. He noted that there are two shortcomings, “a fundamental lack of information and a lack of someone in charge”. Hofmeister believes that transitioning into full use of renewable energy would be more difficult to pull off right away without regulation or natural gas. Hofmeister said, “We need time and time is the solution for many of these problems”. Although Hofmeister believes there are shortcomings to renewable energy, he does believe that we should be talking about it.

Here is the full video coverage brought to you by ASU Global Institute of Sustainability:

Although all the panelists had different views about how to define our future of energy, the general consensus was that Arizona, as well as the rest of the nation, must make a conscious effort to incorporate renewable energy initiatives into the discussion. Whether it is for energy security, a cleaner and more sustainable world, or for coming together as a community, the research and development of renewable energy technology will need to be seen as an option for our future of energy.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Photo taken by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

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