UW student bikes 701 miles for energy documentary

2011-08-31T23:45:00Z 2011-09-01T00:15:20Z UW student bikes 701 miles for energy documentary

By JEREMY FUGLEBERG

Casper Star-Tribune

The Billings Gazette
August 31, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

LARAMIE, Wyo. — A few weeks ago, Mark Pedri was riding a Schwinn bicycle 701 miles along Wyoming’s back roads, towing a trailer loaded with camera equipment.

Now he spends his time riding a chair at his apartment in Laramie, editing the footage he shot of energy-related sites around the state for a documentary.

On one of his editing screens, an image of a row of wind turbines stretches across the sky.

“That’s by Arlington,” he said. “Just north of Arlington, a little bit. That’s the wind farm up there.”

The Rock Springs native is making a documentary about energy, the state’s largest industry. It’s a polarizing topic, one which many documentary filmmakers discuss with an agenda in mind.

But Pedri, a communications graduate student at the University of Wyoming, is trying to make something different: a film about energy, specifically energy sources in Wyoming and one in Utah, without the usual bias. What is the best energy? He’ll let viewers decide.

“My job, I feel, is to adequately cover each industry,” he said. “I want to point out the pros and I also want to point out the cons, and I want to see what people are doing to make it better.”

Longtime family friend Reid West, a Sweetwater County commissioner, offered Pedri some ideas and contacts for companies involved in energy in the county.

Sweetwater County is home to the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant, as well as the planned site of new power lines, wind farms and uranium projects, so West had a lot of things to discuss with Pedri.

“I tried not to take a position either way with him,” West said. “Because the whole point of his adventure was to learn more about energy and to come to some conclusions in his mind, I guess, about what he thinks the best path forward is.”

After planning the route from Pinedale to Laramie, Pedri headed out on his Schwinn Moab mountain bike, pulling a roughly 75-pound trailer down dirt or gravel-covered county roads, and fighting flat trailer tires all along the way.

“I tried to stick to county roads, which were graded gravel roads,” he said. “But a few times I got caught on two-track roads, which made pulling the trailer almost impossible.”

For 20 days, from July 24 to Aug. 12, Pedri pedaled from Pinedale through the Jonah natural gas field south to Rock Springs and a natural gas compressor station, the Jim Bridger electricity plant and the Flaming Gorge Dam’s hydropower facility.

Bob Arambel, manager of the Jim Bridger plant, had heard about Pedri’s project. He said he was happy to show Pedri around the plant and explain the good and bad of coal-fired electrical generation, including the ongoing work to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide such plants pump into the sky.

“They’ve all got their problems, there is no perfect energy, and as far as the portion he and I talked about, I felt it was really unbiased,” Arambel said. “And the other impressive part is him pedaling over the whole state — that’s just phenomenal.”

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