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November 5, 2007

The New Politics of the New Energy Economy

Last week I attended a sold-out conference in downtown Denver that addressed the future of Colorado's 'New Energy Economy.' In the absence of any substantial federal legislation to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, state-level government initiatives in such states as California, Vermont, New Jersey, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Colorado to name a few, are giving shape to a technological 'race to the top' scenario where states are competing with each other to attract the type of businesses that can spur the development of a regional new energy economy.

While renewable energy technologies are receiving much needed attention from Wall St. to Main St. and from Cape Cod to Capitol Hill, the consensus at the conference seemed to be that planners, policymakers and investors should focus their immediate gaze on the 'low hanging fruit' of energy efficiency.

A rather interesting group was assembled for this event; it attracted CEOs of major utilities, well-known environmental advocates (and lesser known ones), coal advocates, reps from big oil, governors, farmers, mayors, contractors, energy researchers, policy wonks, etc. It is these sort of interdisciplinary events that have the effect of expanding the green movement beyond the constraints of its traditional boundaries.

In a smart political move, the Governor's Energy Office and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission have already posted links to PowerPoint presentations and high-quality audio of the conference sessions. I have no intention of pouring through the entire conference agenda for you, but if you are interested, I can suggest some worthwhile speeches and panels. The morning began with a pep-talk from Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter who touted a few of the state's legislative initiatives passed in the last session which included a doubling of the renewables portfolio standard (rps) for publicly owned utilities. Ritter delivered his remarks in a high-energy, high-spirited address that started the event off on the right foot. The governor did hint at the proposed policies in his new climate change initiative, but refrained from getting too specific about the details, which will be appropriately announced Monday at Coors Field in Denver. If you do listen to the Governor's talk, pay attention to the Q&A at the end and see if you can pick out which one of the questioners was yours truly! Other worthwhile talks in the morning plenary session came from Ron Binz from the Co. Public Utilities Commission, and from the Director of the Governor's Energy Office, Tom Plant.

If you are interested in traditional fuel sources, you might be interested in listening to the session titled "Coal and Gas: What are the Challenges..." I personally did not attend this session but instead attended the "Consumer Demand" session which featured political analyst Floyd Ciruli and was moderated by the excellent environmental historian Patricia Limerick. During the same time period there was another session for the technically-minded featuring "New Generation Technologies." In the second afternoon session I attended "Meeting Future Demand" which featured some spirited debate between Matt Baker, Executive Director of Environment Colorado and Jim Sims, who is best known as being a part of Vice President Dick Cheney's infamous energy task force (you remember, the one that was criticized for being cloaked in secrecy). This last session was informative but, unfortunately, the equivocating and loquacious Mr. Sims prevented too many questions from being asked by the audience because he was too busy reiterating his redundant messages.

Image Credit: Alexsandar Rodic

1 comment:

SantaFeKate said...

Good question, Tim--though I had to listen to the Q&A twice to find you--just didn't recognize your voice at first. You sounded eloquent, and got a nice response from the governor on your question.