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The Power Down Under

UNLV alum Tracy Logan recently spent four months in Australia studying energy issues as a Fulbright professional scholar.
People  |  Feb 21, 2014  |  By Diane Russell
Fulbright scholar and UNLV alum Tracy Logan.

Energy. It's in the headlines all the time. What sources should we rely on -- solar power, wind power? To what degree can we decrease our reliance on more traditional sources such as coal?

The stuff of news stories across America, right? But not just in America as UNLV alumna Tracy Logan can attest.

Logan, '03 BA Economics, just completed a four-month stint in Australia as a Fulbright Scholar in climate change and clean energy policy. An attorney whose work focuses on international energy issues, she was chosen for the professional scholarship following a six-month application and selection process.

While in Australia, she was affiliated with the economics department at University of Sydney, a school she had to cold-call when looking for a university where she could work while in the country. The faculty there proved to be very supportive of her project, she said.

Common Issues

The United States and Australia have a lot in common when it comes to energy, she said.

Both have aging power supply systems that need to be replaced, according to Logan. But major decisions must be made about what the power sources should replace them.

Both nations have been largely reliant on carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil. Now, however, there is an increasing push to move more toward cleaner, renewable resources such as solar and wind.

Whatever the decision, both nations need to move forward soon.

"This overhaul has to happen. It is not elective," Logan said. "And the longer we wait, the more expensive it is going to be." In Australia, the estimated cost of such an overhaul is about $240 billion.

"A real sense of urgency exists to usher in a no-carbon system," she said.

One of the major challenges, of course, is how to finance the overhaul. For Australia, it will need to include both private and foreign investment, she said.

While the two countries' energy challenges have many similarities, there are important differences, she pointed out.

"Australia has great distances and not many people," she said, adding that the United States has both great distances and a very large population.

Another difference is that while a robust solar power system and a great deal of coal make Australia energy-independent, America has not yet been able to achieve that status.

Logan, who earned a law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law in2009, is writing an article for a law journal based on the research she did while in Australia.

A New Phase

Since returning to the United States in January, Logan has switched jobs.

She is moving from Washington, D.C., to Southern California to work for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Her job will involve offshore wind issues in the Pacific region.

The UNLV Years

Logan transferred to UNLV after spending six years studying at community colleges. She had taken a number of hard science and math classes, but had no intention of studying economics. "I had taken, I think, one economics class at that point. I owe it all to the career person in the College of Business (now the Lee Business School). She looked at the classes I had taken up to that point and asked if I would consider economics.

"When I began taking the economics classes at UNLV, everything I studied opened my mind to the business of ordinary life," Logan said. "I began to see economics as being a part of everything.

"The caliber of my experience at UNLV was outstanding," she said. "I was really challenged."

The professors were excellent and supportive, said Logan, citing Bernard Malamud and Bradley Wimmer as two economics faculty members who were particularly influential in her academic career.

She also drew support from two fellow female economics majors. There weren't many women in that major at the time, she recalled. "I felt like we were the 'Charlie's Angels' of economics."