Notre Dame Forum to explore sustainable energy

September 15, 2008

By: Julie Hail Flory
“Office of News and Information

Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado, General Electric Co. (GE) chairman and chief executive officer Jeff Immelt, Sustainable South Bronx founder Majora Carter and Ernest Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be the featured panelists participating Sept. 24 (Wednesday) in the fourth Notre Dame Forum.

Titled “Sustainable Energy: A Notre Dame Forum,” the event will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Joyce Center on the University of Notre Dame campus and will explore how charting pathways to a sustainable energy future is emerging as one of the world’s great challenges. It also will examine underlying concerns, including technological, environmental, economic, political and geopolitical issues, as well as social justice and ethical considerations.

The forum will be moderated by Anne Thompson, chief environmental affairs correspondent for NBC News and a 1979 Notre Dame graduate.

Building on current institutional initiatives, issues addressed in the forum will extend across multiple disciplines with the aim of engaging the entire University community to embark upon a thoughtful and comprehensive course of sustainability in individual choices, institutional practices, intellectual life and research, and civic commitments.

“Pope Benedict XVI recently called attention to the world’s growing energy needs and ‘the unprecedented race for available resources,’” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “He expressed special concern for regions of the world in which development is blocked by rising energy costs and scarce energy sources, and he urged nations to continue their dialogue and search for more efficient ways to consume and invest in resources.

“These views are among many that are beginning to emerge at the intersection of energy utilization and Catholic social teaching. How do Western nations, and the United States in particular, reconcile their consumption with the energy poverty afflicting billions of people in the Southern Hemisphere and Asia? Is there a sustainable energy future that can maintain an acceptable standard of living for all humans without jeopardizing the environment and future generations?”

The distinguished and provocative panelists will present their individual perspectives on sustainable energy, then will participate in an open discussion.

Elected as Colorado’s 41st governor in 2006, Ritter has quickly established the state as a national and international leader on energy issues. By maximizing the state’s abundant supplies of traditional and renewable energy resources, he is crafting a responsible statewide energy plan, diversifying Colorado’s energy portfolio, creating new economic and job opportunities, and addressing environmental challenges such as climate change.

Ritter has doubled Colorado’s renewable energy standard, requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020, and issued the state’s first climate action plan. He is attracting new alternative-energy companies, jobs, investments and research to the state, including Denmark-based Vestas Blades, which opened its first North American manufacturing plant there earlier this year, and ConocoPhillips, which soon will be opening its global alternative-fuels research and development center in Colorado.

The ninth chairman of GE, Immelt has held several global leadership positions since joining the company in 1982, including roles in GE’s plastics, appliance and medical businesses. In 1989 he became an officer and joined the GE Capital Board in 1997. In 2000, he was appointed president and chief executive officer.

Immelt has been named one of the “World’s Best CEOs” three times by Barron’s and since he began serving as chief executive officer, GE has been named “America’s Most Admired Company” in a poll conducted by Fortune magazine and one of “The World’s Most Respected Companies” in polls by Barron’s and the Financial Times. He also is a member of The Business Council and of the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. He was the principal speaker at Notre Dame’s 2007 Commencement and received an honorary degree from the University.

Born and raised in the South Bronx, where she still lives, Carter’s career has taken her around the world in pursuit of resources and ideas to improve the quality of life in environmentally challenged communities. She founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 after writing a $1.25 million federal transportation grant to design the South Bronx Greenway, which includes 11 miles of bike and pedestrian paths connecting the rivers and neighborhoods to each other and to the rest of the city. That project secured more than $20 million in funds to begin construction this year.

Carter began 2007 as one of Newsweek’s “25 To Watch,” and ended the year as one of Essence magazine’s “25 most Influential African-Americans.” The New York Post has named her one of the “50 Most Influential Women in NYC” for the past two years, and the BBC World Service named her “NYC’s Most Influential Environmentalist.” She is a board member of the Wilderness Society and currently is recording a special National Public Radio series called “The Promised Land” for release this year.

Moniz served as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy from 1997 to 2001 and from 1995 to 1997 as associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, where his responsibilities spanned the physical, life and social and behavioral sciences, science education and university-government partnerships.

At MIT, Moniz has served as head of the Department of Physics and as director of the Bates Linear Accelerator Center. His principal research contributions have been in theoretical nuclear physics, particularly in advancing nuclear reaction theory at high energy. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Humboldt Foundation, and the American Physical Society, he also is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He received the 1998 Seymour Cray HPCC Industry Recognition Award for vision and leadership in advancing scientific simulation.

The Notre Dame Forum assembles world leaders on campus in discussion of the leading issues of the day. The forum seeks to engage all campus constituents in these important conversations to better formulate solutions and effect positive change. Past topics have included immigration, the global health crisis and the role of religious faith in a plural world.

More information on “Sustainable Energy: A Notre Dame Forum” is available on the Web at

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