Student Scholar Notes Progressive Outlook for Energy Future (Part 2)

Note to our readers: This blog was written by Sloane Pagal, one of three recipients of a student scholarship to the Vail Global Energy Forum sponsored by the Vail Centre. Sloane is pursuing a Masters of Environmental Policy and Management at the University of Denver. 

As a recipient of a Vail Centre student scholarship for the 2016 Vail Global Energy Forum, I was thrilled at the opportunity to gain insight from leaders across all energy sectors. This was a chance for me to reflect on possible career paths and synthesize some of my coursework, especially regarding the topic of environmental economics, as speakers applied it to real-world examples.

As the Saturday morning sessions got underway, Michael Dimock, president of the Pew Research Center, set the tone for subsequent speakers and panelists, noting that partisan divisions regarding climate change are more pronounced in developed nations and not so disparate in developing countries. To me, this characterized the political gridlock we experience in a country like the United States, and explained to some extent why our powerful nation, until recently, took a relaxed stance on carbon emissions.


Peter Trelenberg, manager of environmental policy and planning for ExxonMobil Corporation, took the stage next. He discussed the efficiency gains in petroleum extraction that have increased production, giving US companies the chance to export oil for the first time in 40 years. He noted that one third of the world’s energy is expected to be provided by oil in 2040, but also that 40% of growth of global energy demand through that year is projected to be met by natural gas. Something else Mr. Trelenberg said that resonated with me was that there is no silver bullet solution, and instead advancements in technologies in each energy sector are necessary. Considering the complexity and scale of energy industries across the globe, I understand why he might think there is no blanket answer, but throughout the day, a number of other speakers alluded to a “holy-grail” solution described as a mix of solar and wind energy with an efficient storage system that could be controlled by software, which to me sounded like a conceivable option for the future.

Associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University and affiliate of the Precourt Center for Energy, Dr. Tom Jaramillo has been on the leading edge of research that will allow renewable sources to convert inputs to energy as efficiently and cleanly as possible. His discussion acknowledged the lag time between petroleum dependence and scaling renewable energy accordingly, and suggested that in the interim, natural gas could be the catalyst for the eventual shift.

Although my heart says we should be doing all that we can across sectors to advance the clean energy technologies and minimize our carbon footprint, it is my logic that brings me back to realize the myriad other issues that governments and organizations are working hard to address. It is my hope though that I may be a part of this multifaceted solution, and I remain positive that with aggressive research and development, innovation will lead to equitable solutions for people and the planet.

Sloane, thanks for sharing your insights and connecting them to your studies and career goals!  Stay tuned for more reports from the Vail Global Energy Forum. 

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment