Grad student wins renewable energy award

Victoria Pagan

A UT graduate student was awarded one of six scholarships that provide opportunities for students who show interest in the renewable energy and biofuels industry.

Julia O’Rourke, a public affairs and engineering graduate student, will attend the 2011 National Ethanol Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., from Feb. 20-22 because she received a scholarship from the Renewable Fuels Association.

“The conference is recognized as the premier gathering arena for delivering accurate, timely information on marketing, legislative and regulatory issues facing the ethanol industry,” said Taryn Morgan, spokeswoman for
the association.

O’Rourke is currently taking a policy research project course. As a group, her class is writing a paper that focuses on clean energy, O’Rourke said. Her part in the paper focuses on ethanol in the United States, which inspired her to apply for the scholarship.

“I’m hoping to learn more about the policies that are affecting the ethanol industry so I can contribute to my paper better,” O’Rourke said.

This is the second year the association has co-sponsored the scholarships with the Renewable Fuels Foundation as a way to expose students to job opportunities and what the industry has to offer, Morgan said.

The scholarship only covers the registration fee for the conference, O’Rourke said. Her policy research project course is helping pay for the travel expenses.

“We try to make up the difference so they can have a learning experience,” said David Eaton, assisting professor for the course. “These events have the most recent material and most recent information.”

O’Rourke said she hopes to see a forecast for the future of the ethanol industry. She wants to speak to officials such as Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

“Different programs that promote ethanol on the federal level are changing,” O’Rourke said. “I am hoping to ask him for his spin on the policies he thinks the ethanol industry needs to be able to promote itself and where he sees the industry going.”