Town Hall Meeting on Energy and Natural Resources
Three-panel discussion including an SF State lecturer, a policy analyst, and an energy specialist
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The SF State Chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) hosted a town hall meeting entitled, "The Politics of Energy and Natural Resources."

AID is a non-partisan organization that encourages dialogue and discussion of contemporary global issues,

The two-hour meeting, which took place on April 28 at 5 p.m., consisted of a three-person panel that discussed different, but interconnected topics, regarding global climate change, oil consumption and national and local legislative issues. Around 30 people attended the meeting in HSS 362 at SF State.

The first panelist, Glenn Fieldman, an environmental studies and international relations lecturer at SF State, outlined the major issues concerning global climate change and emphasized that America needs to take responsibility and change the excessive consumption of energy that has become the norm.

Despite America containing only five percent of the world’s population, the nation accounts for 25 percent of all global energy use.

According to Fieldman, the trend in America over the last 50 years has been that everything needs to be bigger and we need more of everything. The average American house has doubled in size since 1950. Cars and SUVs have become bigger and there are more cars per household that ever before, he added.

“The global middle and upper classes have become more luxurious and consume more all the time, while half of the world lives on less than two dollars a day and can’t access enough energy to keep lights on at night, or have a refrigerator,” Fieldman said.

Luke Tonachel, a policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, discussed the growing crises of America’s addiction to oil and its dependence on foreign oil supplies.

According to Tonachel, the United States gets half of its oil from overseas, a quarter of which comes from the Middle East. The Bush Administration came up with a plan to change this dependence on an area of the world where the United States has a soiled foreign relations record by buying oil from the “Alternative 8,” which include Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Angola, Nigeria, Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela, he noted.

Tonachel said that some of these countries present their own problems, such as instability and possible civil war in Nigeria, and blatant US hostility from the president of Venezuela.

“These countries do not have as many oil resources (as the Middle East) and we will go through it quickly,” Tonachel said. “Then we will have to go back to the Persian Gulf after refusing to buy their oil, and that probably won’t go over so well.”

The last panelist, Ann Kelly, a senior energy specialist at the San Francisco Department of the Environment, brought the issues a little closer to home by discussing what her department is doing to improve energy use in San Francisco and how they work with the utility companies in the city.

Issues that the department is currently focusing on include, toxics reduction, recycling, alternative energy sources such as solar panels, and clean air and transportation.

“The Department of Environment has a policy of sustainability and everything is connected,” Kelly said. “Part of our mission is to make people more aware of that connection.”

According to Kelly, the department has had some recent victories in improving the local environment. This June, the Hunters Point power plant will be closed, which will end the contamination and reduce harmful toxicity of that area, Kelly said.

She added that another success is that the city’s fleet includes 700 alternative fuel vehicles, which is the largest number in the nation.

“MUNI is 57 percent zero emissions and by 2020, they have pledged to be 100 percent. We’ll be there the whole time pushing them to reach their goal," said Kelly.

After the panelists spoke their piece, the floor was opened up to questions by the audience, which included a mix of students, teachers, environmental activists and community members.

“A lot of the information was like preaching to a choir, since most of us here are involved in these issues,” said Tom Ivy, a 22-year-old environmental studies major at UC Santa Cruz. “But the information is extremely important and everyone needs to know it.”

Karen Noll, a geography lecturer at the City College in San Francisco, said she learned things that could help her relate to her own students, such as what to tell them when they ask about all the conflicting research regarding global warming.

“I thought the three panelists presented a nice balance of the issues and kept the topics well connected,” Noll said. “There was a lot of information that I can take away from this.”

Ted Andersen, event coordinator, as well as a campus organizer and research coordinator for AID at SF State,
said that even if the politics of the discussion may have been a little left-leaning due to the political climate of the city, he feels it is important to have these open dialogues for people to discuss issues that affect everyone in the United States, as well as globally.

“It is important that AID stays non-partisan so we can facilitate discussions on really serious issues,” Andersen said.

According to Andersen, AID town hall meetings are always open to the community, but it is important to attract students since they are eager to learn about global issues and will be the people who will be able to incite change in the future.

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