Earth Week

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Friday, June 23, 2017


Eleanor Hook

This week has been one event after another. On Tuesday, Ranking Member Johnson hosted a climate change roundtable, which I thought was very successful. It was a long event, with two distinguished panels; the first was on scientific evidence and the second on policy implications of climate change. All of the panelists were brilliant and I was incredibly impressed, but I found the second panel to be particularly interesting since I'm in the middle of a policy internship! I was surprised at how much the panelists argued for carbon-neutral technologies from an economic and national security point of view, rather than a moral one. The speakers, which included the Honorable David O’Sullivan, EU Ambassador to the US, and Ms. Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, brought forth plenty of evidence that green technology is the direction the world is heading in and that it will be detrimental to our economy to fall behind.

On Wednesday, the environment subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Leading the Way: Examining Advances in Environmental Technology”, which focused on emerging technologies primarily in the private sector. Witnesses represented Saildrone, Inc. and Panasonic Avionics, as well as Oregon State University. They were all able to testify on the exciting work being done in the private sector, as well as the importance of continued federal funding to get new ideas off the ground.

Finally, yesterday I got to visit Riley at work and attend the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Department of Energy budget hearing. Rick Perry was there to testify, and it was clear that the committee was not generally in favor of the many cuts in the proposed budget. Senator King in particular did not hold back, complaining that it was the worst budget he’d ever seen! Likewise, Senator Franken compared Perry to the defense council for a convicted murderer, to general chuckles.

The hearing actually covered a broad range of topics though, not just the proposed cuts. Senator Cortez Masto, for example, was very concerned that Nevada would be forced to take nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain without the governor’s consent, and Senator Cantwell wanted to know Perry’s priorities as well as how he plans to ensure worker safety particularly regarding nuclear cleanup. Others, like Senator Daines, were excited about the possibilities of developing clean coal technologies and eventually tapping into the demand for energy exports.

I also hadn’t realized how much of a role cybersecurity plays in this department—a number of the senators brought up issues related to blackouts caused both by cyberattacks and lack of resources. Of course, in light of Russia’s cyberattacks on the grid in parts of Ukraine, it makes a lot of sense that this would be a major point of concern, but I just hadn’t thought about it before! Perry also stressed his plan to use a portfolio comprising a number of technologies, from coal to wind power, in order to ensure grid reliability.

Now Riley and I are working to finish putting our tour of Capitol Hill together. I can’t wait to show the other interns around next week! We have a lot of exciting stops planned, including a hearing on in-space propulsion and a technology expo. Should be fun!

Eleanor Hook