Stegner Symposium to Focus on Alternative Energy Solutions to Climate Change


by John Blodgett

“Alternative Energy: Seeking Climate Change Solutions,” the Wallace Stegner Center’s Thirteenth Annual Symposium, will be held Friday and Saturday, March 7-8, 2008, at the Marriott University Park in Salt Lake City, Utah.

With an eye on the intertwined and globally pressing issues of energy and climate change, the symposium will examine the energy side of the equation by asking how alternative energy might help solve the problem of climate change.

“This year’s symposium brings together a nationally renowned panel of speakers whose collective expertise is remarkably broad and deep,” says Lincoln Davies, associate professor of law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law and one of the panel speakers. “We hope the symposium will help advance the public discourse on climate change — not simply by recognizing the crisis that climate change presents, but by looking for answers in existing and emerging alternative energy sources.”

The symposium opens by framing the energy issue within the context of scientific, political, social, and economic forces. It will assess current energy consumption and its implications for climate change and national security, touch upon the science of climate change and its effects, and then examine energy regulation and challenges to transitioning to alternative forms of power. An exploration of “stabilization wedges,” the concept of reducing greenhouse emissions in discrete blocks to help move our nation toward production of alternative energy, will follow.

The focus then shifts to an investigation of the promise and limitations of specific alternative energy sources. Speakers first assess electric utilities and the constraints they face in procuring fuel to deliver energy to the public, and then continue by covering potential alternative energy solutions that include hydrogen, wind, nuclear, coal and carbon sequestration, biomass, and solar. Panelists also will consider reforms underway in the fossil fuel industry and examine the “demand-side” approach of reducing consumption through conservation and efficiency.

The symposium will conclude with a look at the connection between energy and climate change through the lenses of policy and economics. Questions include: What approaches could we take to help move the nation away from traditional fossil fuels and toward alternative forms of energy? What role can, or should, markets play? What might states do, and what are the possibilities for change in Utah?

Bill McKibben, the noted writer, educator, and environmentalist, will present the keynote address, “Building the Climate Movement — Just in Time.” He will provide a glimpse into what progress the movement to address climate change has made, and share his unique perspective on how and where — locally, nationally, and globally — we might go from here. Author of The End of Nature, the first book on climate change for a general audience, in 1989, McKibben has written several books since and helped found Stepitup07.org, the first large grassroots activist movement to address climate change.

Dianne Nielson, energy advisor to Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah, and Sarah Wright, executive director and founder of Utah Clean Energy, will participate in a panel discussion that examines Utah’s energy policy options, in light of the range of available energy sources and other issues raised during the symposium.

Davies hopes “that anyone who attends will leave with a greater understanding of the possibilities and obstacles we face as a society in tackling the energy and climate change issue, and with an increased resolve to do so.”

Founded in 1995, The Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment represents the University of Utah S. J. Quinney College of Law’s commitment to the multidisciplinary study of natural resources and environmental law and policy. The S. J. Quinney College of Law, recognizing the importance of natural resources and environmental quality to the region’s welfare, has long played a leading role in shaping appropriate laws and policies to govern the use and preservation of these resources.

To learn more or to register to attend, please call the Wallace Stegner Center at (801) 585-3440, or visit us on the Web at www.law.utah.edu/stegner