Energy plays an undeniably important role in politics, but could it be the single most influential factor? Former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham explored this question at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College on Monday, Feb. 15. In his talk, titled “Global Energy Challenges and Opportunities,” he discussed the role of energy in Venezuela and the Middle East to elucidate the challenges and international pressures that play a role in local politics and other geopolitical issues.
Abraham argued that energy is not only at the center of global developmental problems but also the foremost solution to increase quality of life in developing regions. He described, for example, the way in which Russian leaders employ their abundant energy resources as a tool in international negotiations. He went on to suggest that we as a society should continue to use, produce, and export natural gas as a clean form of energy because of its potential to reduce carbon emissions by replacing petroleum.
He also advocated for the construction of more nuclear power plants, arguing that nuclear energy production is relatively safe and produces very little waste compared to other processes. He also stressed the need for increased efficiency and the development of new technologies.
“I thought his ideas were so great. He said that nuclear power plants currently produce 20 percent of all our energy consumed, and we must try to maintain or increase that in the future,” said Matt Dayton CM ’19, who attended the talk.
Abraham asked the audience to encourage funding for energy infrastructure. He asserted that, by incorporating new technologies into the modern grid system, we could produce less waste and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. He stressed that efficient technology should be shared internationally so that people everywhere can benefit from better, cheaper modes of consumption that reduce environmental damage in the long run.
Many in attendance were considering careers in the energy industry.
“I plan on joining a ‘clean’ industry and the key steps he shared today will really help me do so,” Will Cullen CM ’19 said.
Abraham encouraged students to be prepared to rise above defeat in order to eventually make large scale impacts in these roles. He also asked students to respect and embrace opposing viewpoints in order to move forward, because establishing relationships is important in the industry, a lesson he learned both as a U.S. Senator for the state of Michigan and as the former President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Energy.