One of my main responsibilities at RIT is to provide publicity and marketing support to the university’s research and education efforts in sustainability. Given that I am by no means an expert in the subject, I often find it helpful to attend different sustainability colloquia and lectures being offered to gain a better understanding about the pertinent issues in the field. These events strengthen my own understanding about the key points of sustainability science and decision making while also making it easier for me to explain the topic to reporters and television producers I interact with.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a lecture here at RIT on the biofuel sustainability debate by Shelie Miller, assistant professor of environmental engineering and earth sciences at Clemson University. The event focused on the difficulty involved in assessing the true environmental impact of different fuel types and the fact that some biofuels may actually be worse for the environment than fossil fuels. This situation makes it nearly impossible to select one fuel type that will serve as a complete replacement for fossil fuel. At best, a multitude of alternatives will be needed and even with this some amount of fossil fuel use will still be necessary. Miller emphasized that these issues make it incredibly difficult for policy makers to make informed choices about the right types of energy alternatives.
Honestly I must admit that I had very little understanding of the complexity of the issue and had just assumed that one day we would all be driving ethanol cars and that would be that. The facts shown in Miller’s presentation point to a much more complicated process that is incredibly important for all citizens to understand.
Given the eye opening I received, I now not only have a better understanding of the sustainability topic but will also be better able to inform the press about the issue. Hopefully, this will ultimately make the information the public receives from the media about sustainability more accurate and useful, which is ultimately the most important goal.