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KU Energy Conference to address transportation, smart grids and fracking

Thursday, March 15, 2012
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LAWRENCE — From policies and practices, to consumption and controversy — an upcoming conference at the University of Kansas will provide a comprehensive overview of energy with the hope of showing the way to a brighter future.

The KU Energy Conference is set for 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 12 at the Oread Hotel, adjacent to the KU Lawrence campus. The KU Energy Club is hosting the event, which brings together experts on a broad range of energy topics to tackle issues that are the forefront locally as well as those that present challenges and opportunities on a global scale.

“The plan is to bring in people with different viewpoints on energy – whether it’s politics, academia or industry – and have them share ideas in the hopes of providing better understanding for students and others with an interest in energy,” said Matt Fowler, KU Energy Club treasurer and a junior in civil engineering.

Three keynote addresses are among the highlights of the conference. Daniel Sperling, author of “2 Billion Cars,” a book that details the global impacts of the proliferation of the automobile, will touch on transportation issues. Simran Sethi, a nationally renowned sustainability blogger and associate professor of journalism at KU, will speak about modern environmentalism and energy. KU alumnus Andres Carvallo, smart grid technology pioneer and chief executive officer of Proximetry, will focus on the integration of a wide variety of energy systems and the future of the power grid.

“We really hope to spark some great discussion. We also hope to expand the scope of the conference to more than just the engineering aspects of energy,” Fowler said. “We hope to involve any area on campus with ties to energy, like environmental studies, political science, business, economics and journalism.”

Another headlining event of the conference is a presentation on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of injecting highly pressurized fluid deep underground to release natural gas, petroleum and other substances embedded in rock formations. Representatives from Chesapeake Energy will offer their insights on the fracking process and the role it plays in the future of domestic energy development. Josh Fox – director of Gasland, a film about the effects of fracking that was nominated in 2010 for an Academy Award for best documentary feature – will join the conference via Skype to discuss his viewpoint on fracking.

“We want to show the facts,” Fowler said. “We want to make sure that people know that while there are problems with hydraulic fracturing – and there are consequences – there can be benefits and positive outcomes when it’s done the right way. We want people to get the viewpoints of both sides and make an informed decision.”

Fowler hopes that by the end of the conference, people will leave with a peace of mind knowing that the energy challenges of tomorrow are being addressed.

“I want people to walk out of there with the understanding that these issues are being dealt with and we can get through this energy crunch. It’s going to take time and investment, but we’ll keep advancing. We’re not destroying ourselves. We’re getting better,” Fowler said.

KU students can attend the conference for free. Tickets are $50 for non-students, and there is a limited amount of space. To register, visit here.


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