Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Carbonated Conversations

Just back from a somewhat steamy Columbus, Ohio, and the McCormick Energy Solutions Conference.

It was a jam-packed three days on the future of energy with a constant background glow thanks to global warming. The panelists were by and large true believers and basically activists for the kill-carbon-before-it-kills-us point of view. Most were more temperate than Joe Romm of the Center for American Progress and blog author, but who isn't?

Anyway, it was thought provoking, even with a grain of salt or two. The shift in scientific thinking puts all the blame for excess carbon on human activity, and that makes more and more sense as the data comes in. But one word of caution from former astronaut, and role model for skyward-looking kids of a certain graying age, John Glenn. He said he still has scientist friends passing on the idea that the jury isn't totally out on whether global warming is part of nature's cycles. And that raises the questions of who or what's spewing the carbon dioxide many blame as the leader of the Greenhouse Gas Gang.

But then he came back with this: "If we screw it up, there's no going back...No matter what's happening in the cycles, we have to clean up the environment."
He described Earth's atmosphere as a "thin film" rather than the chunk of air in school textbooks, painting an image of something fragile and at risk.

What a guy. He and his wife since 1943 are still vital and involved and were then off to a national climate something or other.

I'll be writing here and in the Globe-News in a hopefully more coherent way about what's happening here on the High Plains in relation to the topics the experts discussed at the conference. The common thread was the quickest, easiest ways to reduce carbon are conservation and efficiency.

On that topic, a smarter grid is one way experts propose to burn less fuels that release carbon. I'm working on an update on efforts to make our stupid grid smarter here at home for my first story. The next one may be a look at how school districts are faring on the 2007 mandate to reduce energy consumption 5 percent per year.

By the way, the hospitality on the Ohio State University campus was fantastic, although I was dragging a bit from the pace by the time I got home at midnight last night. The organizers of the McCormick Energy Solutions Conference and especially the staff of the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs know their stuff.

And it was a little eerie looking out my hotel window on the Woody Hayes Boulevard towards the solid, gray memorial to his legacy, the holy stadium where he did his thing that is even lit at night.

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