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Student-run MIT Energy Conference influences national legislation

Bingaman cites annual event as he introduces bill in U.S. Senate
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman

Information presented in March at the annual student-run MIT Energy Conference played a significant part in influencing energy legislation that was just introduced in the U.S. Senate.

On May 24, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman — who was one of the keynote speakers at the conference, and also attended several of its panel-discussion sessions — introduced the Supply Star Act of 2010, a bill designed to bring about energy-efficiency improvements in supply chains. Sens. Scott Brown, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor are co-sponsors of the bill. Bingaman indicated that the idea for the bill came from this year’s MIT Energy Conference, where he and his staff were particularly influenced by a panel discussion titled, “Supply Chain Energy Use: Exposing Opportunities for Innovation in a Global Economy.”

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in which he introduced the bill, Bingaman specifically mentioned the MIT conference, saying that the hurdles surrounding optimization of supply-chain energy consumption “were discussed in some detail by an expert panel. The hurdles include a lack of information and analysis tools for important parts of far-flung supply chains, which often lie far upstream or downstream (and therefore out of sight) of a particular firm, as well as a lack of leverage with which to drive global suppliers toward more efficient practices.” The bill, he said, is aimed at helping to address this lack of tools and information.

This year’s MIT Energy Conference took place on Saturday, March 6. The conference is entirely organized by MIT students, and each year approximately 80 students, representing disciplines across MIT’s technology, business and policy communities bring together thought leaders and industry experts to discuss tomorrow’s most compelling energy issues. Each year the conference theme and panel topics are identified by MIT graduate students active in the MIT energy community.

“This year, we wanted to take the ‘energy efficiency’ discussion in a whole new direction. We see great challenges and immense opportunities in improving the energy systems that link the pieces of our global economy,” says Lara Pierpoint, MIT Energy Conference content co-director and former MIT Energy Club co-president.

Addison Stark, content co-director of the 2010 MIT Energy Conference and co-president of the MIT Energy Club, says, “Each year the student organizers of the MIT Energy Conference strive to address issues that drive the public debate, not just reflect on it. I think that the introduction of this bill is an excellent example of the influence that our conference’s fact-based analysis can have.”

This year, Bingaman gave the closing keynote address at the conference, after observing a full day of panel discussions on many pressing issues in energy, including such topics as “Blue Boundaries: The Critical Role of Water Constraints in Energy Generation” and “Unconventional Natural Gas.” Detailed proceedings and information about the conference are available at

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