Circle of Blue’s Brett Walton is one of 14 journalists awarded a fellowship to attend the Energy Country Institute, an expedition-style immersion program sponsored by the Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources (IJNR).
Over the past year, Circle of Blue has completed unprecedented, in-depth reporting about the struggles between water and energy, which have profound global implications on everything from food prices to adaptation to climate change. Beginning in June 2010, Walton defined these “choke points” in U.S. energy production from the thermopower facilities in the South to the Hoover Dam in the West.
The “choke point” analysis has since been expanded, with reporting from China beginning in December 2010. In both countries, Circle of Blue has documented striking similarities between the increasing demand for energy and the decreasing supplies of freshwater sources that are crucial for energy production, and Walton’s work has been highlighted in Circle of Blue presentations at premiere conferences such as the World Economic Forum and the Society of Environmental Journalists.
In June 2010, Walton broke the story of a small Alaskan town’s plan to export 2.9 billion gallons a year across the Pacific Ocean to India. The story has since been covered by National Geographic, The Atlantic, and other mainstream media outlets.
Walton, a Seattle-based Circle of Blue reporter since October 2009, has also reported heavily on U.S. water pricing and infrastructure. Last February, Walton launched the popular Federal Water Tap, a weekly digest of U.S. water policy.
From a base in Santa Fe, Walton and the other fellows will travel to energy-development sites in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, meeting with utility operators, industry representatives, scientists, and energy experts along the way. Fellows will:
- learn about solar energy and agriculture in Colorado’s San Luis Valley;
- visit an algae farm on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation;
- observe natural gas-drilling sites in Colorado’s San Juan Basin;
- tour geothermal- and solar-energy projects in Jemez, New Mexico;
- discuss the connection between water, energy, and climate change while at Valles Caldera Preserve
Journalists attending the institute have written for The New York Times, Forbes, High Country News, The Durango Herald, and The Arizona Republic. Other fellows are photojournalists or have worked in television production for outlets such as Voice of America.
IJNR is a Missoula, Montana-based nonprofit that trains journalists covering natural-resource issues. Led by Frank E. Allen, a former environment editor for The Wall Street Journal, the institute has served more than 600 journalists during 47 field expeditions, since its inception in 1995.