Writer: Mario A. Montes
On the message everyone agreed – global warming and climate change is real and something needs to be done about it. But how to resolve this problem is the debate that fueled the “Re-Energize America: Policy, Practice, and Possibility for America’s Energy Future” conference on Monday, Aug. 31 and Tuesday, Sept. 1.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, one of the keynote speakers, confirmed that there was overwhelming evidence that the Earth was warming, and even though absolute proof of blame cannot be found, scientific research and evidence shows that temperatures around the world are increasing and man has contributed to that rise.
Using an analogy from “The Great” Wayne Gretsky, Chu explained that Gretsky was once asked why he was such a great player, and he responded by saying that he positioned himself on the ice. Pushed further for an explanation, Gretsky said he positioned himself to where the puck is going to be next and not where it’s been.
“So, I think the United States should follow that advice and let’s try to figure out where the puck is going to be and skate in that direction, instead of waiting where it could have been 50 or 100 years from now,” Chu told the crowd of about 500 attending the conference at NMSU’s Corbett Center Ballrooms. “If we recognize what we think the globe is going to be like 20, 30, 50 years from now, then let’s move in that direction.”
Chu confirmed that Americans will be living in a “carbon constrained world,” and the price of oil will continue to rise.
Chu’s presentation included graphs that showed the United States is behind in the clean energy race as compared to Asia and Europe, showing the conference participants the many technologies the U.S. has fallen behind, like electrical-energy transmission, fuel-efficient cars and batteries, to mention a few.
“China and other countries have recognized that green energy is going to be a critical part of their development and they are spending billions upon billions of dollars,” he said. “This is a future industry that we want to be a leader, not only for export but also for internal consumption.”
He praised New Mexico saying that in many respects, it was one of the leaders in the United States because of its strong oil standard, its state-level financing, improved transmission lines, lots of tax-payer renewable energy funds and tremendous assets in its universities, which includes NMSU.
He re-emphasized how the climate is changing and his charts showed how the Southwest is getting hotter and experiencing increasing periods of “water stress,” or less rainfall.
To counter this climate change, the U.S. “needs a new industrial revolution” that will give us the energy we are accustomed to and provide the clean energy that will grow wealth and jobs, he said.
To explain what the average citizen can do, Chu gave an example of how, just by having a white roof on your home or buying energy-efficient appliances, light bulbs and cars, and better insulation in homes, the average household can save substantial amounts of money and contribute to lower carbon emissions.
“The myth that energy efficiency costs more money is wrong,” he said. “It doesn’t cost more money. It’s going to save you. Doing the right thing will save you money.”