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August 22, 2012: News, Research and Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: Oil, policy and an occasional moose: Energy Forum interns in Alaska
In this edition
Oil, policy and an occasional moose:
Energy Forum interns travel to Alaska


Whether harvesting potable water from fog in Morocco or testing low-smoke indoor cookstoves in Lesotho, Baker Institute Energy Forum summer interns learn firsthand about the truths and challenges of policy and research. 
 
This summer, three Energy Forum interns traveled to Alaska to investigate how a gusher of oil money has changed, for better or worse, America's last great frontier.
 
Through interviews with an array of experts from academia and industry, the interns — 2012 graduates Rachael Petersen and Naji Barnes-McFarlane and rising junior Justin Winikoff — examined climate change and the development of the state's oil and gas potential. The results of their work, including blogs, videos and photos, are posted online at their Tumblr site, Sustainable Alaska.
 
"The Alaska trip exposed me to complex questions about how oil wealth is spent and saved, as well as the intricacies of the oil industry and the politics behind it," said Winikoff. "As a student, the internship allowed me to research academic interests of mine on a micro, regional scale. It was an excellent experience."
 
A spring semester policy studies course, Integrated Solutions to Sustainable Development, provided the scientific, policy and social science background for the students' Alaska adventure. The course was taught by Amy Myers Jaffe, Wallace S. Wilson Fellow in Energy Studies, and Houston Advanced Research Center Distinguished Fellow Robert Harriss, who both accompanied the students to Anchorage. Joe Barnes, Bonner Means Baker Fellow, and energy associate James Coan rounded out the Alaska team.
 
Between interviews and other research, the students took advantage of Alaska's long daylight hours with some fun side trips. They went whitewater rafting in Denali National Park, hiked within sight of the Eklutna Glacier, viewed whales and porpoises on a boat tour near Seward, and snapped photos of the occasional moose wandering in the wild.

While surveying Alaska's thawing permafrost in Fairbanks, the group came across the giant trans-Alaska pipeline system, which transports oil from Prudhoe Bay to the southern port of Valdez. The sight was a reminder that 85 percent of Alaska's state budget comes from oil revenues, Petersen said. "Living in an oil-dependent country, all Americans share in the costs and moral dilemmas exemplified by Alaska. Should we diversify our energy matrix and our economy? Who will be the winners and losers in a changing climate? To begin to answer these questions, we must learn how to collaborate and weave together research and ideas from multiple disciplines."

The Alaska summer program was a remarkable experience for both students and Baker Institute fellows, Barnes said. "All of us associated with it gained insight into one of the most important and complex issues confronting the world today: the nexus of changing climate, the unique Arctic environment and hydrocarbon development. Our multimedia student blog posts are a wonderful first step for those interested in investigating these subjects. Our students did the Energy Forum, the Baker Institute and Rice University proud."

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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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