Energy issues pave ways to solutions

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Texas can seem contradictory when it comes it energy conservation — although the state produces the sixth highest amount of wind energy in the world, it also produces the seventh highest amount of carbon dioxide, said a UT geologist. To address the challenges of a constantly evolving energy field, a group of students invited researchers, businessmen and policy-makers to the first UT Energy Forum. The forum, which started Thursday, will continue through Friday. Several of the panels focused on how society should evolve from using petroleum and coal to using nuclear and renewable energy sources. Keynote speaker Michael Webber, the associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, said Texas will play a key role in the switch to renewable energy because of its increasing involvement in solar energy. He said although Texas is the United States’ largest consumer and producer of oil, gas and electricity, it also manufactures a large amount of solar and wind power. “We are part of the problem and the solution,” Webber said. Many panelists agreed that there is an increasing need for renewable energy, specifically water, wind and solar. “Texas will do for solar energy this decade what we did for wind last decade,” Webber said. Webber said Texans need to start emphasizing energy efficiency and conservation. If everyone was to use energy at the rate Texas uses energy, the nation could run out of energy up to 10 times faster. “We need to have thoughtful design of our system and a society with a desire to conserve, these two things go hand in hand,” he said. “I’m optimistic. Energy will get smarter. Energy is going to get cleaner. Renewable energy will keep dropping in price.” Scott Tinker, the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the Jackson School of Geosciences, said the United States could face several challenges while converting to renewable energy. “[Wind turbines are] not a steady source of electricity,” Tinker said. “When the wind stops blowing, you have to support that electricity very quickly.” Tad Patzek, UT’s Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering chairman, said the weather — specifically the current freezing temperatures — plays an important role in energy consumption. He said Texans use more than 60,000 megawatts of electricity to power homes and businesses for one day. “That’s an astronomical quantity of electricity,” Patzek said. Patzek is a proponent of renewable energy, but said it was important to note that there is no such thing as clean energy. “All energy by its nature has to cause some damage somewhere. Although wind and solar power are definitely cleaner,” Patzek said.