Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The 2014 Draft New York State Energy Plan as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy (Part 1)

This is the first post of a three part series. Click to see Part 1 and Part 2.

On Tuesday, February 25, I attended the public meeting on the 2014 Draft New York State Energy Plan. It was a fascinating day. This post is the first of a three part series that reflects on the meeting and its implications. I’m hopeful that this set of posts will inspire New Yorkers to take a close look at the plan and to offer feedback. This first post is the shortest of the three and starts off with a one-question quiz.

After you answer the question and click submit, you’ll see a link to a map that shows the answer for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. After you’ve taken the quiz, explore the map, paying attention to the variation in where electricity comes from around the country, looking for things that surprise you.

The map linked from the response page is also embedded below. How did you do?

No peeking!
Don’t scroll on until you’ve taken the quiz!

The five largest sources for the US are labeled. The question, however, was about your state.

Electricity Sources for US States Prezi - click here to see an interactive version of the map.

Data from:
See the interactive map here:

The structure of the public meeting was simple. There was no formal presentation about the plan. There were members of the Planning Board who helped write it, but they weren’t there to give out information. They were there to take it in. People signed in before entering the large room, and, if they were inclined to speak, they signed up for that. Each speaker was allowed five minutes. In the course of the roughly three-and-a-half hour meeting, about 40 people spoke. I was number 29.

I had brought prepared remarks with me to read for my five-minute slot. After listening to the 28 who came before me, I decided to ditch my prepared statement and I asked the question I just asked you instead. The question was directed to the audience, not to the Energy Planning Board. Though the question wasn’t directed to the Board, I was putting on a show for them, to highlight important changes that I think need to be made in the Energy Plan before it is finalized.

I give a lot of talks that are sort of about the Marcellus Shale and hydrofracking, but really, that’s just a hook to get people in the door. The talk I give most frequently is titled, There’s no such thing as a free megawatt: Hydrofracking as a gateway drug to energy literacy. I ask the question above early in my talk and ask people to raise their hands twice as I go down through the list. Before actually having them raise their hands, I note that for most of the last 15 years, the two biggest sources of electricity have been roughly tied for first place, and that in 2008, each provided 31%. Then I have them raise their hands as I read down through the list.

You know how you did on the quiz. How do you think the people in the audience, who mostly came to give feedback on the Energy Plan did on the quiz? We’ll get to that in the second part of this three part post.

This is the first post of a three part series. Click to see Part 1 and Part 2.

About the Author

Don Duggan-Haas is Director of Teacher Programs at the PaleontologicalResearch Institution in Ithaca. Along with colleagues Robert Ross and Warren Allmon, he authored The Science Beneath the Surface: A VeryShort Guide to the Marcellus Shale.

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