While we are importing ever more petroleum and natural gas, fighting two wars in the Middle East region, experiencing changes in our global climate — it’s time to acknowledge and support four U.S. leaders who are trying to make a difference. By any means, there are others who deserve our accolades, but these four epitomize the diversity of support and with “true grit”. These four have run counter to their contemporaries, not taken seriously when they began their quest for cleaner energy options, but continue to persevere.
T. Boone Pickens has launched his self-financed US $50 million ad campaign. It’s very powerful and has run on the national television channels and as full-page ads in national newspapers. You can see it on YouTube. His thesis calls for a massive use of wind and solar that will offset the use of natural gas for electricity — and this natural gas can be shifted to the transportation sector to run vehicles. Pickens, who on his commercial says he’s “an oil man reacting to the largest transfer of wealth in history” — is definitely on to something. And while the cynics say he is just pushing his natural gas holdings and his investments into one of the largest U.S. wind farm projects — I respond, so what?
We have all heard about former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore’s call for a 100% renewable energy future. Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection estimates that such a conversion to clean electricity would cost up to US $3 trillion over 30 years. Note that Gore said building a new round of conventional coal plants would also cost nearly as much. Gore’s plan maintains a continued reliance on nuclear power at current levels while dramatically increasing power from geothermal, solar and wind.
According to Bob Herbert’s New York Times (Saturday, July 19, 2008) article “Mr. Gore’s focus is primarily on solar, wind and geothermal energy. His belief is that a dramatic, wholesale transition to these abundant and renewable sources of energy is not just doable, but essential.”
Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland, has been a strong advocate of domestic energy, renewable energy and efficiency and of Peak Oil. In fact, the Congressman has gone onto the House floor several times, pressing the fact that petroleum is non-renewable – and has spoken to the President face-to-face on the issue. He’s the first House member to own a Prius and has solar and small wind on his Frederick, Maryland farm. He’s one of two scientists in Congress (he has a PhD in Physiology) and he is a “no nonsense” guy. In the 1990’s he was the prime sponsor of major interconnection legislation for distributed energy, and he has voted against the 2005 and 2007 Energy Bills because they didn’t do enough.
I moderated one of Roscoe Bartlett’s panels last week in his District where he highlighted renewables — more like a clean energy trade show and education seminar — and this 82 year-old Congressman is renewable energy incarnate. In a May 20, 2008 commentary published in The Baltimore Examiner, Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett pushed for extension of the renewable tax credits. This week, for the third time in two years, the House will vote on a bill to extend renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits due to expire at the end of this year. That is good news. The Senate has already voted 88-8 to do so.
Representative Jay Inslee, Democratic Congressman from Washington State, coauthored Apollo’s Fire: Igniting Americas Clean Energy Economy. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, “For years, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) has been frustrated with Congress’ inability to devise a clean-energy policy, so he decided to do something about it – without markups or bills or committees. He decided to write a book.
Together with Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Inslee depicts an economic shift necessary to ease America into a clean-energy revolution in the book, which was released by Island Press on Oct. 1 2007.”
I had the opportunity to be a speaker at the American Book Association this year, basically as the opening act to the Congressman, as we educated booksellers across the country on clean energy. Inslee has been an aggressive long-time supporter of renewables in the House of Representatives, and an active member in the House Renewable and Energy Efficiency Caucus. He also was a prime sponsor of one of the earliest renewable energy interconnection bills in Congress, a fighter for Appropriations, Tax Incentives and regulatory incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Can you imagine what the American Petroleum Institute thinks of Picken’s plan? And we know of the derisive attitude and snickers from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others throughout the years on Gore’s push on climate change in Congress, as a senior player within the Clinton Administration, and as a private citizen thereafter. Congressman Bartlett has always irked many fellow Congressional Republicans for speaking his own mind and his refusal to march “in step.” And Representative Inslee’s passion is sure known by his fellow House Members, particularly now when they haven’t delivered on their promises of extending the clean energy tax credits.
Why these Americans deserve our thanks and support — is that they are stepping out against all odds to make a difference — to drive U.S. policy and the U.S. economy into a new direction. You can be assured that there is immense pushback and disinformation by those that do not want the status quo to change due to greed or just pure lack of vision.
We all need to do our part no matter where we are whether it’s in our community, house of worship, among friends and family, or where we work. Because change rarely comes from the top down – but from the bottom up. These four have set the tone — but it’s our collective jobs to make it work. More on that in the subsequent commentaries.