September 25, 2012
Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites (230 West 500 South)
Salt Lake City, Utah
"Public Response to Renewable Energy: Implications for Rural Development and Rural Policy in the Intermountain West"
"in the Good Times and the Bad: Shale Gas Development and the Local Economy"
"An Unquiet Landscape: The West's New Energy Frontier"
"Western Energy in a Global Society Era"
"Efforts of the Utah Biomass Resources Group to Diversify Energy Sources in Rural Utah"
"Exploring Energy Efficiency and Alternatives (E3A): Curriculum to guide Extension educator response to the emergence of renewable energy"
"Global Climate Change and Synthesizing the Methodological Innovations in and Challenges of Sociological Research on Climate Change Related Topics"
Throughout our nation’s history, fossil fuels were relatively inexpensive and seemed to be in infinite supply. Much has changed, and it is now apparent that fossil fuels are neither cheap nor infinite. Higher costs mean that energy expenditures now take a larger share of the family budget. This is especially true for rural residents who typically must travel longer distances to school, the grocery store, church, or the doctor’s office. Further, importing foreign oil results in the transfer of massive wealth from the United States to the major oil producing countries, many which use oil wealth to maintain non-democratic governments and suppress human rights. In addition, it is becoming increasingly apparent that fossil fuel use results in the emission of dangerous climate changing greenhouse gasses.
Because of these concerns, there are widespread endeavors in the United States to achieve the goal of energy independence and, at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Accomplishing these goals will require that we do things much differently than we have done in the past. In 2011, about 83.6 percent of the energy consumed in the United States was derived from fossil fuels (petroleum – 37.2 percent; natural gas – 25.5 percent; coal – 20.9 percent), much of which was imported. Nuclear power proved 8.4 percent of our energy, and only 8.0 percent was from renewable energy sources. Historically, the five major sources of renewable energy have been biomass, water, wind, geothermal, and solar. In 2011, 79.2 percent of the renewable energy produced in the United States came from biomass (38.4 percent) and water (mostly hydroelectric; 40.8 percent).
Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, in general, and foreign oil, in particular, will require a broad spectrum of changes; there is no “silver bullet.” One essential change is vastly improved conservation. In addition, it is imperative that renewable energy sources play a much greater role in the future than they play at the current time.
Any major changes in the energy industry will have significant implications for rural communities. Currently, fossil fuel production provides numerous well-paying jobs in rural communities. New technologies, such as ‘fracking’ are making possible the development of more resources and creating even more energy related jobs. At the same time, rural communities have the potential to reap major benefits by becoming producers of renewable energy. The sun and wind that are so pervasive in rural areas have the potential to be major economic assets. An advantage of the sun and wind, compared to fossil fuels, is these energy sources are truly infinite.
To better understand the socioeconomic concerns associated with renewable energy development for rural areas of the United States, a one-day conference will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, on September 25, 2012. This meeting is held in conjunction with the Western Extension Research Activity (WERA) 1005 project. We invite top experts from around the country to gather to discuss: