Testimony of Tom Kelly, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Sustainability Programs
University of New Hampshire
Field Hearing of the
The United States Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee
Innovative Environmental Technology
Durham, New Hampshire
30 May 2001
I would like to thank you and your staff for the opportunity to testify at today's hearing. I last had the opportunity to speak to you on the general subject of technology and the environment at a roundtable on biotechnology and agriculture here in New Hampshire last fall. Today, as then, I speak to you not as an expert on technology of any type, but as an educator charged with integrating sustainability into all aspects of the University of New Hampshire. My testimony reflects the assumption that the key link between technological potential and sustainability is education and governance, or legislation.
The role of sustainability at UNH is to collaborate with the rest of the university to ensure that all graduates develop the moral character and skills to advance sustainability in their civic and professional lives. At one level we think of sustainability as the balancing of economic viability with ecological health and human well being. But at a more fundamental level, we build our program on the premise that sustainability is about that which sustains us as human beings situated in a concrete and complex world where culture and nature are inseparable. In this view of sustainability, a strong sense of community identity and purpose grounded in a reasoned conception of “the good life” are on equal footing with clean air and water and healthy, productive soils.
I would like to offer an educator's perspective on the focus of today's hearing, innovative environmental technology, and respectfully suggest some specific legislative actions in support of innovative educational initiatives related to energy and technology. These examples envision university campuses brimming with alternatives to reckless consumption levels of non-renewable energy. Such a learning environment will advance the goal of balancing economic viability with ecological health and human well being for current and future generations through innovative educational initiatives related to energy and technology. These examples also reflect an institutional view of society in which the public good can only be achieved if each institution does its job: government governs, education educates.
One of the fundamental jobs of education is to develop a historical consciousness or sense of history in all learners. The civic importance of this aspect of education's job is etched in stone on the face of the National Archives: "What is past is Prologue." There are at least two ways to interpret this phrase. One is practical advice that individuals and institutions will act in the future as they have in the past. As an educator, I also view it as the kind of warning and expression of hope given to us by the philosopher George Santayana: "those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it." Santayana's guidance is full of possibilities because it proceeds from the premise that human beings have the ability to learn, which means the ability to distinguish good from evil and right from wrong in pursuit of the common good, and to act on those judgements.
Now how does this bear on today's hearing? We all recognize that this is not the first time that we as a nation have focused our attention on the need to consume less energy and the role of technology in achieving that goal. The oil shocks of the 1970s gave rise to a remarkable effort to harmonize the resources of government, education and a genuine entrepreneurial spirit in the area of renewable energy. Indeed, many of the technologies represented at today's hearing were the focus of intense experimentation in research and development as well as small-scale applications at that time. But as writers on this period of our history have noted, "faith [in grassroots efforts to advance renewable energy] without capital was handicapped." Recognition of that political fact eventually led to the establishment of the federal Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI). But the fact that we are here twenty-five years later still talking about the promise rather than the accomplishments of these technologies indicates that something went wrong. The fate of those efforts is well documented and is important to review carefully unless we want to be here in 2025 asking the same questions.
A review of the history of those efforts teaches that technological potential to advance the public good can be blocked by economic interests working through the political process; or perhaps more starkly stated, by greed corrupting governance. This is hardly a provocative statement in our current culture of cynicism about politics, but it is and should be educationally provocative and should therefore excite a sense of urgency and resolve to ensure that education is doing its job.
So where do we begin? From an educational perspective we begin with priorities and the way we frame the challenges we face and the means we employ to address them. With respect to innovative environmental technology we must shift the focus from consumers choice, efficiency, business and the economy to citizen participation, justice, governance and the polity. The economy is a subset of the polity, not the other way around. It is important to remember that the most powerful and effective force for sustaining the environmental foundation of human health and well being in the epoch of the oil shocks was not business, technology or the economy. The National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts among many others resulted from engaged citizenship, not consumer choice; and this engaged citizenship was concerned with the knowledge of science and its moral application. Twenty-Five years later we have the luxury of questioning the continued effectiveness of such legislation, but only because it was successful.
We also begin at home, which for the University of New Hampshire means our Durham Campus. Some twenty-five years ago an event known as the battle of Durham took place amidst the energy shocks. As in the case of federal environmental legislation, it is because of engaged citizens, not satisfied consumers, that we today enjoy the Great Bay Estuary, one of the most unique estuarine habitats in the world that provides invaluable ecological services and a serene beauty that defines our sense of place. Were it not for the efforts of those citizens, we might have had one of the world's largest oil refineries rather than a Reserve protected with the help of federal legislation. The Office of Sustainability Programs is working with many others on this campus and in the town of Durham to bring that story to life for all current and future members of this community.
But notwithstanding that victory and the wonderful legacy of the Great Bay Estuary, there is a great deal of work left to do: as noted above, today's hearing is picking up a conversation that was interrupted by a lapse in education and governance over the last twenty-five years. Towards that end, the University of New Hampshire established the Office of Sustainability Programs (OSP) in 1997 to develop a university-wide education program and projects that integrate sustainability practices across all facets of the university including teaching, research and public service.
OSP collaborates with faculty, administrators, staff and students to link the emerging principles, science and institutional practices of sustainability to student and professional development. OSP sponsored projects link curriculum and research development, campus environmental practices and partnerships with local, regional and international communities. Project areas include initiatives in climate education; biodiversity education; food and society; and, culture and sustainability.
The Climate Education Initiative, which relates most directly to today's hearing, includes projects addressing global change, transportation, energy and sustainable building design and construction standards. A sampling of current programs includes:
o A unique general education course on Global Environmental Change in collaboration with UNH's Climate Change Research Center at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. Faculty and staff from across the university as well as external stakeholders are involved in teaching students about the complexities of global change. After studying the latest trends and findings in climate and earth system science, students undertake the "search for sustainability" in which they link science and public policy through negotiating greenhouse gas reduction policies at UNH in order to meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol;
o Developing a Transportation Demand Management Program (TDM) for the University in coordination with surrounding towns and agencies in the Seacoast region. The proposed TDM reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions linked to global climate change by increasing access and mobility through public transportation and other alternative modes while reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles on campus and parking subsidies. Alternative modes include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure such as the UNH Yellow Bike Cooperative, car and van pooling, as well as scheduling, affordable housing and telecommuting;
o A Sustainable Building, Design and Construction Standards initiative that builds on existing University resources to support research, pilot projects professional development, and university standards. In addition to direct application on campus, the knowledge generated by this project is being shared with New Hampshire schools, state offices and professional associations;
o The museum-quality "Promise of the Sun," an interactive educational exhibit in UNH's Memorial Union Building that links a demonstration solar array on the roof of the student union to a panoramic exploration of the cultural, technological and political aspects of energy choices. The exhibit involves faculty from across the university representing disciplines such as mechanical engineering, classics, art history, history, environmental policy and space science and is seen by thousands of visitors daily.
o Just last week we completed the first of its kind in the nation greenhouse gas inventory for our campus. (Attachment A). Through a partnership with the Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based non-profit Clean Air Cool Planet (CACP) we develop a methodology to complete an inventory of our campus emissions each year from 1990-2000. That methodology is already being shared with other campuses across the New England Region through our CACP collaboration. With the completion of the inventory, we now have the basis for setting emission targets and timelines and to develop and implement a strategic plan to meet those targets. This effort will involve all members of the UNH community under our Climate Education Initiative and will touch all parts of the university.
I began this testimony with the assumption that the key link between technological potential and sustainability is education and governance. Based upon our work at UNH, I would like to offer some specific and practical examples of initiatives on this campus that could be supported through legislation that would make a significant contribution to our educational mission and therefore to the public good in the area of energy and environment. These examples integrate innovative environmental technology into the learning environment where direct experience can be gained by students, faculty, and all members of the university community. By linking these demonstration projects to teaching, research and public service activities, innovative technologies are placed in their political context where the public good can be protected and nurtured.
1. Demonstration Fuel Cell /Gas Turbine Co-generation Project ($10 million)
Support for the incremental cost of incorporating a 1MW Fuel Cell into the university's proposed gas-turbine co-generation power plant. This demonstration project will support comparative study by undergraduate and graduate students in engineering, economics and public policy of the sustainability of Fuel Cell and Gas Turbine co-generation technologies. Studies will also include capture and reuse strategies of the water byproduct of the Fuel Cell technology. Total cost of the 1MW Fuel Cell and 9MW Gas Turbine co-generation plant is $21 million.
2. Community Alternative Energy Assessment ($300,000)
Support for a campus-wide alternative energy assessment that will identify high impact opportunities for employing a wide range of technologies to enhance energy efficiency. Examples include: co-generation, methane digesters, ice storage, fuel cells, and geo-thermal among others. Special consideration will be given to passive and active solar applications to address the structural disincentives that continue to retard the development of this crucial renewable energy source for sustainability. The assessment would serve as the next phase of a Climate Education Initiative greenhouse gas reduction program that has recently complete an inventory of UNH's greenhouse gas emissions each year from 1990-2000. In addition to identifying energy efficiency projects, the Community Alternative Energy Assessment will as a tool for development of a strategic plan to achieve emission reductions targets.
3. Alternative Fuel Shuttle Vehicles ($150,00)
As part of
its Transportation Demand Management Program, UNH will incorporate 3 small to
medium size alternative fuel transit buses carrying 14-18 passengers into its
shuttle system. The shuttles will
transport community members and visitors from remote parking and the
surrounding community as part of its shuttle system. In addition to educating riders about energy efficiency
opportunities of alternative fuel vehicles, the shuttle system will reduce
campus congestion and air contamination and provide students with case studies
for analyzing the energy and air quality benefits of this new technology.
4. Phase I Vehicle Fleet Upgrade Project ($1 million)
As part of its Climate Education Initiative, UNH would like to upgrade at least 50% of its fleet to alternatively fueled vehicles over the next 5-10 years. UNH has 248 vehicles in its fleet. Phase I target of this effort is to have 50 alternative fuel vehicles by 2005. This flee upgrade would provide undergraduate and graduate students with case studies for analyzing the energy and air quality benefits of this new technology.
5. Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Car Sharing Program ($75,000)
As part of its Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Program UNH will develop an alternative fuel car sharing program for the campus community. The proposed program would begin with 3 vehicles and would accomplish at lest three important objectives: 1. it would provide visibility as well as direct experience with alternative fuel vehicles for a wide range of faculty, staff and students; 2) the car share program would support TDM policy goals of reducing single occupancy vehicle trips to campus by ensuring the availability of emergency transportation and other unanticipated travel for faculty, staff and students that do not have cars on campus and 3) allow a wide range of faculty, staff and students to experience car sharing program's demonstrated ability to reduce individual demand for driving without a perceived loss of mobility.
6. Sustainable School Design Institute ($5 million /$1 mill per year x5)
As part of the UNH Office of Sustainability Programs, the Sustainable School Design Institute will bring together leading professionals from the fields of architecture, engineering, occupational and public health, materials science, ecology and education to conduct research, teaching and outreach to the New Hampshire and New England communities, professional associations and businesses to ensure that our schools embody the best of sustainable design to provide healthy, productive learning environments.
7. Methane Digester for Agricultural Energy Needs ($1 mil)
Demonstration project of converting Diary herd manure to methane gas as a fuel for power use that can reduce odor pollution and facilitate nutrient cycling and reduce dry matter for compost use. This technology will also facilitate research for concentrated liquid to be further broken down into dry matter for productive use as soil amendments.
In conclusion I would like to emphasize that technological potential, and particular technologies, are only part of a solution to the problems we face. Efficiency is a blind principle that tells us nothing about where we ought to be heading. For example, technology develops and interacts in an ecology: alternative fuel vehicles serving as part of a car-sharing program that reduces demand for single occupancy vehicles makes perfect sense. Alternative fuel vehicles simply replacing less efficient single occupancy vehicles will continue to drive sprawl and other land use changes and settlement patterns that undermine sustainability. Our role as educators is to ensure that the full knowledge we have and develop of our concrete and complex world is applied to the judgements and actions we take in the area of energy and the environment.
Again I would like to express my sincere thanks to Senator Smith and the other members and staff of the Environment and Public Works Committee for the opportunity to testify.