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America's Energy Challenge: Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson
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January 22, 2010

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson of Public Agenda don't tackle simple stuff. When last on the JOURNAL, they were concerned with helping Americans grasp the very concrete ramifications of a national debt adding zeros at a rapid rate. Now they have taken on the energy crisis and climate change. In a new book WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS? YOUR GUIDED TOUR TO THE ENERGY CRISIS they aim to both educate the American public about the complex problem, and spark discussions leading to solutions.

Bittle and Johnson say there are six reasons why Americans need to address the energy crisis now.
  • The United States needs more energy. The projections are that we're going to need about 25 percent more energy in the next couple of decades.
  • World energy demand is projected to go up 40 percent over the next 20 years in places like China and India as they grow, develop and become middle-class consumer societies.
  • About 80 percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels, oil, coal, and natural gas — expensive to obtain and supplies of which are finite.
  • Climate change: the carbon dioxide we're putting out from use of fossil fuels is fundamentally changing the world's climate.
  • Our system for getting energy is much more precarious — to terrorism, political strife, technical malfunction — than most people realize.
  • The fact that 60 percent of oil reserves are in the Middle East has national and foreign policy ramifications.

"The Great All-In-One Fossil Fuel Centerfold"
This book feature is a concise primer on all the types of fuel we use from coal to solar. For each fuel the chart denotes: How it's used. Whether it is a fossil fuel or not. How much we have. Whether or not the source is renewable. And, finally, "What are the big decisions the country faces related to that fuel source."

When In Doubt, Do As The French Do?
Explore what Denmark, Brazil, France, and Britain are doing to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass
Find out about America's "backup plan" — 700 million barrels of crude oil in a series of caverns in Texas and Louisiana.

More Than You've Ever Wanted To Know About Energy
Explore a collection of online sources from a multitude of perspectives.

Scott Bittle

Scott Bittle, photo by Robin HollandScott Bittle manages public opinion research and analysis at Public Agenda, including both its research department and PUBLIC AGENDA ONLINE, which has been twice nominated for a prestigious Webby Award by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

An experienced editor and reporter who has worked for both online and print publications, Mr. Bittle is involved in the production of citizen education guides and is lead author of Public Agenda's Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index. He also served as an exit poll analyst for NBC News in the 2006 elections.

Mr. Bittle holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and journalism from Rowan University of New Jersey.
Jean Johnson

Jean Johnson, photo by Robin HollandJean Johnson is executive vice president of Public Agenda and head of its Education Insights division, which works to enhance public and community engagement in public education. As a member of Public Agenda's senior staff, she has developed and managed research and communications projects on a wide variety of issues. She has authored or co-authored Public Agenda studies on education, families, religion, race relations, manners and civility, retirement, welfare, and health care.

Along with WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS and WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO, Ms. Johnson is also the principal author of LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL: YOUNG PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THEIR HOPES AND PROSPECTS, and WHERE WE ARE NOW: 12 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PUBLIC OPINION AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS. She is lead author of REALITY CHECK, which tracks attitudes among parents, students, teachers, principals, superintendents and others on key education reform topics.

In addition to her work at Public Agenda, Ms. Johnson is a director of Sugal Records, a small, New York-based classical music recording company. Ms. Johnson graduated from Mount Holyoke College, and holds master's degrees from Brown University and Simmons College.

*Judith Davidson Moyers is a trustee of the Public Agenda Foundation.

Guest photos by Robin Holland.
Related Media:
DebtBittle and Johnson on the Debt
Does America's $9 trillion federal debt mean we are mortgaging our future and jeopardizing individual savings, healthcare, and retirement for generations to come? Bill Moyers gets a reality check from Public Agenda's Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson, co-authors of WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO? YOUR GUIDED TOUR TO THE FEDERAL BUDGET CRISIS. (February 15, 2008)

EarthMoyers on the Environment
View collected JOURNAL coverage of the environment. Selections include the father of sociobiology E.O. Wilson, the environmental risks of mountaintop mining and a photographic artist who makes pictures out of our trash.

References and Reading:
This series of on-air PBS specials is designed to get citizens talking about changing their consumption of fossil fuels. The site contains an ongoing conversation, complete with user-submitted ideas and tips from groups like Public Agenda.

What Can I Do?
Find out what practical steps can you take in your everyday life to help curb global climate change, mass species extinction, and other looming ecological disasters.

National Science Foundation: Climate Change Report
The Web site for the NSF's multi-year educational effort to raise awareness among Americans about the effects of climate change.
Also This Week:
The JOURNAL assesses Obama's first year as President in the wake of Democrats' defeat in Massachusetts' special election for Senate with Princeton politics and African American studies professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell and journalist Eric Alterman.

Faced with the increasing global demand for oil and the threat of climate change, experts say that America needs a new energy policy — but what are our options? Bill Moyers sits down with analysts Jean Johnson and Scott Bittle to discuss how we can power America's future.

Find out where to get up-to-the-minute information on the situation and relief efforts online. And, read more from poet Danielle Georges.

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