Worldwatch Institute in DC

I’ve been working with the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Program for a little over a month, and I am sad to be over a third of the way finished with my internship. Worldwatch is an interdisciplinary environmental thinktank that focuses on building a sustainable society. I have been fortunate enough to provide research assistance in a number of the climate and energy program’s initiatives. The department is currently focusing strongly on a project to create low-carbon roadmaps for three Caribbean nations: the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica. I have been conducting background research on Jamaica’s energy system and policy and have been writing briefs that will be published on the website. Not only does this work have climate change mitigation benefits, but it also has important social benefits. Most Caribbean nations derive their electricity from expensive imported petroleum, which makes for high energy costs and require a significant portion of GDP.

In addition to the Caribbean work I’ve written content for their ReVolt Blog. I wrote one post on the competition between natural gas and renewable energy and one on the connections between climate change and recent forest fires. The climate and energy program mainly focuses on energy issues, but I suggested that they produce more climate related work to demonstrate the importance of why we are working to change our energy system. I drafted a piece on global oil market trends from the past two years to be published in their Vital Signs Trends, which required making a lot of excel graphs. I will also be helping my supervisor write a chapter in Worldwatch’s State of the World 2012 about Rio+20. The chapter focuses on climate mitigation policy instruments with other social benefits. This is representative of Worldwatch’s work, which functions to solve climate change while also addressing other economic and social problems. I will look into redistributive tax policies, the land tax, eco-tax, smart city planning, congestion pricing and others. I am also doing some work with Worldwatch’s Sustainable Energy and Natural Gas Initiative.

DC is a busy place. There are so many organizations and government bodies with constant events, and luckily Worldwatch encourages us to attend events, often for research purposes, but also for non-research purposes. I haven’t checked out anything for fun yet during work hours….I’ve attended several mainstream oil and gas events including two International Energy Agency (IEA) presentations on recent reports. It is incredibly interesting to listen to people discuss the importance of maintaining conventional energy supplies. As much as we work towards renewable energy this provided an important reminder that we are still living in a fossil fuel world, and there are many people who are working to maintain these energy supplies. I also attended an event on shale gas drilling in China at the Australian Embassy, which outlined the prospects for it but didn’t discuss the environmental concerns related with the fracking process. When asked about renewable energy the professor giving the talk argued that he thinks renewables are worthless, don’t work and are too expensive and require too many rare minerals. He said instead we should focus on coal with carbon capture and storage because it is most economic….This was relatively sad, but it was followed by lots of free food and a conversation with a climate denier, which is always fun, especially when I have the BCEP knowledge backing me up.

All in all, I am loving the experience. I am doing nearly 100% research work and will have a handful of published, some peer-reviewed, final products from the experience. On the fun side DC is an amazing, bike-friendly city filled with delicious food, cool places to visit and lots of smart, policy-minded folks! On the un-fun side it is very, very hot and muggy every single day. On the other fun side I beat Greenpeace in softball this week!

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