Interview with Janet Sawin

We spoke with Janet Sawin, an energy policy specialist at Greenpeace USA and author of “Losing the Clean Energy Race: How the U.S. Can Retake the Lead and Solve Global Warming” about her doctoral dissertation turned case study. Sawin has written a summary of the study, which is available from the end of the interview. You can also download the entire report directly from the RE Insider. Why should we be concerned that the United States is losing the Renewable Energy race? Janet Sawin: We need to set an example for the world to follow. The U.S. holds 5 percent of the population and uses 25 percent of the world’s energy. It is our obligation to lead with Renewable Energy technologies. We want developing countries to use renewables and we can’t really expect them to do that if we don’t set an example. We like to believe that we can make a difference and help the world’s poor. Renewable Energy can play a significant role in the quality of life of people around the world. If we aren’t leading in these technologies, it will be difficult to export them. Why should we give up the competitive edge? SA: Why did you call it a race? JS: Partly because of the competitive spirit of the Olympics, but also because the world is racing ahead with renewables especially wind and PV. Countries like Japan and European nations are leaving us in the dust. Also, we are in a race against time in terms of global climate change. SA: Do you think Germany, Japan and other countries mentioned in the report are simply more open to these technologies? JS: There is a lot of interest in this country for Renewable Energy. Poles consistently favor Renewable Energy and energy efficiency. Government policy really drives where the technology is going. But climate change is driving these technologies forward as much as anything else. Renewable Energy is if not the most, one of the most important answers to climate change. SA: Is regaining the lead in solar PV and wind energy dependent on government support? JS: Our government policy still leans toward conventional energy. Some states are moving ahead with renewable energy, investing significant amounts of money in them. What we need most is for this to be done at the federal level and for more consistent policies nationwide in addition to consistency within and among federal policies. SA: How was the report changed by the events of September 11, 2001 and national security issues raised from that event? JS: The report was written within the past month. Renewable Energy sources are less vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Renewables reduce the demand for fossil fuels and reduces price fluctuations. As the demand for energy around the world increases, the competition for non-renewable energy will increase–these are all security issues. Security issues were in (the report) but didn’t have as much emphasis as I think they should now. Now people are more willing to listen to that argument. It was relevant before but more people are going to realize that now. To read Janet’s RE Insider article follow the link below.
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