Proposal 1: The Aspen Institute, Providing Energy Services in a Changing Industry


Fossil fuels have been in use for centuries. During the Industrial Revolution, their use increased exponentially to meet the demands of an ever-increasing number of machines. These fuels were readily available and cheap. People also chose to use them so oil and gas didn’t have to be dumped into the ocean. People gained a love of these cheap, energy-dense fuel sources. However, as anything that is non-renewable is wont to do, the fuel reserves started to decrease; wells began to run dry. To quell the thirst for fossil fuels, humans have turned to less traditional, risker methods of extraction, such as deep sea drilling and hydrologic fracturing. These methods have led to numerous disasters, both large and small. In addition to that, the consistently high levels of fuel usage have resulted in increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. As a result, policies on alternative fuel sources and carbon emissions have begun to surface as of late. However, support can be lacking which often results in policymakers allowing exceptions to help their bill pass. This eventually causes the original policy to become a paper tiger.

People are unfortunately quite divided about the topics of alternative energy and carbon emission reduction. Those that don’t experience the detrimental effects of climate change firsthand tend to believe that it doesn’t exist. Strongly biased media funded by fossil fuel companies doesn’t help. Research that is also funded by these companies frequently skew facts and figures to make these scientific certainties seem questionable. People that truly understand how humans have affected the environment are doing what they can to stop the climate change contagion. However, when the public doesn’t believe or understand what it going on, adopting new policy is difficult.

The Aspen Institute’s Forum on Energy Policy meets annually to discuss emerging energy policy issues. Their 2010 report focuses on providing energy sources in a changing industry. In the report, the members of the forum recognize that there has been a general move toward electrification as of late and that electric vehicle (EV) technologies will change the way electricity is produced. Because these EVs can serve as electricity storage, they can back up renewables when solar or wind power is lacking. The Aspen Institute calls a change such as this a Seismic Shift because of how novel it is. Another change they foresee occurring is the shift from centralized generation toward a more distributed approach, where people give and take from the grid. Such a system has become known as a smart grid, where people buy and sell electrons to meet their needs. In order for any of these visions to be successful, however, policymakers must set goals for companies to strive toward. Uncertainty about the future of a given technology make people hesitant to invest in it. The Aspen Institute wants clear policies to be set forth on a national scale so generation companies can transition into the modern age. By adopting cleaner sources of energy, CO2 emissions can be curtailed and fuel extraction can become less risky.

I am fully cognizant of the argument people have against climate change and alternative energy. They both result in increased costs for people who pay their electricity bills, to be blunt. However, no matter how many times fossil fuel-funded media tries to spin the results, climate change and the decrease in fuel are real, signifying a definite need for change. The Aspen Institute’s forum helps develop my ideas of what needs to be done in order to shift away from dirty fuels successfully. I find that I agree with their statements regarding the impediments to achieving a cleaner environment and believe some of their ideas for achieving a low-carbon world are quite viable.

The Aspen Institute, while having a clear agenda, makes a point of taking a non-biased view on the topic. Having been around for decades, people regularly rely on the publications of this institute when making policy decisions. The institute includes leaders from business, government, academia, and non-profit organizations in its forum in order to gather all opinions. As a result, the information from this source is quite reliable. I believe that this source is aimed at government officials, namely the President of the United States and state governors.

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2 responses to “Proposal 1: The Aspen Institute, Providing Energy Services in a Changing Industry

  1. I also find the alternative energy debate fascinating. Even reading our assigned readings for tomorrow has made me more interested than ever in the the topic. Climate change is most certainly real and I hope that a good (great) solution is found in my lifetime. All in all I think that this sounds like a great paper topic.

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