Time to Step Out – Walk the Talk

I begin this column with a tad more care than I usually do, when I am angered about some policy or market issue. In a short time the American electorate has to make decisions on candidates. I have preached throughout my political career that clean energy is not the child of any party, any politician, any ideology. The bottom-line – it’s good for America and it’s good for our planet – we all know that.

And even as energy prices begin a downward descent because of the cooling economies worldwide due to the financial crises, we all know as soon as the economies begin to “rev up,” energy prices will again increase. And we also know that even now, the crumbs from importing our energy fall into the hands of those who want to kill us and our traditional energy sources produce emissions that not only are changing global climate but seriously harming human health.

For those of you interested in energy efficiency, renewable energy, global environment and sustainable development, there is only one choice for President: Barak Obama. Over the last two years, the Senator sponsored five clean energy bills and cosponsored an equal amount while Senator McCain has no legislative record for renewables.

Their articulated energy plans are starkly different, as well. McCain’s plan promotes a focus on oil drilling and 45 nuclear power plants, while Obama’s plan delineates a US $150 billion commitment over 10 years explicitly to energy efficiency and renewables with the goal of fostering a long-term clean jobs strategy to re-industrialize America.

Now I have worked in the Senate for a Republican for 9 years and I support several Republicans for re-election including Senators Gordon Smith (OR), John Ensign (NV) and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD) — and I have admired Senator McCain’s stands for addressing climate change and increased vehicle mileage standards in the past. But he has actually changed his stances by several degrees as he has run for President, I assume to woo the money or constituencies pushing back. There is really no choice here, and I feel compelled to make that clear.

In the Senate races, we have two starkly pro-clean energy candidates that have long legislative histories — Mark Udall (D-C) who has co chaired the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus for many years, and Tom Udall (D-NM) with a bullish record on clean energy. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge them and their work during this election season.

The other real challenge for all of us in this community is to sort out the rhetoric and promises and force them into reality. During the Clinton/Gore Administration, President Clinton made an historic speech at the United Nations calling for a million solar roofs — yet no incentives were made available to truly drive this program. And even with Vice President Gore’s strong stance on advancing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, EPA Administrator Browner was adverse to use that agency’s programs to significantly drive zero-emission technologies into the marketplace beyond traditional energy efficiency.

So we must pay attention not only to the rhetoric but the details in the transition and the people whom they select — whether they are just good at PR or actually focused and experienced to drive effective programs. For those of us that are Washington, DC-based, we have lived through many Administrations, sessions of Congress, announced initiatives and somber expressions of caring or at least objectivity.

But unless we have national interconnection standards adopted to connect to the electric grid, a national efficiency and renewable portfolio standard to blend our sustainable resource base, extensions of all efficiency and renewables tax incentives to the length of the solar incentives, a climate change bill that actually prioritizes energy efficiency and renewable energy, leveraged government procurements between federal and local governments, critical infrastructure investments to meet our homeland security goals, and enhanced and coordinated federal programs in agriculture, defense, energy, environment, homeland security, housing and interior (national parks and tribes) — our industries will not reach the scale needed to address the problems we profess to solve …… significant energy import reductions, significant greenhouse gas and clean air act emission reductions and significant aggregate energy produced with the national jobs spread geographically to actually pull it off.

So vote on election day — and make sure your family, friends, employees and coworkers, investors and customers do so as well. And then get ready to give your input to those elected to keep their promises.

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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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