PROMOTING CLEAN POWER THROUGH EDUCATION
Renewable energy is becoming a hot topic in the news today. Whether it’s on television or on the internet, you might have heard of numerous countries jumping in on the cause. But what is “renewable” energy? What can it do for us? The idea of green energy may already be familiar to you , but a huge number of the people around us are still in the dark when it comes to clean power. This lack of information and education is what led to the founding of EESI. GineersNow had an exclusive interview with Laura Small, Policy Associate at EESI. GineersNow: Introduce yourself. How many years have you been working in your industry?
Laura Small, Policy Associate at EESI.
Laura Small: My name is Laura Small, and I run the energy and climate policy program at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). I’m originally from Palo Alto, California, home to Stanford University and part of Silicon Valley. Growing up in the Bay Area, I had access to fantastic backpacking, rafting and climbing areas, and my outdoor experiences cultivated a lifelong love and respect for the environment in me. I’ve been honored to work on energy and climate policy at EESI for the last three years.
EESI OVERVIEW GN: Are you an educational institution, social enterprise, non-profit or private company? Describe your company (structure, brief history, board or advisers) Laura: EESI is a nonprofit working to create an environmentally sustainable future. While we have a broad, national audience, we focus on providing Congress and the policymaker community with unbiased information on energy and environmental issues. EESI does not lobby, and is not partisan – instead we try to educate. EESI was founded over 30 years ago by a bipartisan Congressional Caucus, which saw a need for an independent organization to educate Congress on key energy and environmental issues. Currently, we have a staff of 11, including a team of seven policy staffers. Our offices are located in Washington, DC.
ISSUE NO.004 RENEWABLE ENERGY
EESI on CLEAN ENERGY GN: What is clean energy as defined by your organization? Laura: EESI defines clean energy as solar, wind, hydropower and other water power generation technologies, hydrogen fuel cells, biofuels and biomass, geothermal, as well as energy efficiency. Clean energy is important because our wellbeing depends on it. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon and methane in the atmosphere, which traps more heat, causing climate change. Climate change is already having devastating impacts throughout the world by increasing extreme weather (particularly droughts, forest fires, and powerful storms), and causing sea level rise and ocean acidification. Developing countries are most at risk from the adverse impacts of climate change, although we are seeing many impacts in the United States already. Fossil fuels also emit ozone (which forms smog), mercury, benzene, and other air toxics. These pollutants contribute to asthma, lung cancer, and other negative health impacts. Clean energy, meanwhile, releases minimal or zero emissions. Clean energy is locally produced, creating domestic jobs that can’t be outsourced as well as improving our national energy security. Moreover, bioenergy (renewable energy derived from organic wastes, purpose-grown crops, and algae) can replace fossil fuels to produce electricity, liquid fuels, heat and chemicals such as plastics. Finally, clean energy—with the exception of bioenergy—does not require the purchase of fuel or feedstock, protecting us from fuel price hikes. For example, during the 2014 “polar vortex” cold snap in the Northeast United States, natural gas and propane prices skyrocketed, while renewable prices remained constant.