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Dr. Michael Webber’s Energy Technology and Policy Course – Day 2

The following post was written by our office manager extraordinaire, Shannon Lundquist.  Shannon is the one who keeps our office running on a day to day basis…not just for us but also for our 27 tenant companies.

The second day of Dr. Webber’s “Energy Technology & Policy” course started with a rousing mix of eclectic music to help the diverse group of energy professionals to energy novices wake up and get “energized” for the day.  The agenda included topics on Energy & the Environment, Energy Policy Basics, Energy & Water, Electrochemical Energy Systems (Fuel Cells & Batteries) given by guest speaker, Dr. Jeremy Meyers, Assistant Professor from the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT, Biofuels, Energy & the Economy, The Utility of the Future brought to us by John Baker of Austin Energy, and finally Energy & Food.

Some points of interest included:

  • Mountaintop removal coal mining is a second choice in coal mining which increases the destruction of mountain ranges but decreases coal miner fatalities when mining for coal, however it too has it’s pros and cons.  Overall, it’s cheaper for the coal company, but more expensive for the surrounding communities in terms of environmental damage.  For instance, vast quantities of soil are moved about around these mountain ranges and is often dumped into nearby waterways.
  • Mercury content in CFL’s (compact fluorescent light bulbs)  is less than the amount of mercury produced by coal emissions when making regular lightbulbs
  • Texas and other states have had a “Cash for Clunkers” or vehicle scrappage program to decrease the amount of polluting cars on the roads
  • CO2 (Carbon dioxide) is a main contributing factor to global warming.  The top emitters of CO2 around the world are as follows:
  1. China
  2. USA
  3. Russia
  4. India
  5. Japan
  6. Germany
  7. *TEXAS* – Oh no!
  8. Canada
  9. United Kingdom
  • Not all scientists agree that there is need for alarm regarding global warming.  Many Paleogeologists do not agree that global warming is occurring as quickly or hazardously as noted and have stated that the climate has changed before and this is just another one of those times
  • The last 7 presidents of the United States have imported more oil by the end of their term of office than when they began their term, despite promises of doing the opposite.
  • Water and energy are the most critical items needed for modern civilization
  • The price of a gallon of regular grade gasoline is determined by the following fees and has the current associated percentage rates:
  1. Distribution and Marketing – 10%
  2. Refining costs & profits – 17%
  3. Federal and state taxes – 15%
  4. Crude oil – 58%
  • Pecan Street Project –  is a new and exciting program originally started in Austin in 2008. It is a collaboration between The City of Austin, Austin Energy, The University of Texas, UT’s Austin Technology Incubator, Environmental Defense Fund, The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and multiple corporate sponsors, to encourage green living through a smart grid energy system.  This new organization will embark on testing and implementation to establish the City of Austin as America’s clean energy laboratory to allow for customer energy management and conservation.  (An interesting note to our ATI community is that our very own Isaac Barchas, Director of ATI, is on the Board of the Pecan Street Project)
  • Corn-based ethanol (a biofuel) has many more cons than pros such as:  It requires about as much energy to make as it yields, topsoil erosion is expedited, large amounts of water are consumed in the processing system, large amounts of fossil fuels are consumed, and the air quality of corn-based ethanol is more toxic, just to name a few.

It seems that when taking a closer look at any type of energy processing, there are almost as many or more negative impacts to our earth during processing as there are pros in striving for a greener, healthier world.  Regardless, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to improve our environment and standard of green living in every way we can?

I highly recommend this course to anyone who has a desire to see the effects of various energy processing systems, types of energy used today, and the hopes for future energy possibilities.  It is informative (at the very least) and enlightening even to the novice energy user.