By Joseph Hughes
Congressman Ted Strickland visited Ohio University on Tuesday, April 6, to learn more about the University's unique Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment.
The Consortium, a collaborative effort comprising representatives from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Voinovich Center for Leadership & Public Affairs and the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment, hopes to become the state's leader in solving environmental and energy problems. Presenters also told Strickland that the Consortium has the potential to provide a voice for the Ohio River Valley region.
Strickland -- who represents Ohio's 6th District -- joined Ohio University President Robert Glidden, Provost Stephen Kopp, Vice President for Research John Bantle and Dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology Dennis Irwin to discuss the University's work to tackle a complex set of problems with comprehensive solutions, solutions that produce myriad benefits.
Through an informative presentation that included a lively, positive give-and-take, Strickland learned about Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dave Bayless' coal fuel cell program and other cross-disciplinary attempts by the Consortium, such as pollution control and watershed restoration.
"What we talked about impacts not only the environmental needs of the state and region," Strickland says, "but also the needs of the nation and beyond. If we can best make use of available resources and promote environmentally healthy solutions, we've done something remarkable."
Adds Glidden, "The work of the Consortium will help us burn coal more cleanly while we pursue other sources of energy."
One topic discussed with Strickland is sure to affect every American in the very near future. As oil prices surge and our gasoline-based society struggles with soaring gas prices, Bayless says, the results could be damaging to Ohio. He told Strickland that nearly 150,000 Ohio jobs -- those related to the automotive and affiliated industries -- could be affected. But the state could also prosper by a switch from gasoline to hydrogen.
"Ohio would be positioned quite well, if you look at fuel cell research and development," says Bayless, who demonstrated how the fuel cells work. "It could be a big plus in the long term, but devastating in the short term if we don't get our act together."
The congressman agrees. "So much of what becomes public policy grows from personal biases and experiences," Strickland says. "It just happens. But the academic community is uniquely positioned to present information not constricted by those variables."
The Consortium offers another benefit, says Mark Weinberg, director of the Voinovich Center for Leadership & Public Affairs. With its focus on education, the group could help produce the next generation of policy makers, scientists and regulators, keeping talented individuals in the region while helping create jobs.
"Because Ohio is at the epicenter of much environmental controversy," says Strickland, who supported the Consortium's plans for growth via two proposed federal budget appropriations, "Ohio ought also to be the center of finding the solutions."
Joseph Hughes is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.