Power Lingo: Energy Buzzwords at the Aspen Ideas Festival

Festival panelists introduced a handful of key terms that are worth adding to our shared energy vocabulary. These are the buzzwords you need to know to join today's energy conversation. It's your turn to speak up.

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Conversation forms the backbone of the Aspen Ideas Festival--an exchange of opinions and experiences that happens both on stage and off as attendees from a broad spectrum of backgrounds mix and mingle over the course of seven jam-packed days.

The Energy Revolution track at the Festival helped attendees better understand the transformative trends and hot-button issues driving the national conversation on America's energy future. Across eight distinct sessions, expert panelists discussed weighty questions like, "What's the right mix of energy sources?", "How will we finance tomorrow's energy innovations?", "What role should policy play in transforming our energy economy?", and "How can we meet the energy demands of future generations while combatting the effects of climate change?"

In the process, these panelists introduced a handful of key terms that are worth adding to our shared energy vocabulary. These are the buzzwords you need to know to join today's energy conversation. It's your turn to speak up.
 
Five Essential Acronyms
If you follow energy and climate news even casually, you're probably familiar with oft-used acronyms like GHG (Greenhouse Gases) and CAFE standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy).
 
Here are five more acronyms that seemed to be on the tongues of energy experts throughout the Festival. You may not be familiar with them yet, but they're soon likely to become part of our national parlance:
 
LNG - Liquid Natural Gas
CNG - Compressed Natural Gas
NGL - Natural Gas Liquids (ethane, propane, butane, and sulfur, which are derivatives of natural gas, extracted during gas refining)
CCS - Carbon Capture and Sequestration (learn more from the International Energy Administration)
EOR - Enhanced Oil Recovery (learn more from the Department of Energy)
 
Do You Know About the Nexus?
When moderator Andrew Revkin asked panelist Lee McIntire, CEO of CH2M Hill, what keeps him up at night, McIntire invoked the food-water-energy nexus.
 
This refers to the projection that the global need for all three will increase by 30-40 percent or more by 2030, and that food, water, and energy are all interdependent. As McIntire did, some people also add a fourth factor to nexus thinking: climate change.
 
Shell's Jeremy Bentham also invoked the nexus while talking about future energy scenarios, and during the Q&A, an audience member commented that he hadn't heard of the nexus before, but that it was an incredibly useful concept. Here's a helpful overview of the food, water, energy nexus from The Guardian.
 
Redefining Energy Independence
At the Festival's first energy session, Jim Rogers, chairman, president, and CEO of Duke Energy, made a point of defining energy independence, saying that all it really means is that we produce as much energy as we consume. Most often, this idea is used to refer to oil, and harks back to the energy crisis of the early 1970s.
 
At a discussion of his book The Power Surge, Michael Levi explained that the phrase "Energy Independence" is easy shorthand used by journalists and others to describe the situation where we produce as much energy as we consume. The broader implication of energy independence is that we would also be free of threats or risks that come with being dependent on other countries for oil or gas.
 
But as Levi stressed, and several other panelists also pointed out over the course of the energy track, producing as much as we consume is not equivalent to being truly independent. The global energy economy is much too complicated for that. One suggestion was that we switch to the less loaded phrase "energy self-sufficiency" as a more accurate description of the position the U.S. may be able to achieve.
 
Meet NIMBY's Cousin: BANANA
At a session about Shell's energy scenarios, Andrew Revkin invoked BANANA, which is similar to NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) but even more sweeping. BANANA stands for "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything."
 
The acronym got a chuckle from the audience, but also points to a strong resistance in the U.S. to new energy production facilities and infrastructure anywhere near anything - whether it's oil, natural gas, hydropower or wind power. (As Shell's Jeremy Bentham noted, solar is probably the only form of energy that doesn't face organized opposition somewhere around the).
 
The positive impact of NIMBY and BANANA attitudes may be that more citizens will get directly involved in conversations and advocacy related to energy and the environment. Frances Beinecke, president of the NRDC, said that increased domestic energy production is making energy a personal issue for many people (along with the visible effects of climate change) and that makes them more likely to take action.


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