In June 2007, I taught an environmental seminar at the University of Redlands campus in Salzburg with guest lecturers including senior representatives from the Austrian environment ministry, Lebensministerium, Land Salzburg and city representatives. Over some excellent beers at the Augustinerbräu, a couple of the seminar organizers, guests and I discussed environmental policies and programs with regard to renewable energy technologies. At the time, Governor Schwarzenegger—perhaps the world’s most famous Austrian—was taking a leadership role with respect to global warming legislation in the United States, while Austrian Environment Minister Josef Pröll and Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer were taking the lead on similar legislation in the European Union, and it occurred to us that we might broker an agreement between our two governments with regard to environmental policy and technology transfer. A year later, with the help of Austrian Ambassador to the United States Eva Nowotny, we had a MOU signed and in place to promote environmental exchange between Austria and California.
That summer I applied for a Fulbright grant in order to continue to work on the MOU and was granted a position working with the Technical University of Vienna in 2009-2010. During my Fulbright, I was a guest lecturer at Technical University Wien, Technical University Graz, and other Austrian graduate studies programs involving renewable energy policies and technologies. I was impressed by the level of commitment and technical expertise in the Technical University and other research groups, especially the biogasification lab in the basement (Hofbauer's lab).
During my time in Austria as a Fulbright Scholar, I had several opportunities to engage in policy discussions with local, national, and international groups. I was invited as a speaker at the Austrian National Chamber of Commerce, featuring a panel of several speakers talking about the state of the technology and national incentive programs for expanding renewable energy research, and at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (in Prague), which focused on housing and incentivizing more energy efficient housing products at the community, national and EU scales. I was also invited to speak at and facilitate several international environmental technology conferences, be a guest at the Austrian delegation to the International Energy Globe Awards Ceremony in Brussels, and become a member of the Trans-Atlantic Research and Development in Sustainability (TARDIS) working group. This group is comprised of selected renewable energy and sustainable development practitioners from across Europe and the United States. Since my grant ended, we have continued to meet, the most recent being in Estes Park, Colorado, in June 2014.
The Fulbright was a seminal experience that would forever change my life’s work. I have gained so many Austrian colleagues with whom we continue to work at expanding the role of renewable energy technologies in the EU and here in the United States. Personally, living in Vienna for most of a year, one of the world’s most livable and “sustainable” large cities was an unforgettable experience. I have fond memories of my trans-European romance with my wife, Lynn, who was studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts at the time, and we had the most amazing Weihnachten und Neujahr (Christmas and New Year) in Vienna and Salzburg with our children.
The Fulbright Program provides the structure for these international exchanges to take place -- in the classrooms, in the ministries, and in the marketplace. If J. William Fulbright could see the program today that honors his name and diplomacy, he would be immensely proud, especially with the U.S.-Austrian Fulbright program, which has fostered so many scholars and students on both sides of the Atlantic in achieving a greater understanding of our common world citizenship.