Recap: SPIE Bay Area Post-Election Small Group Discussions

December 18th, 2016- On a recent trip to San Francisco, several Stanford Energy Club students and I attended a Stanford Professionals in Energy (SPIE) Bay Area Post Election Small Group Discussion and Networking event. The event was very informative and enjoyable. In my discussion group, we talked a lot about how the election would impact green energy development, from multiple aspects: policy, economic incentives, public perspective and global collaboration. My group members shared plenty of opinions about the nominated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (the top news of that week). When I walked in the discussion room, the only thing I knew about this person was that he was the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Two hours later, I not only learned about this businessman’s leadership role at the company, but also his experiences with international diplomacy and potential impacts on future energy industry. This discussion largely supplemented my knowledge about US politics and how it will influence energy.


My group consisted of people from diversified occupations and education backgrounds in business, engineering, and law. It was especially helpful to hear different perspectives on energy issues, as the energy industry is such a broad world. My group also asked about my opinions from the Chinese perspective. Although my personal thoughts would represent my country, I shared to the group what I said, heard and discussed within my Chinese circle.

The event brought together people from several different industries to talk about the future of ARPA-E funding, private investments in cleantech, and the future of the Clean Power Plan. Some questions even probed into the role of subnationals and states in the role of implementing energy policy. In summary, this event was great, and I am looking forward to participating in other similar events in the future.

– Written by Yiyi Liu


Prior to the election, I had very little knowledge about politics and policy in the space of energy. As the election approached, I grew more nervous as I feared that significant changes in the energy sector would influence my academic and professional career. I began to read online articles and I tried to keep up-to-date on the news pertaining to the energy sector. Attending the SPIE event was extremely beneficial to me because I got to hear from current professionals in the energy sector and their thoughts about how the election influences this space.

We broke out into smaller discussion groups and in my group, I was extremely lucky to have someone who worked on a presidential campaign in the past (I forgot which one). What was interesting is that this gentleman said that the campaign initially started as one that did not believe in climate change and transitioned into one that did. Although this was a “messy and convoluted process”, it goes to show how politicians can easily alter their opinions. With Trump, I think it is obvious that his opinions are as volatile as anyone’s. We are already starting to see his position change on global warming, but in our discussion group, we discussed that the energy sector may not be near the top of his agenda.

Another interesting person that was in my discussion group was one of the cofounders of Opus12. They are a start-up company out of Stanford currently participating in the Cyclotron Road program up in Berkeley. Essentially, they have developed a new technology that turns carbon dioxide back into useable petrochemical products. I originally saw this company on a flyer from the Tomkat center and thought it was a really cool idea with huge potential. It was just surreal to meet one of the cofounders and get his take on our path forward as a scientific and engineering community after the election. He believes that Opus12 can continue to succeed through tough times in the energy sector.

To conclude, attending this event was one of the best things I did this quarter. A suggestion was brought up by another member in the discussion group. This gentleman said that the millennial representation in this years election was “pathetic” and that our voices are becoming more important in today’s society. Being at Stanford, he felt that it would be worthwhile to create a movement to unite all other millennials to voice the importance of the energy sector and our environment.

– Written by Daylan Kimo Siemann