Learning About Renewable Energy in Dialogue with Al Gore and Steve Chu

Class Session with Secretary Chu

Two of my colleagues, Jennifer Granholm and Steve Weissman, offered an exciting new course this semester, culminating in a visit with the chair of FERC and with Energy Secretary Chu.

Each student examined the renewable energy programs and opportunities in one particular state and then worked as part of a regional team to design an initiative to attract a hypothetical pool of federal grants to their region. The result was series of state-specific reports and five comprehensive regional plans.   In addition to more traditional  lectures, the students had an opportunity to hear from and interview a number of high-level participants in the renewable energy policy debate.  These included Al Gore, Assistant Secretary of Energy and ARPA-E chief Arun Majumdar, a key state legislator, Congressional aides, corporate chief executives, and venture capitalists.

The course culminated with a trip to Washington D.C. where students presented their proposals to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.  Chairman Wellinghoff’s reaction was emblematic of the students’ overall reception.  He called their work perhaps the finest example of a comprehensive policy proposal in this area that he had ever seen, and encouraged the students to show their findings to key Senators such as Bingaman and Wyden. Secretary Chu engaged in a back-and-forth conversation with the students for an hour and a half.

I have to admit that this was way cooler than any of my own classes.  But it was a great experience for the students.

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Reader Comments

4 Replies to “Learning About Renewable Energy in Dialogue with Al Gore and Steve Chu”

  1. What do you think to Rio + 20 themes? According to a lot of people Rio 20 did not achieve anything except political grandstanding. No agreements, no way forward, and some key nations did not even turn up. Sure it creates a focal point for issues and gets awareness out there, and nations will proceed as they are, some championing these causes, some not. As far as I am aware a global consensus is non-existant. Can’t wait until the next one when they all sit down to talk about what needs to happen, and the next, and the next. I think the whole approach may be wrong. A and B should simply be combined to say a ‘Sustainable Global Economy’ and definitions around it should include a ‘transition’ to a renewable energy global economy and maintenence of ecosystem function at a level to sustain human survial and wellbeing. For those interested in seeking a career in sustainable development, renewable energy or environment jobs pay a visit to http://www.envirocruit.com a reliable and regularly updated source for finding green jobs across the globe from some of the leading employers around the world.

    1. These big international confabs are not appealing to me, but they are part of the machinery for reaffirming support and making incremental progress. I agree with you that it would be foolish to rely on international consensus to solve our problems. Much of the value of events like Rio+2 is the opportunity they give for NGOs, businesses, and others to network and collaborate — including, very importantly, the businesses that you reference in your comment.

  2. What do you think to Rio + 20 themes? According to a lot of people Rio 20 did not achieve anything except political grandstanding. No agreements, no way forward, and some key nations did not even turn up. Sure it creates a focal point for issues and gets awareness out there, and nations will proceed as they are, some championing these causes, some not. As far as I am aware a global consensus is non-existant. Can’t wait until the next one when they all sit down to talk about what needs to happen, and the next, and the next. I think the whole approach may be wrong. A and B should simply be combined to say a ‘Sustainable Global Economy’ and definitions around it should include a ‘transition’ to a renewable energy global economy and maintenence of ecosystem function at a level to sustain human survial and wellbeing. For those interested in seeking a career in sustainable development, renewable energy or environment jobs pay a visit to http://www.envirocruit.com a reliable and regularly updated source for finding green jobs across the globe from some of the leading employers around the world.

    1. These big international confabs are not appealing to me, but they are part of the machinery for reaffirming support and making incremental progress. I agree with you that it would be foolish to rely on international consensus to solve our problems. Much of the value of events like Rio+2 is the opportunity they give for NGOs, businesses, and others to network and collaborate — including, very importantly, the businesses that you reference in your comment.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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