From hybrid cars to wind turbines, U.N. Foundation President Timothy Wirth explored ways to improve the relationship between energy policy and the environment in a speech Thursday afternoon at the Law School.
The lecture — attended by approximately 150 people and sponsored by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies — examined the convergence of America’s energy, environmental and foreign policies. Wirth heads the U.N. Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports issues such as biodiversity, international development, good governance, women’s rights and other environmental issues.
Wirth began by addressing what he thinks are the three major flaws in current energy policy: oil dependency, the risk to the environment from climate change and the lack of access of the world’s poor to energy and basic needs.
“First, America should address its dependence on oil by cutting U.S. oil consumption by a third, setting an example for the rest of the world and breaking the grip of the global oil cartel,” Worth said. He then said America should significantly cut its carbon emissions to slow further climate change and should help Third World countries with energy policy.
“The United States should develop, deploy and disseminate clean energy technologies and institute trade policies that can increase the access of poor people around the world to modern energy services and agricultural products,” Wirth said. “Such moves will improve the lives of billions of people.”
Wirth also described the new coalition he helped found to deal with these issues. Known as the Energy Future Coalition, it brings together business, labor and environmental groups and represents a broad political coalition of public and private partnerships.
In order to deal with the three broad problems with U.S. energy policy, Wirth said the coalition had chosen to target six specific issues. He said the issues are developing more advanced vehicle types like hybrid cars; improving fuels used in American transportation systems; transforming coal into an environmentally friendly fuel source; creating a newer and more efficient power grid for the US; utilizing wind energy as a power source and focusing more on international development.
He also stressed the imperative need for a change in U.S. energy policy.
“There is an urgency to all of this,” Wirth said. “There is urgency as we think of our current global responsibilities. The urgency has to be part of what we think and what we do.”
Many students seemed to react positively to what Wirth had to say.
“I think he’s right on target in linking energy policy with national security and realizing that the Bush administration is not doing what it should,” Liz Jordan ’06 said. “I think he’s a good speaker and his group has a lot of good ideas.”
Gustaeve Speth, dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, said he was pleased with the attendance.
“I’m glad there was such a good turnout,” said Speth. “Like [Wirth] said, the issue really begins at home. Yale needs to take a good look at its energy policy, and I think Rick Levin is committed to doing that.”
Some audience members emphasized the importance of Wirth’s policy suggestions.
“He’s starting to talk about the environment and the economy together — growth with the environment, not the environment versus development,” said Elizabeth Martin FES ’04. “The fact that now we can see developing countries improve their economies using these new environmental technologies is very important.”
Wirth has represented the state of Colorado in both the U.S. House and Senate and was the undersecretary of state for global affairs under Clinton.