Filed under: Policy
By Seth Masia
San Diego, May 5 – Renewable energy is the way to save the nation and the planet from economic collapse and endless war, and Americans are prepared to understand that message.
That was the underlying theme of five speeches at this morning’s plenary session of SOLAR 2008.
Immoral policy: Former Senator Gary Hart, currently completing a Presidential Climate Action Project to guide the next administration, has specialized for decades in the relationship between energy policy and national security. He noted that 25% of U.S. oil imports come from the Persian Gulf, and that this has already led us into two (maybe three) wars, with over 35,000 American casualties – facts that go unmentioned by government officials and even by the mainstream press.
“We have a national energy policy,” Hart said, “and it is this: We will continue to import 70% of our oil to fuel out inefficient vehicles, and if the flow of oil is cut off we will sacrifice the lives of our sons and daughters to get it. This is massively immoral.”
Green jobs lift all boats: Van Jones, director of Green For All, brought the audience to its feet with a rousing call to build a green workforce to transform the American economy.
“We must change from a pollution-based economy to a clean economy,” Jones said. “Can we be smart enough to connect the people who most need the work to the work that most needs to be done? We can’t afford throw-away resources, throw-away species or throw-away children and neighborhoods. We need a World War II level of mobilization. If we stand together, U.S. can lead the world, and not in war, pollution and incarceration.”
He urged that Congress fully fund the Green Jobs Act, which allocates $125 million for training up to 35,000 new workers, and $2 billion in block grants to cities for efficiency upgrades. He called on RE and EE companies to talk with community college presidents to find freshly trained workers for new projects.
The time to lead is right now: Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar Energy Society, outlined the society’s record of success in initiating and defending government-funded clean energy programs. He challenged the audience to act in the civic arena. “The time is right now,” he said. “The time for energy efficiency is right now, the time for solar energy is right now, the time for green jobs is right now, the time to lead is right now.”
He called for Solar 2008 conferees to develop a road map to a sustainable energy economy, for immediate implementation.
Crisis mode: Professor Michael Dworkin of the University of Vermont Law School, outline the immediate crisis: If the developing world wants as much power as Americans use, the world will need to ramp up electric generating capacity 500%. This is an unsustainable level of development that would lead to an unending intensification of the current resource wars. New energy sources won’t be enough to fill the need, he noted: energy efficiency initiatives are critical.
He urges adoption of the four pillars of energy policy advocated by the Solar Alliance: incentives, along with standards for net metering, interconnection and utility rates and revenues.
Dworkin stressed the critical importance of educating the public that we live in an age of declining fuel resources.
Utilities must comply: Michael Aguirre, city attorney for San Diego, an unscheduled speaker, launched the session by outlining the role to be played by municipal attorneys in forcing utility companies to comply with renewable portfolio standards.
“Can utilities be entrusted with the future of energy policy, and of the nation?” he said, and noted that, based on his experience negotiating with San Diego Gas & Electric, the answer is “no.”
“Our position is that a franchise utility must comply with state law or be in breach of contract,” he said. “If a utility won’t meet its obligation under the state-mandated RPS, the city will explore other options.”
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