About the Program

The Energy and Environment Program (EEP) is one of the longest running programs of the Aspen Institute. Originally named the Aspen Institute Program on Environment and Quality of Life, its first dialogues on the environment were held in 1969 and the first energy forum convened in 1977. Thus began the Aspen Institute’s exploration of the ever-challenging dialogue between the natural world and human civilization. More than forty years later, EEP remains an active and prominent convener of non-ideological dialogue focused on key energy, conservation, and environmental policies and how to advance environmental sustainability in a technological world.

EEP’s first convenings and mission date back to a groundswell of environmental awareness in the 1960s when American rivers burst into flames, smog-filled skies choked Los Angeles, and the bald eagle was on the verge of extinction. Public pressure and broad-based political leadership gave rise to the US Environmental Protection Agency and the UN-Environment Program. The energy crisis of the early 1970s followed with the creation of the US Department of Energy and a series of energy security bills that led to price controls, rationing, and a nationwide speed limit as the search for energy solutions defined the decade.

Where population growth, natural resource depletion, and environmental pollution spurred constructive dialogue then, the same complex challenges continue today, complicated by competing ideologies and divisions between environmental organizations and industry, state and federal government, and within communities striving for economic development. In an atmosphere of increasing distrust of basic institutions and disputes around facts, values, and identity, society now faces climate change, the greatest environmental challenge to date.

The strategic aim of EEP is to take critical stock of the present and to drive policy-testing dialogue that anticipates – and has the power to shape – the future of energy, conservation, and environmental policies. EEP lays the groundwork for trust and collaboration between individuals and institutions, connecting leaders with often disparate opinions. Through Aspen’s proven method of values-based dialogue, participants are challenged to take a step back from their individual viewpoints and a step forward to think about their responsibilities as leaders in improving public policy, governance, and institutional trust.