Feb 17, 2012

Reflections on Western Washington University's Clean Energy Forum


Our forum varied in one key way from most of the other F2A events. While no one will say that energy innovations are bad, they do cause some externalities that many may not initially consider. 
SSA Marine, the largest port operator in the world, has proposed the construction of what would be the largest coal export terminal in North America at Cherry Point, a location just north of our community. But why? Domestic use of coal is declining in the United States. Natural gas is quickly becoming much cheaper, and burning CO2 much more expensive due to emissions standards. However, despite being the largest producer of coal in world, Asia doesn’t have enough. And they are willing to pay a hefty sum to get more. 
A sum that’s enough to prompt Peabody Coal to mine 48 million tons of coal from the Powder River Basin, transport it a few thousand miles to Cherry Point, and export it to China. Our forum focused on the impacts of the Cherry Point terminal on our community. However, the overarching issue is that energy innovations have driven down prices of renewable energy, which coupled with increasing regulation of non-renewables, is forcing the U.S. to export its dirtiest forms of energy. This trend will only increase in decades to come.
The U.S. needs to not only focus on implementing and encouraging energy innovation, but also focus on creating clear policy that dictates not only our preference for renewables at home, but abroad as well. If we’re not part of the global solution, we’re part of the global problem.
Our forum received a great deal of positive feedback, as well as interest in our action plan. Many of our attendees were unfortunately not those new to the issues surrounding the proposed terminal, but those already well aware. To increase the diversity of voices in the room, we will be hosting a concert next month aimed at attracting those students who are not familiar with the terminal. 
If I take one thing away from this experience it’s the knowledge that students and youth have the power and ability to bring their ideas to fruition. It just takes a little ambition, passion, and determination. 

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