Posting in Energy
In an exclusive interview with SmartPlanet, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet laid out his legislative goals for the upcoming Congress and discussed what could motivate Democrats and Republicans to work together.
Finite resources and environmental challenges are compelling governments to take more aggressive action to induce new technologies to power the future. Yet, consensus on how to best move forward remains elusive – even as an energy crisis looms.
As 2011 draws near, the world’s population is approaching seven billion, and the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization based in Paris, forecasts marked increases in worldwide energy consumption.
That demand cannot be met without greater conservation and investments in new sources of energy, including green energy technologies. Meanwhile, efforts to implement a comprehensive energy policy in the United States met with failure.
2011 brings a new Congress in the United States; many pundits predict that it will be deadlocked by deepening political acrimony. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., maintains a more positive outlook: He insists that the Senate can make some progress on renewable energy.
SmartPlanet interviewed Sen. Bennet to learn what may motivate the new Congress to act, and which ideas will succeed on both sides of the isle.
SmartPlanet: What can be done for alternative energy from now until 2012?
Michael Bennet: In the near term, Congress needs to focus on clean energy innovation and deployment. With capital markets still recovering, we can play a critical role in innovation and investment to fill this void. The Energy Committee has done work on this issue in the past, and I look forward to engaging in the debate going forward.
Additionally, the Senate can work on simple fixes to existing law and agency guidance to help incentivize new improvements in energy efficiency and clean energy installations. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing holds great promise to transform our energy economy from the ground up, yet a federal agency is halting these programs across the country. I look forward to working with members of both parties to rectify these issues and advance forward-thinking programs like PACE financing.
SP: What aspects of green energy do Democrats and Republicans agree on? Is it motivated mostly by business or environment concerns?
MB: It’s becoming increasingly clear that there are plenty of priorities that the conservation community and the business community share – protecting public health through technology innovation, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and keeping America competitive in the global marketplace of the 21st Century just to name a few.
Secretary of Energy Chu has repeatedly said that China is spending more than $9 billion a month on clean energy and legislators from all stripes know they’re going to eat our lunch on this if we don’t get our act together. Couple our falling behind in the clean energy race with the knowledge that we’re over-dependent on finite fossil fuels that science tells us harm our health and our planet’s land, air, water and climate, and any reasonable person will tell you that the status quo is unsustainable and we need to change course.
Most folks now realize that the old choice of environmental protection vs. economic development has proven to be a false one and I’m optimistic that Democrats and Republicans can have a fruitful discussion on these issues in the coming years.
SP: What is the Senate’s role in promoting green technologies?
MB: It is in both our national security and economic interests to have a tax code and a system that encourages innovation and entrepreneurialism. An innovation economy that moves us towards cleaner and greener energy in the 21st century will also help protect our land, air and water. I think we can, and need, to make progress for the sake of our nation’s future.
Colorado has been a leader and can serve as a model for the rest of our country as we work to build an innovation economy and transition to clean energy.
SP: What priority is it versus others?
MB: Energy reform – particularly through the lens of job creation through research and innovation – should be a top priority of the Senate.
SP: What motivates legislators? Is it becoming an issue of national pride?
MB: On these issues, our national security, economic and conservation interests are aligned.
We can’t afford to be out-paced by China, or any other country, on this front in today’s global economy. We have a real opportunity to create jobs at home while transitioning away from foreign sources of fossil fuels that harm our health and our planet.
SP: Thank you for your time, Senator.
Dec 22, 2010
@hates idiots solar energy heaters would add very little to the cost of new construction. every little bit counts, no? It would certainly boost awareness and acceptance of the technology among consumers.
Energy Reform = Cap and Trade, Regulations, Legislation and all the lobbying and campaign contributions that come with it. Anybody recall that before the 80's we never had a Department of Energy? The Feds created it to make us energy independent after the oil embargoes. How's that goin' DOE? Is there a journalist anywhere capable of asking these politicians how they got us into the mess we are in, and why we should believe that more regulations, bureaucracy, legislation and deficit spending will get us out of it? As Post #2 points out China is burning every bit of fuel it can get its hands on. They could care less about green anything. If the US and Europe are willing to borrow money from China to buy wind and solar generators back from them, for electricity that costs 5x more to produce than coal or nuclear, they will be happy to accommodate us. $9 billion a month on green technology? We are approaching $60 billion a month just on interest payments for our national debt. These politicians have driven America deep into debt and this guy thinks we can borrow even more money from the Chinese in order to compete with them in "green energy"? If Bennett wants to help America and Americans, he will do all he can to get government out of the way of business and industry - green, black, clear, nuclear, hydro, or otherwise.
They could look at southern parts of the country and make some form of on site solar power generation or solar hot water heating mandatory on new housing. Israel has done this for decades by mandating the use of solar hot water heaters to keep its dependence on oil down. Simple low-tech solar water heaters have a proven track record of saving money and resources. Picture the energy savings from the millions of new homes built each year in a normal economy. The added cost would be small compared to the cost of the house.
Hope to see some Distributed ELECTRICAL Generation on the boards soon. This Top-down is taking too long. Imagine 1 million producers in Colorado !
China is producing less than 1% of their energy needs from clean sources and is fully utilizing its own coal and natural gas. The worst form of pollution is poverty and American unemployment is 10% and higher. America has 1/4th the coal on planet Earth and 200 years worth of natural gas. Cars and trucks can easily be converted to burn it and the conversion will produce American jobs. Instead of competing with China, India and Japan for dwindling oil supplies let?s keep the energy related jobs and money in America. And eliminating the need to import OPEC oil means the US does not need to spend billions on foreign wars in the Middle East. Plus the annual 640 billion trade deficit with OPEC countries will cease.
This is a great interview, and Senator Bennet holds an idealistic view of where we should go as a country, but I think it's going to be a much slower process (coming from a legislative and tactical perspective) to execute these policies effiiciently in a much more urban area, like NYC or LA. Ignoring the population size, the magnitude of shutting down something like Broadway or the subway system to switch to a new power source would have devastating effects on consumer tourism, drastically increasing the bill to make these changes happen. It's definitely going to take innovative thinking how to make this switch over without hurting the businesses that are thriving on our coal-based and antiquated systems. I applaud Senator Bennett for his diligence and acknowledgement that we need to step up our game as a global leader in solving this crisis.