State of the Union, Coal, Australia and Backbone

Many readers will get this after tonight’s State of the Union, so I decided I wouldn’t talk about what I hoped and expected to hear, other than in relation to my thoughts after attending  an incredible conference yesterday.  The VerdExchange Green Marketers Conference was held for a select group of entrepreneurs, manufacturers, government officials, financial investors, sustainability managers and environmental stewards…all with a vested interest in emerging business opportunities regarding green and clean energy solutions.  I was able to attend two segments…both panel discussions with some very high level participants in a fairly intimate setting.  The frank points of view highlighted passion across the board for saving our planet…counterpointed by the frustrations most of them feel from the global community.   A few panelists impressed me greatly.  Perhaps the one whose words had the most impact on me was Peter Beattie, former Premier (for 9 years) of the Australian state of Queensland, and now, Trade Representative for the Americas on behalf of Queensland.  (For more details on the overall conference, see press release below.)

Beattie is a passionate proponent of saving our planet, coupled with the need of his country to sell coal to Japan — it puts Australia in the same situation as the US with our dependance upon oil.  The equally passionate and insightful Mutsuyoshi Nishimura (Special Advisor to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet; Former Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for Climate Change), made it clear to this audience that each country had limitations on how it could reduce their carbon footprint even though they were greatly supportive of enforcing emissions limitations.  Japan, tiny Japan, currently must burn coal as it has no other resources (and purchases its coal from Australia.)  Both Beattie and Nishimura embrace the need for clean coal (Japan has just opened its first Zero Emissions coal-burning plant) and face two realities. 

  1. Japan will continue to burn coal for decades; and
  2. In 20 or 30 years, coal will not be a viable energy source.

The other panelist who very humbly shared the incredible strides her company is making with investing in alternative energy was President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)Vicky Sharpe.  Sharpe explained that for any alternative energy solution to grow and flourish, it had to be scaleable. Her company was invested almost a billion dollars in 181 alternative energy start-ups, with 34 of them commercially viable.  What that means is that SDTC has created partnerships with multinational corporations (think FedEx, Dupont, Toyota) who would be incorporating the technologies and using them worldwide. 

With Copenhagen still fresh, and each of these panelists very compelling positions and directions, Beattie’s voice kept ringing through to me, echoing statements from almost all of the other panelists. 

The United States needs to set the stage for carbon emission reduction and alternative energy. 

Beattie felt that Obama has already done a great deal for changing the world public opinion of the US, but he also stated that in terms of leading the charge on the renewable energy front,  he yet to see true evidence of an Obama backbone.  If the US takes the lead and creates a technology that will surpass the value of fossil-fuel, then that will allow China and India to leapfrog the fossil-fuel era they claim to need in order to develop their economies. 

[There is a…] lack of leadership in the US.  The private sector is the only way forward unless President Obama has a backbone that he hasn’t seen yet…

That is the statement got me.   Obama had raised World Public Opinion of the United States.  A very strong positive. 

Domestically, however, Obama’s goals for change haven’t really seen him dramatically take this leadership role…or at least not in a way that resonates with the American people or in the World Public Opinion.  Bi-partisanship can only go so far, especially when it is a failing concept in the current political climate.  We can’t just all get along.  We need clear direction and decisive and swift action.

I was excited to see what he would say in his State of the Union tonight.  And I wasn’t disappointed. 

He took a strong position, called out where he had to, put the focus on the American people and jobs in a big way.  He laid out the need to take the lead and be the #1 country in the race for sustainable energy innovation.  He called out the politics of politics and basically laid the framework — pushing through with a majority and having the Republican party vote “no” just for the sake of politicking — that is not leadership and leadership is what he intends to provide the people in the years ahead. 

The only thing that would have made me even happier would be to see him say he’d trash the health care reform bill as is and just move to Medicare for all with optional plans available (like the way the plan works for seniors.)  But that would really not be bi-partisan…would it?

But he reminded me of why I voted for him.  And I liked the backbone.

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I hope Mr. Beattie was pleased.

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Driving the Alternative Energy Marketplace at the VERDEXCHANGE Conference

Business and Policy Leaders Advance Global Clean Tech Opportunities and Cutting-edge Policy

LOS ANGELES – With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen top-of-mind and the State of the Union address forthcoming, government and business leaders from the Western region and around the world gathered in Los Angeles at the VERDEXCHANGE Conference to advance the growing and fast-evolving markets for green and clean technologies.

“This is my third VERDEXCHANGE Conference,” said the Chair of the California Air Resources Board Mary Nichols. “Each time I think it gets better because we’ve gone beyond generalizations about the importance of climate change and opportunities for the business community into really concrete discussions about areas where investments may be appropriate and ways in which government can do more to help promote opportunities and create jobs within California as well as nationally.”

The 26 expert panels focused on sharing the “game changing” impacts of new regulations and attitudes towards environmental sustainability, climate change and energy conservation efforts shaping the global, trillion dollar green marketplace.

During the event’s first panel Congressman Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) said, “I come to California for inspiration for what we are doing in Washington D.C.” He added that “government policy does in fact work and drive energy policy.”

The conference is a noteworthy occasion bringing together the financial professionals, politicians and the utilities important for increasing energy security and making a new economy, remarked Member of the German Parliament Hans-Joseph Fell.“It is important for all parts of the world to avoid rising oil prices and provide new jobs. When we make new policies like feed-in tariffs, capital will be invested. This conference is a good place for discussions like this,” said Fell.

Regarding a regional low-carbon economy, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas declared, “We’ve begun to see the long-term payback of green infrastructure. What’s good for the environment can be good for business.”

VERDEXCHANGE, in collaboration with strategic partners the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, Southern California Edison, AECOM, SoCalGas/Sempra Energy, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Craton Equities, and the consulates of Canada, German and Japan, once again hosted an unmatched opportunity to learn from and network with global, national, and subnational climate change leaders, elected officials, environmental stewards, investors, and financiers.

Participating speakers also included: Chair of the California Energy Commission Karen Douglas; Western Director of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Felicia Marcus; Former Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for Climate Change Mutsuyoshi Nishimura; President of the California Public Utilities Commission Michael Peevey; President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada Vicky Sharpe. For the full list of speakers, visit: http://www.verdexchange.org/conference/speakers.

About VerdeXchange, LLC:
VerdeXchange, LLC is an environmental think tank and publisher created to inform and  strategically advise green innovators wishing to diffuse green technology and innovations in the marketplace. http://www.verdexchange.org

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