During this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) interactive music and film festival in Austin, TX, an event was held to discuss Energy at the Movies. Hosted by Dr. Michael E. Webber of The University of Texas at Austin, this event focused on energy as it is portrayed in and influenced by the silver screen. After giving a lecture on this topic, Dr. Webber hosted a panel discussion with research scientist and author Sheril Kirshenbaum, film historian and UT film Professor Dr. Charles Ramirez-Berg, screenwriter and director Matthew Chapman, and producer Turk Pipkin. Yesterday, UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering released video of this discussion. If you’d like to check out the lecture that inspired this discussion, you can access the youtube video here.
On March 9, KLRU studios will host Dr. Michael E. Webber for his presentation on “Energy at the Movies.” This 90-minute lecture and panel discussion will explore energy in movies over the past 70 years and how the portrayal of energy on the big screen has influenced energy policy and the energy industry.
From the gushing geysers of Giant, to the plutonium-powered time machine of Back to the Future, Hollywood has entertained us with unforgettable, often iconic images of energy. Whether intentional or not, films frequently serve as a snapshot of society, capturing sentiments of each time period. Many films have themes or scenes that memorialize collective optimism, fears, and observations about energy. Using film clips as a historical road map, is an entertaining lecture that will enlighten audiences about the ways films influence how we think about energy, and in turn, how we influence energy policy.
Panel members will include:
- Sheril Kirshenbaum: co-author of Unscientific America
- Turk Pipkin: producer of Nobelity Project & One Peace at a Time
- Matthew Chapman: great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, screenwriter and director of such films as Runaway Jury and 2011′s The Ledge
- Charles Ramirez-Berg: film historian and distinguished UT Professor
Tickets are available for up to 250 participants and are expected to sell out quickly. The event will also be webcast live.
Check out my guest post today on Discover’s blog, The Intersection (blogging home to Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum). My post is about the Inaugural UT Energy Forum, hosted on UT’s campus earlier this month. I attended and spoke about the smart grid in a 7-minute TED-style talk.
In the United States, about 10% of the energy we consume is used for food production. Each year, we throw away about 27% of the food we produce. On the surface, this means that the energy that we throw away in food each year is the equivalent of the electricity (kWh’s) used in 24.4 million homes – and this value doesn’t include the energy we spend to move food around and preserve it until we are ready to eat.
One month ago today, in the 10/8/10 installment of Science Friday, Michael Webber (my advisor at the University of Texas) was interviewed about an article he wrote with Sheril Kirshenbaum for New Scientist about the energy we throw away with our food waste. This article discussed how enormous energy savings could be realized if we could reduce the amount of food that we throw away each year in the United States. A short excerpt from the article:
IT IS no secret that meeting the world’s growing energy demands will be difficult. So far, most of the focus has been on finding oil in areas that are ever more difficult to access – think BP’s Deepwater Horizon well – bringing new fossil fuels such as tar sands online and increasing energy efficiency.
Yet we have been overlooking an easier way. We could save an enormous amount of energy by tackling the huge problem of food waste. Doing so is likely to be quicker than many of the other options on the table, while also saving money and reducing emissions.
The energy footprint of food is enormous. Consider the US, where just 5 per cent of the global population consumes one-fifth of the world’s energy. Around 15 per cent of the energy used in the US is swallowed up by food production and distribution.
This article, and last month’s Science Friday interview with Dr. Webber, stem from work previously done with Amanda Cuellar – a former Webber Energy Group member who is now studying at MIT. Their work at the nexus of food and energy estimates the amount of energy that is wasted when we throw away food if we include not just the energy invested in food production, but also transportation and preservation. They found that, we throw away closer 2,030 trillion Btu’s of energy each year in food waste – or the equivalent of the electricity used in almost 50 million U.S. homes each year. Their findings were published by Environmental Science and Technology on July 21, 2010 in a paper titled “Wasted Food, Wasted Energy: The Embedded Energy in Food Waste in the United States” which is available here.
Check out David Wogan’s post (copied below) about the military going “lean, clean, and green” to save the lives of our troops.
First and foremost, energy reform is about the lives of our troops. For every 24 fuel convoys that go into Afghanistan, we lose one American, killed or wounded. That is too high a price to pay for energy.
We normally don’t think of the military as being lean, clean, and green, but seeing as it is the largest consumer of energy in the United States, and there are very real logistical concerns with relying on a dizzying array of fossil fuels, the military is in a perfect position to lead energy reform.
This quote caught my eye because my friend Sheril is off to talk with some military folks about science (and possibly climate change). I think if anyone needs to know about science and climate change, it’s our military.
The oil slick that has rolled onto the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama does not care about politics. It does not care that Congressmen in Washington are working on an energy and climate bill. It does not care about the press conferences or the evening news reel. The rate at which this slick grows is not impacted by politics – the tradeoffs don’t change because of a great speech by our President or BP officials. As one Boston.Com reader put it, we need to ”stop blaming the Republicans or the Democrats!…It’s time for ALL of us to care! Politics has nothing to do with this mess.”
Our oil consumption has tradeoffs and this oil slick is a perfect example of the risks we’ve accepted when we drive our cars, eat fruit driven to us from California, or buy water bottles made from petroleum-based plastics.. We drive our cars, which requires oil that comes from reserves in sensitive regions all over the world. Oil spills happen, even when we are careful. This time the disaster is something not just seen on the news, but felt by Americans. Maybe the silver lining in all of this is that our representatives in Washington will use the momentum created by this disaster (I would say catastrophe) to find intelligent technological and political solutions to our unsustainable energy economy.
Some incredible pictures of wildlife caught in the oil slick can be found here.