Experts Connect in Aspen to Explore Our Energy Future

Big issues. Big experts. Big ideas. From start to finish, the Energy Revolution track at the Aspen Ideas Festival will offer a wide range of perspectives, insights, and inspiration for our energy future.


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If you're interested in the future of energy and everything it entails, then the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival should be on your radar.

Presented by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic and now in its ninth year, the Festival is unique in its dedication to dialogue and exchange. This year's Energy Revolution track will explore remarkable advances in technology and probe the science, politics, and economics how we'll power tomorrow.

This blog will provide focused coverage of the Energy Revolution track, which kicks off on Thursday, June 27.

Big Issues
The Energy Revolution track promises to confront some big issues head-on, as exemplified by several sessions that are titled with central questions related to our energy future.

For instance, "What Is the Right Energy Mix?" will explore whether it is economically viable for the U.S. to achieve the twin goals of energy independence and greater reliance on clean technology in the near future.

"Can the United States Reconcile Its Need for Homegrown Energy With the Environment?" will bring together Tom Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, and Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, to share their perspectives on this fundamental question.

Climate change is the biggest issue in debates and decisions about our energy future, and will no doubt be part of every conversation in the Energy Revolution track, culminating with the track's final session, "Fear and Hope: Climate Change and Policy Solutions." This plenary session will feature Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC, in conversation with James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic.

Big Experts
As the names above--Fanning, Beinecke, Harvey, Fallows--indicate. one of the most appealing aspects of the Festival is that it gives attendees the chance to hear from experts who represent a wide range of perspectives.

Another one of those experts is Michael Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of the CFR Program on Energy Security and Climate Change.

In addition to taking part in a Friday panel discussion, Levi will offer a Sunday morning breakfast talk about his recently published book, The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future--a must-read for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of our current energy landscape.

Many of the panelists and speakers also draw on cross-sector experience. Some have transitioned from public service to business, such as Kristina M. Johnson, founder and CEO of Enduring Hydro and former undersecretary of energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, who will take part in three panel discussions.

Panelist Jay F. Whitacre bridges the worlds of business and academe, as CTO of Aquion Energy and assistant professor of engineering and public policy/materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Then there's Mick Sawka, director of business development at Harvard University. Sawka works with faculty to launch start-ups and develop and license technologies in the areas of biochemicals, energy, electronics, and tissue engineering.

Andrew Revkin, author of the Dot Earth blog for The New York Times, will moderate several sessions. In addition to being a well-known journalist, Revkin is a senior fellow for environmental understanding at Pace University's Academy for Applied Environmental Studies.

These are just some of the impressive energy experts who will be at the Festival. For a full list of speakers and topics, check out the agenda for the Energy Revolution track.

Big Ideas
In addition to offering probing cross-sector discussions about the challenges we are up against, the energy track also promises to offer real-world examples of emerging solutions and hope for the future.

For instance, on Thursday afternoon, "Inventing the Future" will offer an entrepreneurial angle on our energy future. This session will include Atul Kapadia, CEO and chairman of Envia Systems, which is working to lower battery costs for automakers, and Tom Schuler, president and CEO of Solidia Technologies, which has developed and is now commercializing a process for manufacturing sustainable concrete.

On Friday, "Knowledge Exchange: Powering Tomorrow" will focus on renewable energy solutions, up-and-coming technologies, barriers to adoption, and alternative energy success stories.

Saturday offers a tutorial session, featuring scenarios designed to help attendees visualize two very different energy futures. Andrew Revkin will be joined by Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil Company, and Jeremy Bentham, head of Shell's Scenarios Team, in a presentation of two scenarios developed to explore how economic, political, and social forces will shape the global energy system and environment over the 21st century.

The final energy session (Hal Harvey and James Fallows) will explore the potential of fast-growing technologies that may allow us to reverse CO2 emissions trends.

Big issues. Big experts. Big ideas. From start to finish, the Energy Revolution track will offer plenty of food for thought, with insights and perspectives from a wide range of experts.

Follow @AIF2013energy on Twitter for real-time coverage of all the energy sessions, and join us here as we report live from the Aspen Ideas Festival and share ideas, insights, and inspiration for our energy future.

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