A sold-out crowd of more than 250 people people attended the first ever "Earth, Wind, and Fire Energy Summit" earlier this month in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Group of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter organized the event, which also included more than 22 speakers and 19 exhibitors.
"The two-day conference Oct. 4-5 focused on all forms of energy - coal, nuclear, natural gas, oil, wind, solar, geothermal, and waste to energy," said Rita Beving, conservation co-chair of the Dallas Group and coordinator of the conference. "The purpose was to inform the public beyond media 'soundbites' of what is going on currently with these forms of energy from both a national and state perspective, and what does the future hold for the potential use of all of these forms of energy. It also focused on the human and environmental impacts that these sources may have, be it from mining to transport."
Beving said attendees came from across Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas, and speakers included professionals and academics from across the U.S. (Click here to check out the full brochure of all the speakers and workshops - PDF) One of the highlighted speakers was Dr. Nicholas van der Elst of Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute in New York, who spoke about fracking, earthquakes and disposal wells.
"The Dallas/Ft. Worth area has experienced more than 33 earthquakes earlier in 2014 within a few months' timeframe and it is believed that these triggered earthquakes are caused by disposal wells and fracking," explained Beving. "Even the Mayor of Reno, one of the cities that has been afflicted with earthquakes, came to hear this speaker."
Other speakers discussed the effects of increased oil trains and fossil fuel exports, as well as pipeline safety issues. Just as important and well-attended were the sessions on wind and solar power.
Beving credits a great group of planning volunteers for making the conference so successful that it sold out 10 days in advance.
"It was also gratifying to see that the audience was at least three-fourths new people not affiliated or involved with the Sierra Club," she added. "There were many people who participated who otherwise may not have the kind of exposure to energy and environmental issues that Sierra Club volunteers have. We also had universities participate as sponsors and bring dozens of students."
The conference sponsors were the Dallas County Community College District, Public Citizen, EarthWorks, the Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund, Green Source DFW, the Seed Coalition, Texas Interfaith Power & Light, the League of Women Voters of Dallas, the Population Media Center, Breeze Energy, the Clean Water Fund, EarthDay Texas, Axium Solar, System Change Not Climate Change, Natural Awakenings, and the Texas League of Conservation Voters.
"The success of this conference shows that people are 'hungry' for better and deeper information on energy," said Beving. "Many attendees remarked that it was great to hear from experts on subjects of their concern, like pipeline vs. rail transport of oil in light of all the incidents reported in the U.S. and Canada.
"People also were interested in hearing about about fracking and groundwater contamination, about the proposed export of America's energy, about the potential for more wind and solar in the country, and that there are options for the financing of such renewables for home use."
Beving says they hope to do another conference next year.