social change

Fireside chat with Tom Steyer and Sally Benson

Tom Steyer, Investor, Philanthropist and Advanced Energy Advocate

Monday, March 9, 2015 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All


Tom Steyer is a California business leader, philanthropist and advanced energy advocate. Before retiring from the private sector, Tom founded and was the Senior Managing Member of Farallon Capital Management. 

Tom is actively engaged in climate politics through his NextGen Climate political organization, and works to promote economic development and environmental protection in California and across the country. In 2010, Tom teamed up with former Secretary of State George Shultz to defeat Proposition 23, an effort by out-of-state oil companies to dismantle California’s groundbreaking clean energy law, AB 32. In 2012, Tom served as co-chair with Shultz for Yes on Proposition 39, which closed a tax loophole for out-of-state corporations and created jobs in California.

Tom and his wife, Kat Taylor, joined Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and other high-wealth Americans in the “Giving Pledge,” a promise to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable and nonprofit activities during their lifetimes. Tom and Kat created and funded the Oakland-based Beneficial State Bank and Foundation, which provides loans and banking services to underserved small businesses, communities and individuals in California and along the west coast. Tom and Kat have four children.

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The Nuclear Fuel Cycle vs. the Carbon Cycle: Pu vs. C

Rodney C. Ewing, professor, Stanford University

Monday, June 2, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

One hundred commercial nuclear reactors in the United States generate ~ 800 billion kWh of energy each year. This accounts for 19% of the electricity generated in the U.S. The nuclear power plants (NPP) themselves produce no carbon dioxide, but the construction of the NPPs does require energy that leads to limited CO2 emissions. The essential issue is: What is required of the nuclear fuel cycle in order to have a significant impact on the carbon cycle?

Globally, nuclear power plants account for a reduction of carbon emmissions of ~ 0.5 gigatonnes (Gt) of C/yr This is a modest reduction, as compared with global emissions of carbon, just over 8 GtC/yr. Most analyses suggest that in order to have a timely impact on carbon emissions, carbon-free sources, such as nuclear power, would have to expand total production of energy by factors of three to ten by 2050. A three-fold increase in nuclear power capactiy would result in a projected reduction in carbon emissions of 1 to 2 Gt C/yr, depending on the type of carbon-based energy source that is displaced. This three-fold increase utilizing present nuclear technologies would create 25,000 metric tonnes (t) of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) per year, containing over 200 t of plutonium. However, there is considerable technological flexibility in the nuclear fuel cycle that can be described as: open, closed, or a symbiotic combination of different types of reactors. Within each cycle, the volume and composition of the high-level nuclear waste and fissile material depend on the type of nuclear fuel, the amount of burn-up, the extent of radionuclide separation during reprocessing, and the types of materials used to immobilize different radionuclides. Further, the nuclear fuel cycle can be augmented by different strategies for the immobilization of nuclear waste and geologic disposal.

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Screening of "Switch," followed by a discussion with the film's producer Scott Tinker, and Stanford University professors Sally Benson, Margot Gerritsen, and Mark Jacobson

Scott W. Tinker, Bureau of Economic Geology, the State Geologist of Texas
Moderator: Sally Benson, Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford, with Margot Gerritsen, Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford; Mark Jacobson, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford

Monday, October 8, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 06:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

What does the future of energy really hold? Join Scott Tinker on a spectacular global adventure to find out. Scott explores the world’s leading energy sites, from coal to solar, from oil to biofuels. Many of these sites are highly restricted and never before seen on film. Scott gets straight answers from the people driving energy today, international leaders of government, industry and academia. In the end, he cuts through the confusion to discover a path to our future that is surprising and remarkably pragmatic.

"Switch" is a balanced documentary, embraced and supported by people all along the energy spectrum – fossil and renewable, academic and environmental.

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Saving the World and Having a Job: Distributed Solar - Exciting Challenges and Rapid Growth

Shawn Kerrigan, Locus Energy 

Monday, June 4, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Distributed solar generation is growing rapidly across the United States and around the globe. Use of renewables has always been desirable environmentally, but now for the first time in many places it makes solid economic sense as well. A tidal wave of investment and innovation makes distributed solar a dynamic and exciting industry.

Solar energy has many advantages when used for distributed generation, such as saving costs by bypassing congested transmission and distribution systems, and directly generating power at the point of consumption. Distributed solar power brings a number of new challenges, however, due to volatile production output and a need to manage large numbers of systems across a broad area. Solving these problems requires innovations in forecasting, monitoring/analysis, managing, and servicing the large number of small-scale generation assets. This seminar will cover some of those challenges and what Locus Energy is doing to help address them.

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It Pays to Do the Right Thing: Incentive Mechanisms for Societal Networks

Balaji Prabhakar, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Stanford University


Monday, May 14, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In many of the challenges faced by the modern world, from overcrowded road networks to overstretched healthcare systems, large benefits for society come about from small changes by very many individuals. Researchers in the societal networks group at Stanford University are running a series of pilot projects aiming to develop principles for inducing small changes in behavior in networks such as transportation, wellness, energy and recycling. Pilots have been conducted with Infosys Technologies in Bangalore on commuting and with Accenture-USA on wellness. Two others are ongoing: public transit congestion in Singapore, and traffic congestion and parking at Stanford.

In this talk, Balaji Prabhakar will describe this work and present results from the pilots. Some salient themes are the use of low-cost sensing and networking technology for sensing individual behavior, and the use of incentives and social norming to influence behavior.


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Connecting the Dots: The Water, Food, Energy and Climate Nexus

Monday, April 16, 2012 | 01:00 PM - 04:00 PM | McCaw Hall, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center |

We have a special Stanford program today and encourage our Energy Seminar community to attend. Registration is required. If you are not a student enrolled in the Energy Seminar and wish to attend the Connecting the Dots program on April 16, please register at Additional information is available at the Connecting The Dots website.
Please note this event is being held in a different venue then most Energy Seminars.
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Car Sharing and Pooling: Reducing Car Over-Population and Collaborative Consumption

John Atcheson, Vice President, Getaround

Logan Green, CEO & Co-founder, Zimride

Monday, April 9, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

John Atcheson


Logan Green

In the United States alone, there are more than 250 million cars and light trucks, and these vehicles sit idle an average of 92% of the time.  With the average car costing more than $6,500 per year just to own, (i.e., not including gas and other operating expenses), this represents over $1.5 trillion dollars each year in wasted capital.  Peer-to-peer car sharing puts this capital to use, as John Atcheson will discuss, giving car owners the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars per year off their idle asset, and providing drivers with a viable alternative to car ownership.  In the process, peer-to-peer car sharing dramatically helps our environment. Studies have shown that the average shared car replaces 9-13 other cars, and that drivers who switch from driving their own car to driving a shared car reduce both vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40%. This presentation will focus on the opportunities and challenges facing peer-to-peer car sharing, and offer a vision for a world in which every car is shared.
People are in the beginning of a dramatic transformation that is changing the way we think about personal transportation. In this new age, access trumps ownership. Access to a network that gets us from point A to point B is becoming more desirable than incurring all of the expenses and burdens associated with car ownership. Logan Green will explore how this new transportation network is taking shape, why it’s happening now, and the factors that are making it possible.
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American Public Opinion on Climate Change and Its Impact on Voting in Congressional and Presidential Elections: New Evidence from State and National Surveys

Jon Krosnick, Department of Communication, Stanford University

Monday, October 3, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In recent years, observers have speculated that the American public has become increasingly skeptical about the existence and potential threat of climate change and that the public desire for action by government on this issue has declined. In this talk, Jon Krosnick will present new survey evidence tracking public opinion in the nation and in Massachusetts to explore what changes have occurred in the entire population and in population subgroups. In addition, Dr. Krosnick will present the results of a new study examining whether candidates' positions on climate change policy have influenced their electoral success, using three methods of investigation: (1) analysis of the relation of candidate website statements on climate with the victory rates of Congressional candidates in 2010, (2) experiments embedded in surveys describing a hypothetical candidate running for a Senate seat, and (3) a statistical analysis predicting votes in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election using data collected from survey respondents before and after the election. The findings paint a portrait of the likely role of climate change in the upcoming elections.

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Our Energy Future: Lessons from the Heartland

Nancy Jackson, Founder and Chair, Climate and Energy Project, Kansas

Monday, February 7, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In America’s Heartland, where many if not most are skeptical about climate change, a tiny nonprofit has successfully promoted energy solutions. While we certainly wish to change policy, we know that policy alone is not sufficient – the will to implement must be steadfast as well. So we have worked from the ground up and the top down to connect with citizen’s core values, to identify shared goals, to raise the voices of local champions, and to take action together. Our Take Charge Challenge – an energy efficiency contest between communities – harnessed the competitive spirit and transformed efficiency from “sacrifice” to “win.” Energy forums, an economic development tour, a workforce development survey, and booths at the Kansas State Fair in addition to legislative briefings and endless testimony transformed wind energy from “pipe dream” to “a key part of the energy mix.” The Climate & Energy Project seeks to set new defaults for energy use, identifying efficiency as the obvious first fuel and renewables like wind as cost-effective options that “just make sense.”

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Cities and Climate Change: New York and the World

Rohit Aggarwala, City of New York, New York, Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability 2006-2010

Monday, January 3, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building (Y2E2) | Free and Open to All

Followed by the Orange Bowl Reception and 5:15pm Kickoff on the Plasma TV, in the Y2E2 Social Entry (for faculty, students, and staff), 473 Via Ortega, Stanford.

Increasingly, the focus of the global fight against climate change is shifting to cities, both as national policies and global agreements seem unlikely to change in the near term, and as policymakers appreciate the extent to which the frontlines of the fight are in the cities themselves.  Home to the majority of humanity, and the vast majority of global consumption, cities will clearly be the locations of most efforts at improving energy efficiency and reducing transportation emissions.  In most of the world’s cities, it is local government that has direct control over the planning decisions, building codes, transit systems, and waste systems that must change if the world is to transition to a low-carbon economy.  Finally, in many countries, urban populations are more willing to adopt low-carbon policies than national populations, which make it far more politically feasible for mayors to act decisively.


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York is increasingly seen as a leader on urban sustainability policy, both for his local efforts in New York City and globally, upon his recent assumption of the chairmanship of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an organization of many of the world’s largest cities working together on climate change policy.


Rohit T. Aggarwala, Bloomberg’s former sustainability director and currently an advisor to C40, will talk about the content, history, and execution of PlaNYC, New York’s award-winning sustainability efforts.  From planting a million trees to adopting congestion pricing to requiring hybrid taxis to imposing retrofit requirements on existing buildings, PlaNYC was an ambitious plan that has had major successes and significant defeats.  Aggarwala will discuss, in particular, lessons learned from the victory on green buildings and the defeat of New York City’s congestion pricing proposal.

In addition, he will talk broadly about the challenge facing the world’s cities.  C40’s members account for one-twelfth of humanity and 20% of global GDP, but the needs, powers, and political constraints affecting municipal government vary dramatically across those cities.


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