SXSW Eco lends opportunity to engage in conversation about America's energy future

You hear the phrase SXSW and you may think music and film fest. What many don’t know is that the world acclaimed music festival has now grown include an environmental component. I am very excited to be presenting at the inaugural SXSW Eco next week as part of a dynamic panel of speakers on the future of energy.

Where does our energy come from? Is our energy production aiding national security? Are there roles we can play in developing a smart energy future? Important questions like these will be posed as part of the discussions over the course of three days. I’m planning to address how the tremendous renewable energy resources found on our public lands can play a major role in making our energy economy greener and more secure.

Some suggest that we must choose between clean power and our natural heritage, but we know that is not the case. As we’ve said before, we can avoid this false choice if we learn from our past. The smart path to a sustainable energy future means moving from a scattershot approach of project-by-project permitting to clear policies that guide companies to the right places, with early public engagement and consistent environmental review.

At SXSW Eco I will be speaking alongside nationally recognized experts on key issues related to a national transition to renewable energy. Karl Rabago of Austin Energy will bring his expertise on integrating clean energy resources like distributed solar and smart grid technologies. Andrew Stern from Action for Clean Energy will discuss his work help citizens and communities get green with clean, renewable energy and energy conservation. Dr. Scott Tinker, Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, will discuss the changing role of fossil fuels and John Thompson of the Clean Air Task Force will round us out with his thoughts on carbon sequestration.

Addressing how we will balance the energy scales with supply- and demand- side options and issues on a local, regional, and national scale is a critically important topic. This problem is very hard, made more difficult by a decade-long absence of a national energy policy. We must work with experts in all fields hand in hand and examine not only future solutions of continuing oil and natural gas usage, but also unforeseen consequences from transitioning into using other energy sources. Along with partners in the Western Clean Energy Advocates coalition, we put a blueprint forward just last month offering a clear path to greater energy security for the West.

Ensuring we transition from current over-reliance on oil and gas infrastructures to a more resilient energy system is as important for our wild lands and our climate as it is for our pocketbooks.  We know we can put Americans to work today building the energy projects of tomorrow, but only with a bold commitment from public and private leaders. The Wilderness Society will continue to push for the development of better energy policies and practices, and we will continue to ask for your help. There is still time to join the conversation happening at SXSW Eco in Austin. We urge you to join us there.