Speaking Up on Energy and the Environment

Selected engagements with Peter Fairley:

France 24 Energy in 2013 DebateFrance 24‘s English network dedicated one of its year-end debates to Energy in 2013. Part One focused on the what, why and why nots of fracking to produce shale gas and shale oil. Part Two backed out to consider the fate of nuclear and renewable energy in a ‘fracked’ world awash in cheap oil and gas. I was honored to be at the table with:

Rajendra SHENDE, TERRE Policy Center and Former UNEP Director
Agnès MICHEL, Economic policy advisor for the French Green Party
Jean-Louis SCHILANSKY, President of the French Union of Petroleum Industries

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The World – a coproduction of the BBC, Public Radio International and WGBH/Boston – called me up in early 2012 for local perspective on a controversial Canadian oil pipeline designed to export crude from the Alberta tarsands. Not the Keystone XL project that was causing trouble for President Obama, but another proposed pipeline that would pump crude through a remote wilderness area to an isolated stretch of coast in British Columbia. One exchange from the broadcast that captures the mood:

Anchor Marco Werman: What is the big picture here? Are the Canadian oil industry and the Canadian government partnered on getting Alberta oil to anywhere in the world?

Fairley: They absolutely are partnered. The Harper Conservative government has made exporting oil sands products a priority for the government. They see this as one of Canada’s big economic opportunities, and they want it to continue. The pipeline to the west coast has a strategic advantage over something like Keystone in that right now, all of Canada’s oil essentially goes to the U.S. via pipelines, and that means that we’re captive to U.S. buyers. By putting a pipeline out to the west coast, Canadian oil producers would be in a position to play Asian buyers off of American buyers.

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Capture3 from PITT videoIn the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the subsequent shutdown of reactors elsewhere left Japan with a serious power supply gap. One month after the earthquake the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering invited me for a seminar on Japan’s bifurcated power grid and options for alleviating the transmission bottleneck hampering economic recovery – a story I had just reported for IEEE Spectrum magazine. My co-panelists were:

Professor Greg Reed, Director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Power & Energy Initiative
Dan Sullivan, Principal Engineer for equipment supplier Mitsubishi Electric Power Products

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