Graduation year: 2022
Semester/year area of interest proposed: Spring 2020
Major status: ENVS single major
Other major (if applicable):
Minor(s) (if applicable):
Access to energy is at the forefront of global issues today. Our current use of energy relies mostly on fossil fuels because they are cheap and easier to access. However, fossil fuel energy can produce carbon emissions that can contribute to climate change. This has driven a general increase in widespread support for renewable energy production which, in theory, could provide energy for everyone without contributing to problems such as high carbon emissions or pollution (Leiserowitz et al, 2019). However, renewable energy still faces many challenges for mainstream implementation. Among these conflicts are issues surrounding public perception, effects on ecosystems, and technological feasibility.
Despite the apparent support for renewable energy systems such as wind energy, oftentimes implementation of these infrastructures encounters local opposition. This idea that individuals don’t support renewable energy measures in their own community seems to contradict the general support for renewables (Bell, 2013). There are a number of concerns that opponents have voiced in literature about renewable energy projects, including feelings of disempowerment, sacrifice in local values, and lack of trust in the government (Barry, 2008). These themes suggest there is more nuance to the opposition perspective and should be considered in discussions about conflict resolution. Public perception is a large factor that can either help renewable energy policies get implemented or not. The public’s image of renewable energy that they envision helps shape their attitudes towards energy policies. As such, it’s also important to understand what has the potential to influence the public’s image of renewable energy. A large contributor to public acceptance of renewables is the media as their reporting on the technology is largely influenced by the way they frame the information (Nuortimo, 2018). Media framing should be considered carefully when analyzing public perception because how people receive information is largely based on how a message is conveyed to them (D’Angelo, 2017).
Another conflict to consider is the effect renewable energy has on ecosystems. Despite their intended goal of providing energy without undesirable traits such as producing carbon emissions, renewable energy still has some undesirable traits. Some forms of renewable energy such as wind, solar, and hydropower require large amounts of land which can lead to displacement of humans and animal species (Evans 2009). Removing species from their natural habitats will disrupt local ecosystems as predators and prey will be less likely to survive in areas they are not suited to. Energy systems can also have more direct impacts on ecosystems, such as bird collisions with wind turbines and solar panels’ polarizing lights confusing insects into laying eggs on the panels, affecting reproduction chances (Gasparatos et al, 2017). Developing mitigation strategies, such as research of proposed energy sites prior to installation and proper management of waste, will be important to ensuring that different ecosystems can survive the changes renewable energy sites will bring.
While renewable energy technology as a concept is a promising replacement for fossil fuels, we must still acknowledge that the technology in its current form is still in development. Understanding a technology’s limits can help us figure out ways to improve the technology and push those limits forward. The most significant issues with renewable energy technology today is poor energy storage and poor transmission efficiencies (Dresselhaus 2001). If these technologies are not capable of long-term storage of electricity or converting alternative sources of energy into electricity in an efficient manner, then they will not be viable energy solutions. Research into cheap performance enhancing materials will be necessary to improve these flaws.
Tackling the conflicts surrounding renewable energy requires investigating many different disciplines, such as public perception and economics, as well as relevant stakeholders like local citizens and species in an ecosystem. Once we understand these different challenges renewable energy faces, we can begin to understand the opportunities we have to resolve these conflicts. This is necessary to determine what a viable renewable energy source will look like on a local scale. For renewable energy to be an energy substitute for fossil fuel energy, it will have to be implemented in a way that considers all of the different conflicts and addresses everyone’s energy needs. Then we can provide energy security on a more global scale.
- What are some of the conflicts surrounding local communities that challenge the transition to renewable energy?
- How do technological limits and public image influence renewable energy production?
- How do factors such as media framing and public perception inform local communities about conflicts over renewable energy?
- How might construction of new renewable energy infrastructure benefit or harm stakeholders such as local residents, government, renewable energy industry, and climate activists?
- What rhetorical strategies can local communities employ to reach a conflict resolution with the opposing narratives on renewable energy?
- GEO 170 (Climate Science) Fall 2021. This class can give me the background I need to understand the issues with greenhouse gas emissions caused by non-renewable energy
- RHMS 100 (Introduction to Rhetoric and Media Studies) Fall 2019. This class provides and introduction to the conceptual and philosophical foundations of rhetoric. In particular, it provides an introduction to how humans negotiate meaning in different contexts. It also helps explain what narratives are and how values are important to them.
- EINV 260 (Sustainability and Entrepreneurship) Fall 2021. This class helps to introduce the efforts to address environmental, economic, and social concerns of the 21st century. Specifically, it could help me learn about innovative ways to the market can help deal with environmental problems. Since my Area of Interest contains an economic interest, it will be important to know who will be supplying the goods and services and who they are supplying it to.
- IA 257 (Global Resource Dilemma) Spring 2022. This class will help me learn more about resource management and global energy problems.
Here are the required breadth courses I will include in my ENVS major/minor: CHEM 100, GEOL 150, ECON 260, IA 340, HIST 261, PHIL 215. These are in addition to my ENVS core courses, and the area of interest courses I propose above.
Feedback to date
- 3/27/20- I made major changes to my initial paragraphs to better reflect a summary rather than a research project by broadening my focus.
- Jessica Kleiss 4/7/20
- advised that I either cut or reword fluff sections to be more precise.
- suggested spelling out vague phrases and make relevant stakeholders clear in some sections
- suggested changes to questions to better characterize stakeholders
- recommended finding more economic resources
- 4/7/20- I cleaned up some fluff sections and reworded some sentences for clarification.
- 4/14/20- I shortened some more fluff sections and I rephrased a sentence so that I included humans as a relevant stakeholder
- 4/15/20- I spelled out certain sections that were unclear before and included more relevant stakeholders. I rephrased a sentence that incorrectly used biodiversity so that it instead explained impacts on ecosystems. I also reworded some of my questions so they spelled out relevant actors and concepts. I ended up removing a paragraph about economics because I was unable to find resources that accurately conveyed the economic challenges to renewable energy in a broad scale.
Revisions to date
- Barry, John, Geraint Ellis, and Clive Robinson. 2008. “Cool rationalities and hot air: a rhetorical approach to understanding debates on renewable energy.” Global environmental politics 8, no. 2 (April): 67-98. https://doi.org/10.1162/glep.2008.8.2.67
- Bell, Derek, Tim Gray, Claire Haggett, and Joanne Swaffield. 2013. “Re-visiting the ‘social gap’: public opinion and relations of power in the local politics of wind energy.” Environmental Politics 22, no. 1 (February): 115-135. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2013.755793
- D’Angelo, Paul. 2017. “Framing: media frames.” The international encyclopedia of media effects (March): 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118783764.wbieme0048
- Dresselhaus, M., Thomas, I. 2001. “Alternative energy technologies”. Nature 414: 332–337 . https://doi.org/10.1038/35104599.
- Evans, Annette, Vladimir Strezov, and Tim J. Evans. 2009. “Assessment of Sustainability Indicators for Renewable Energy Technologies.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 13, no. 5 (June): 1082–88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2008.03.008.
- Gasparatos, Alexandros, Christopher NH Doll, Miguel Esteban, Abubakari Ahmed, and Tabitha A. Olang. (2017) “Renewable energy and biodiversity: Implications for transitioning to a Green Economy.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 70 (April): 161-184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2016.08.030
- Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Rosenthal, S., Kotcher, J., Gustafson, A., Bergquist, P., Ballew, M., & Goldberg, M. 2019. “Energy in the American Mind, December 2018”. Yale University and George Mason University (February). DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/BDQ25
- Nuortimo, Kalle, and Janne Härkönen. 2018. “Opinion mining approach to study media-image of energy production. Implications to public acceptance and market deployment.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 96 (November): 210-217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2018.07.018