Seventh annual National Energy Conference brings climate issues into focus at WVU

By Autumn Long on December 15, 2018

West Virginia University College of Law’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development hosted its seventh annual National Energy Conference earlier this month. This year’s conference was co-presented by Friends of Blackwater and the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation, two West Virginia-based nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting the environment and promoting sustainable economic development. More than 200 people attended the event.

This year’s conference theme was “Climate Change Issues Update.” Six panel discussions took place throughout the day on topics ranging from climate change communication to methane emissions and solutions to the climate crisis like renewable energy and carbon pricing.  Speakers from universities across the mid-Atlantic discussed the importance of climate communication in the classroom and academy.

Atmospheric scientists, engineers, and legal experts discussed methane emissions and the possibilities for solutions such as carbon capture. Evan Hansen, President of Morgantown-based environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies, and I spoke about obstacles and opportunities for solar power in coal country, including incentivizing large-scale solar energy development on formerly mined lands, and the benefits of power purchase agreements for our state’s economy and communities.

The event’s keynote speaker was Emily Calandrelli, a WVU alumna and Emmy-nominated science TV host and executive producer and host of the FOX program Xploration Outer Space. She emphasized the importance of finding the right message and messengers to share information about climate change. Welcoming and closing remarks were made by Rafe Pomerance, who chairs a network of conservation groups known as Arctic 21 and was President Bill Clinton’s deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and development. Pomerance emphasized the potential economic benefits of addressing climate change: by reducing the national debt through institution of a carbon tax, by spurring technological innovation and research, and by encouraging investment in renewable energy resources.