April 22, 2006

Earth Day 2006 - Clean Energy: Time to Get Practical

There is a seemingly intractable disconnect among many in our community between the broad perspective of what political, meteorological, socio-economic, and environmental forces are at play in the world and the practical implications in our "own backyard."

Many would say that to pursue alternative, renewable energy without conservation is a fool's play. After all, a gallon saved would be a gallon earned. Yet we hear very little about conservation in the media or political circles - certainly not to the extent that we did in the '70s when we accepted the stern medicine of gas rationing and lowered speed limits to help cope with the fuel crisis.

Similarly, a waste management solution like RENEW LA that simultaneously cuts greenhouse gases and pollution, doubles recycling efficiency, creates tens of thousands of jobs, reduces dependence on fossil fuels, and augurs in a new boom in investment capital and development would seem irresistible to environmentalists. But, incredibly, it only takes a loud group of self-styled "environmental activists" to fight irrationally against it and the hotter heads prevail - as State Assembly "leaders" let necessary permitting legislation (AB 2118 and AB 1090 before it) languish from political fear and inertia.

We need to close that disconnect - and fast. We need to bond as a team to solve these problems - to meet the common challenges with unity and creative solutons so characteristic of this great country. To risk the unfamiliar for a greater good.

It isn't about spending money - its about providing private investors and municipalities security to move forward. Security requires legislative support in the form of expedited permitting and municipal tax credits.

Below are excerpts from a farsighted Earth Day editorial written by the Director of Technology and Policy Development for CalCEF (California Clean Energy Fund). Is it too much to ask Sacramento lawmakers to work out the fine print?


Clean energy: Time to get practical
By Dan Adler -- Special To The Bee

As we celebrate Earth Day today in the shadow of skyrocketing oil prices, an ongoing war in Iraq and growing concerns about global warming, we should focus on practical solutions to the pre-eminent challenge of our time - the challenge of energy. Public support for alternatives is advancing across the United States and worldwide, setting the stage for new public-private partnerships to rapidly accelerate and implement energy innovation.

California has recognized the imperative of change, and is legislating and regulating to effect a long-range industrial transformation. We are demanding energy efficiency and renewable technologies, backed by a strong mix of regulatory certainty, robust competition and long-term financing.

The core challenge, one that deserves a major increase in emphasis, is commercialization - getting these technologies to scale, improving their cost and reliability and moving them into society with speed, depth and breadth. It is time to be practical, and to use public-private partnerships to maximize the strengths of the business community and of government.

There is great synergy between the public policy effort to promote renewable energy and the long-term financial needs of pension investors. Power plants are huge, expensive things that produce both energy and revenue for their owners - for upward of 30 years, nicely matching these systems' pension obligations. This is an example of the type of financial innovation that will be just as crucial as science to the success of the sustainable energy effort.

We cannot see the place we need to reach, but it is obvious we must move on from where we are. We are not sending a few of us briefly forward, but forcing all of industrial society through a process of fundamental change. And there is no alternative - all of the major existing energy systems, including those dependent upon water, are depleting or threatened. This is our challenge, and we must face it. Our history of innovation suggests that we can.


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