Students will have a new way to engage with energy experts after the UT Energy Symposium kicked off with a talk Thursday on the ways energy consumption has changed society.
The symposium, a new guest speaker series on energy issues hosted by the UT Energy Institute, featured Carey King, a research associate at the Jackson School of Geosciences and research fellow at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, as its first guest lecturer. King discussed energy’s effects on the economy, society, environment and public policy.
“As time goes on, energy uses change,” King said. “Before the era of fossil fuels, basically, you spent all of your time farming. Then, instead of horses and buggies, we had tractors and combines. Energy consumption for food production dropped to three hours a day. So what do we do then? Well, you might spend that time and energy in school listening to a lecture.”
King said energy is more than just a field devoted to scientists because fuel, whether in the form of a sandwich providing nutrition or gasoline powering a car, is consumed by all human beings. The symposium will present information not generally available to undergraduates at a level they can understand, King said.
Students registered for the symposium will receive a one-hour credit for taking part in the lectures if they have received clearance from their academic departments, but public affairs graduate student Kristen Lee said she had other reasons to register.
“I’m really interested in natural resources and environmental policy, and energy is a big part of that,” Lee said.
After King’s lecture, Lee said she is more excited about upcoming speakers.
“I really enjoyed it,” Lee said. “I thought he was really eloquent. I’m really looking forward to the variety of speakers.”
Spokesman Gary Rasp said the Energy Institute decided to create the 15-week lecture series in an effort to offer the student body greater access to energy experts and increase undergraduates’ participation after receiving feedback that indicated a niche for the series existed.
“We had learned from interacting with students and faculty that there was a real hunger on campus for an energy-related speaker’s program,” Rasp said. “Once we gauged that appetite, we thought it would be very beneficial to our student body.”
The Institute selected Varun Rai, an associate professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, to direct the symposium. Rai teaches a course on the political economy of global energy and advanced policy economics. He said he originally envisioned the symposium as an interconnected network of students and professors holding a dialogue with top energy experts. Rai said that while many undergraduates showed interest, there was little interaction between experts in different disciplines that addressed the broad scope of energy related industries, technologies and policy.
“The biggest challenge is to allow undergraduates to hear from the best of the best to explore work and research,” Rai said. “We wanted to bring everyone together, so students would hear from the best.”
Printed on September 2, 2011 as: Symposium educates on energy issues.