This week we had a special panel event called “Paths to Decarbonization” in our ENVS 220 class. The panel included Melissa Powers of the Green Energy Institute and Jessica Loverling of the Breakthrough Institute. Chris Joyce, senior NPR science correspondent, moderated the discussion. True to the ENVS 220 fashion, we utilized technology to the fullest extent possible: both Jessica and Melissa video conferenced with us from Oakland, CA and Copenhagen, Denmark respectively. Their discussion focused mainly on the debate over natural gas as a bridge from coal to renewable energies. Melissa argued that natural gas has been displacing renewables instead of bridging to them. Although she agrees that the natural gas industry is important to shutting down old coal burning facilities, we should not be replacing them with more fossil fuels. Additionally, the only reason renewables are on the rise is because of government mandates and subsidies, not because of market interest. Jessica was in favor of the utilization of natural gas. She pointed out that not too long ago, natural gas was extremely expensive because we hadn’t developed the right technology yet, and that natural gas is a good stepping stone to use as renewable technologies are developed. She also discussed the shortcomings of renewables: in the cases of solar or wind power, energy is not always available when it’s needed due to the environmental conditions. Until we develop a bigger, better battery to store the energy produced during optimal times, we need a back-up energy source that’s available on demand, such as natural gas.
Ultimately, although they had a different view on using natural gas as a bridge, they agreed that the energy system we are using right now can and should be changed. They stressed the importance of small details, and encouraged us not to generalize as we figure out where we stand on these matters. Scale was an important factor of this discussion, both politically and practically. There was a lot of hope surrounding the feasibility of creating a new energy system locally, especially in cities and across states.
In lab, we sent out email surveys to the FWOC‘s Oregon member organizations to collect demographic information. Although we got a few quick responses, we will still need to call the organizations to get more complete data to analyze. We also plan to begin a narrative analysis of the FWOC newsletter archive given to us by former president of the FWOC and Sierra Club, Michael McCloskey. During an interview with Mr. McCloskey last week, we gained valuable information about the organization’s place in our society and the need to recruit some younger leadership. Moving forward, we will analyze our documents as well as create a GIS map of the location and demographic information for our project, Generational Perceptions of Wilderness.