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Campus group studies sustainable energy

By Kimberly Young

Jan. 15, 2008 11:15 pm

At its first meeting on Tuesday, members of the Forum for Energy Economics and Development discussed the possibilities of using geothermal energy as an alternative fuel source.

Founders of the new campus organization said they hope to research and discuss possible sources of renewable energy, in order to make informed decisions and encourage student participation. They plan to publish a journal of their research this spring.

FEED will focus on a different alternative energy source each week and hopes to give students a chance to explore those sources as alternatives to a growing dependence on oil.

Maurice Diesendruck, a second-year economics and international development studies student is one of the club’s founders.

“FEED is a student-run study group where we can pull together knowledge. It is research-based, where each student can come in and speak and present their information,” he said.

The organization’s main goal is to get students interested and knowledgeable so they are able to carry on educated debates and discussions.

“We are extremely passionate about this, and our goal is to make others as passionate,” said Igor Bogorad, a second-year biochemistry student and co-founder of the club.

“What we really want is to get students interested, because renewable every is the future.”

The club plans to study a wide array of topics regarding energy resources, from wind, solar and nuclear power to biofuels.

“We hope to learn more about the effects of our actions, such as diverse climate changes. Progress is vital to sustainable living,” Diesendruck said.

He added that it is important not to just think locally, since he believes sustainability is important for the global community.

James Liao, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, is the faculty advisor to the group. He said he decided to get involved because he believes the issue of renewable energy is very important for the next generation.

“It is useful for students to learn the various concepts of truth (about alternate energy sources) because it is often wrongly represented in the media. Many issues need to be better developed,” he said.

Liao, who recently published an article on producing more efficient biofuels using E. coli, said that the current technology for producing biochemical fuels is not efficient. However, if produced efficiently, said Liao, biofuel is a valuable resource because it can be directly substituted into existing gas tanks.

Diesendruck said he thinks the club will focus on solar and biofuels, because they are the most pertinent environmental issues so far.

“Biofuels are the nearest thing to substantiality we have; they can reduce our dependence on oil by harvesting agriculture like corn or grasses to create oil that can be used in regular diesel engines. In addition, they do not require system changes, no new engines,” Diesendruck said.

Beside finding cheaper methods for petroleum, Bogorad said there were other reasons for finding alternative energy sources, such as cutting down on pollution.

“We want to find methods that pollute less so people are healthy, pollute less so the environment doesn’t change too drastically, and find renewable energy because petroleum wont be around for too long,” Bogorad said.

He added that if the current trend continues, “we will have a huge problem soon, in our generation.”

Bogorad also said that less money would be spent on health care if there was less pollution, because there would be fewer health problems.

“I strongly believe a lot of health issues are caused by poor environment, like pollution, and many factors that could be prevented,” he said.

FEED will also focus on solar energy, said Diesendruck. He added that today most solar energy is for commercial purposes, even though it is possible for homes to be powered completely by solar energy.

Diesendruck said they hoped to attract students with a wide variety of interests and diverse academic backgrounds, such as engineering, business, economics and political science.

The organization’s goal is to publish an academic journal in spring for the UCLA community, and to eventually make their research available online.

Diesendruck came up with the idea to start the journal as he read the biography of a Rhodes Scholar who started an academic journal at his school. He and Bogorad then decided to create their own project, centered on renewable energy.

“As college students we feel like our position is optimal to learn about these issues so that when we engage in business or other careers we will be ready to receive it,” he said.

“So far it is only idea-based. Any suggestions or ideas are welcome,” Diesendruck said.

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Kimberly Young
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