My interest in the environment began at a young age. In second grade, my class watched horrifying films of rainforest destruction. My school collected cans to save the rainforest, and I gathered facts about dying species. I convinced my family to buy products to reduce water flow in our toilets and to compost our trash. When I was nine, the Exxon Valdez leaked oil into Prince William Sound in the world's most environmentally-devastating oil spill. The oil industry, with its murder of seabirds, its pollution, and its appetite for pristine lands, characterized evil to me. In high school, I broadened my knowledge of the environment as my debate team studied clean coal and renewable technology. I thought pollution-reduction should be a country's primary goal.
In college, I studied economics and learned that energy production fosters economic growth and therefore raises the living standards of the world's people. In the words of an African classmate, "My country wants to pollute - we want to industrialize and grow rich." With my growing understanding of pollution, I balanced my belief in environmental protection with the realization that pollution was necessary for alleviating poverty - another passion I have held since I was a child.
I began volunteering when I realized that many people lack enough food, a home, and a good education, things I had always taken for granted. In high school, I organized several donation drives for a fund I helped set up that provided lunch money for children whose parents no longer qualified for welfare and were forced to send their children to school hungry.
In college, I joined the school's Social Commitment Preparatory Program through which I volunteered at soup kitchens, repaired houses for the homeless, and taught English to Sudanese refugees. I also co-organized a Hunger Banquet to raise money for hunger relief organizations and to inform the Grinnell community about world hunger. In addition, I interned at Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA), a center that provides social services to the community including support for families on welfare. As one of my responsibilities, I helped Iowans apply for the federal government's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through which families receive a one-time payment for heating costs.
From my economics courses, I knew that energy was necessary to economic growth and to me this mitigated the negative effects of its pollution - however, energy costs made life harder for the clients at MICA. Heating prices spiked abnormally during the winter of2000-2001. Families were overwhelmed by the cost, and the MICA office bulged with applicants paying off high bills from the previous year. The farm wives and waitresses in front of me added new insight to my understanding of energy policy. MICA taught me that while, in general, energy increased a country's overall economic well-being, energy costs had the capacity to impoverish the most vulnerable citizens. I decided that I wanted to devote my career to making effective energy policy: policy that demonstrates good choices based on a full awareness of the costs and benefits involved in balancing pollution, overall social welfare, and the welfare of the poorest citizens.
To study energy, I applied to work at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D. C., where I am part of a team that researches the oil industry. In this position, I research and draft memoranda for Chairman Greenspan and other economists describing the oil market. During this year of intensive study, I have learned that the oil market is influenced by events as diverse as ethnic unrest in Nigeria, anti-government fervor in Venezuela, and OPEC's desire to keep prices below the level at which significant resources are devoted to the development of renewable technologies. the more I am engaged in the study of energy policy and the forecasting of energy prices, the more I appreciate the difficulty of energy policy.
If I am given the opportunity to pursue a degree in Economic and Social History at Oxford, I will use it to understand the logic behind the choices made throughout history to the balance the competing interests of energy, the environment, and the causes of social problems. I believe that contributing to and learning from the rigorous academic environment at Oxford will give me an opportunity to concentrate fully on energy and social issues and allow me to grasp the problem from an academic and historical perspective that will enhance the knowledge I have already gained. In addition, I would embrace the opportunity to study policy in a nation with an energy and public welfare sector different from that of the United States. I know that this opportunity will channel the passion I discovered as a child to help craft a world that focuses intently on caring for its people now, while keeping a steady eye on the environment in the interest of generations to come.