Written by: Ben Wiley, Sophomore at Davidson College
In conjunction with nearby DNC events, my school, Davidson College, yesterday hosted a panel discussion on energy with some big names: Vincent Davis from Duke Energy, Eric Spiegel, CEO of Siemens Corporation, Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, and Graham Bullock, a political science and environmental studies professor at my college. The discussion was moderated by Eric Roston, sustainability editor for Bloomberg.com, and took place in a makeshift, on-stage "living room" complete with couches, a table, and a lamp. Interestingly, much of the discussion mirrored the purported living space: attractive, comfortable, and perhaps not entirely genuine.
Most of what happened over the 90-minute discussion and Q&A session was quite unsurprising. All parties involved noted the necessity to become more sustainable and make short-term sacrifices to serve future generations. It was clear that everyone sitting on couches that day wanted to be seen as sustainable. And as they braved people's tough questions, we also saw that they were trying! Siemens's Eric Spiegel spoke of initiatives to create greener transportation and to push young people to make progress in sustainability through science competitions. Duke Energy's Vincent Davis mentioned the collaborative Envision Charlotte program which pushes Charlotte to further sustainability, and he also mentioned that Duke is urging consumers to make moves on their own end to improve efficiency and do less harm to the environment. However, he seemed simply unable to answer my question (minute 46) about Duke's continued funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which pushes through state legislatures bills exactly counter to the sustainable goals Duke claims to have. And we all saw what Duke's actually energy progress by 2030 will look like when an audience member supplied a pie chart which Mr. Roston graciously held up for everyone: A small decline in coal usage, a massive increase in nuclear, and a marginal, insignificant increase in renewables. As multiple people pointed out, we're not actualy sure what the word "sustainability" means anymore.
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