Student Scholars Reflect on the Vail Global Energy Forum (Part 1)

Note to our readers: This blog was written by Heidi Sorensen, one of three recipients of a student scholarship to the Vail Global Energy Forum sponsored by the Vail Centre. Heidi is pursuing her degree in sustainability at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. 

I arrived at the Vail Global Energy Forum in my freshly ironed slacks and button-down collared shirt excited, nervous and intimidated as heck. Industry, government, and academic leaders were all milling about Beaver Creek’s beautiful Vilar Performing Arts Center to gain perspective, connections, and insight into arguably the most pertinent subject we face today: energy. The agenda was stacked with renowned speakers and panelists set to discuss topics ranging from the natural gas industry to solar energy to plummeting oil prices. Eager to learn, the two other Vail Centre scholarship recipients and I filtered into the auditorium and took our seats.

How the world sees energy and the environment

In the hours and days that followed, I found myself gaining a better understanding for the economics, politics, and innovations involved in the energy industry today. There were numerous speakers that resonated with me, but my favorite was Michael Dimock, whose discussion was titled “Public Understanding of Science, Energy and the Environment.” He is the president of the Pew Research Institute, a nonpartisan fact tank that conducts research to provide clear-cut, unbiased information to the public. With clear charts and graphs, Dimock articulated the gross disproportions between carbon emissions and fear of climate change in developed versus developing nations. His research was concise and his presentation was excellent. I appreciated the thought-provoking connections and statistics so much that I subscribed to the Pew Institute’s weekly newsletter, which has been brilliant so far.

Another very interesting presentation was from Gitane de Silva, senior representative to the U.S. from the Canadian Government of Alberta, and Dr. Lourdes Melgar from the Ministry of Energy in Mexico. These female powerhouses spoke on the efforts their respective countries were making to accommodate the Paris Climate Agreement in limiting global warming and cutting carbon emissions. They both highlighted the frustration of policy implementation in their governments, and the struggle to take real action while setting realistic restrictions in terms of time and economics. In Canada, each province will have its own strategy, and in Mexico, more infrastructure is needed to enforce emission policies. However, both seemed hopeful that North American countries will come together and support each other in this overwhelming battle to stop climate change.

A view to the future

Another highlight of the forum was the student dinner on Saturday evening. I couldn’t believe the talent in that room. With mostly graduate students and a few government and industry leaders peppered in, it was an excellent networking opportunity that I was happy to be a part of. Needless to say, I gathered some business cards and email addresses to keep in touch with my new student connections.

Overall, I’m very pleased that I was able to participate in this prestigious event and am so thankful to the Vail Centre for granting me this opportunity. As an environmentalist, I was very emotionally invested in the topics the forum presented and I felt the discussions led to deeper understanding of the energy industry and the social, economic and political implications ingrained in it. Having said that, my one observation is that I did feel it was too heavily focused on natural gas; I would have liked to see more discussions on renewable alternatives and main emission sources. However, this event was undeniably well-organized and insightful, and I commend the sponsors and committees that helped make the Vail Global Energy Forum possible.

Thank you, Heidi, for sharing what you learned with us! Check back soon for more blog posts from our student scholars. 

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