Earlier this week I participated in a conference call with Boone Pickens. A transcript of what Boone talked about in that call is available here
. I think that one of the most important aspects of his comments were references to what has to be done NOW in relation to establishing a green energy economy. What we do today and how we do it is going to determine our path for a long time to come.
With oil prices down and public concern for Climate Change at very low levels
it is going to be extremely hard for legislators to dump a lot of money into building renewable energy products. In addition it will be equally hard to get consumers to make investments in renewable energy on a personal level due to the same economic factors. Boone mentioned this when he pointed out that it is next to impossible to get financing for renewable projects right now with oil and (especially coal) prices as low as they are. As long as traditional energy sources are cheaper than renewables the renewable sector will face the same challenges it always did and one of the biggest was being cost competitive with existing energy sources.
So then, in the current economic climate the best thing for renewable energy supporters to do is to pressure Washington to put in place a framework of laws within which our energy future can evolve. I am a strong believer in the Free Market but what people have forgotten in recent years is that the free market depends just as much on well reasoned legislation as we all do as individuals. American citizens are some of the most free in the world in relation to personal rights and rights in relation to having input to our government process. But at the same time we depend on a framework of laws to establish our rights and our responsibilities to each other and to our nation.
The same must be true for business. We can have a free market within which normal market forces control the evolution and outcome but still have that framework of rights and responsibilities established. Without that we have market anarchy as we have seen demonstrated in the real world with the recent economic meltdown.
Some legislation that needs to be passed in order to establish such a framework for the energy industry is a commitment to creating a smart grid which can take full advantage of renewable energy sources in both large and small scale situations in order to take advantage of the Distributed Generation
model. I believe this model is the best available currently on many levels including national security.
In conjunction with the smart grid we need a national law which establishes rights and responsibilities for all energy producers including individual/small energy producers in relation to being able too tie into the grid and sell the excess energy they produce to other consumers through the grid.
We need to develop a model for the generation of electricity which sets goals as to the emission of harmful by-products of the generation of electricity such as CO2, mercury, sulfur and others. There are many options available in this respect including Cap n Trade laws. There may be a place for various forms of energy production as long as we ask them all to achieve a certain standard as far as emissions go. This will allow the free market to operate in determining which energy sources eventually win out.
Right now the California CARB standards for vehicle emissions are being considered for reinstatement by the EPA after the Bush Administration shut them down. It is this kind of law which we need on a national level in order to create the marketplace for automakers to operate within. Allowing the automakers to determine the direction the market takes will just end up with products which benefit the bottom line of the automakers and this doesn't usually involve a lot of innovation.
Right now California along with 14 other states are ready to adopt the California CARB standards. These states represent over 50% of the US auto market and so, via this channel, the American people have spoken and established their desire for more fuel efficient, less polluting vehicles.
All of these issues need to be addressed by Congress in the near future. This is why the Pickens grassroots movement and others like it are so important. Together, through events like the upcoming Virtual March on Washington, we can make sure that Congress knows that enough Americans do care about our energy future so that they will act in a responsible, well thought manner and not just write the legislation that industry lobbyists want since that legislation invariably benefits the industries first and foremost. So I urge everyone to sign up for and participate in the Virtual March
and make your voices heard.