WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the Obama administration nudging climate change toward the top of the political agenda, the new energy economy was a timely topic as 25 business and community leaders from the Tri-Counties convened for a day of discussions hosted by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.
Capps said she was encouraged by efforts to develop a regional economic development plan to encourage clean technology companies under the umbrella of a Green Coast Alliance.
“This is an opportunity for the entire region to develop jobs at a time when the economy is weak,” Capps said. “We come from a position of being in a deficit compared to the rest of the world.”
Climate change and clean technology are moving up the Obama administration’s agenda as it prepares for a major climate address by the president at the next round of negotiations in Copenhagen this fall on approaches to global warming.
“The American people want a different energy future,” said Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change.
The tri-county group also heard from top congressional leaders including Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, and Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland.
Much of the discussion revolved around the energy and carbon reduction bill passed by the House in June. It has been held up in the Senate amid debate over health reform.
The bill contains cap-and-trade provisions that are anathema to many Midwest utilities. But it also gives away initial carbon credits for free — something environmentalists largely scorn.
Waxman defended the bill in his remarks. “We put a cap on carbon in a way that would be least disruptive to the economy,” he said.
Hoyer defended the bill as a way to wean the country from dependence on oil from “Chavezes in Venezuela, Iran, Iraq and even Saudi Arabia.”
Ed Markey, D-Mass. and co-sponsor of Waxman’s climate change bill, told the tri-county group he hoped that the house energy bill, if enacted, would open up energy markets in the same way that the 1996 Telecommunications Act paved the way for the development of broadband and wireless Internet services. Because the energy market is four times the size of telecommunications, the overall impact could be much larger, he said of the $800-billion-plus bill.
Among those in attendance from the Tri-Counties were Bill Buratto, executive director of Ventura County Economic Development Association, Mike Manchak of the San Luis Obispo Economic Vitality Corp. and Dave Davis of the Santa Barbara-based Community Environmental Council.
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal told the group he was prepared to ask the county supervisors to provide $25,000 in seed funding for a regional economic development effort that has been called the Green Coast Alliance as a way to encourage other communities and private donors to step forward.
Others in attendance from the Tri-Counties included Linda Krop of the Environmental Defense Center, Brent Dehlsen and Charles Vinnick of Ecomerit and Clipper Windpower, Brick Conners, former head of Naval Base Ventura County and Dan Colbert of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Energy Efficiency Institute.
Waxman said that Congress has taken a three-step approach to clean energy and climate change, beginning with the 2007 energy act that increased fuel-efficiency standards for autos.
The second piece was the Economic Recovery Act, which includes funding for weatherization, new technology and smart-grid technology for utilities.
The final piece, he said, was the energy bill currently before the Senate.
Behind the action was the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that carbon emissions are covered under Clean Air Act as well as California’s tough auto emissions rules and its AB 32 greenhouse gas emissions limits.
A senior White House official told the group that regardless of whether the Waxman-Markey bill passes the Senate, there has been “real momentum” on climate change.
Browner said she expected there to be a price on carbon admissions, albeit a low price. Once that price signal gets sent, industry will adapt in ways that reduce cost and make profits, Browner said.
Liz Salerno, a wind power energy advocate, said the danger of delay is that in the absence of a clear, long-term policy on energy, China, India and Brazil will leapfrog the U.S. in developing alternate energy technology. “There’s a sense of urgency,” she said.
•The Pacific Coast Business Times launched the Green Coast Alliance beginning with a special report on Green Business in April. A white paper drawn up by the group outlining a proposed Green Coast Innovation Zone is available here.
Here’s a full list of 23rd Congressional District summit participants:
• Naveed Aslam, chief technology officer, Carbon Sciences Inc.
• Bill Buratto, president and chief executive officer, Ventura County Economic Development
• Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara County Supervisor
• Derek Carlson, business manager, Marborg Industries
• Dan Colbert, executive director, University of California, Santa Barbara, Energy Institute
• Capt. Charles Brick Connors, former commander at Naval Base
Ventura County; currently with Booz Allen Hamilton and consults on green
business initiatives in Ventura County
• Douglas J. Crawford, executive vice president of business development, Foodchain
• Dave Davis, executive director, community environmental council
• Brent Dehlsen, chief executive officer, Ecomerit Technologies, LLC
• Henry Dubroff, chairman and editor, Pacific Coast Business Times
• Byron Elton, president and chief executive officer, Carbon Science Inc.
• John Ewan, president, Pacific Energy Company
• Stephanie Ewan, vice president, Pacific Energy Company
• Jim Fiske, CEO, LaunchPoint Innovations, LLC
• Tony Hirsch, FamousPartners
• Linda Krop, counsel, Environmental Defense Center
• Michael Manchak, president and chief executive officer, Economic Development
Corporation San Luis Obispo
• John Martin, fuel4ward.org
• Greg Merritt, vice president of corporate marketing, CREE Lighting Solutions
• Ed Petrin, founder and chief executive officer, Foodchain
• Ron Pretlac, chief executive officer, Green Tech Motors
• Karin Quimby, Ph.D., Co-Director, ECOFaith Santa Barbara
• Mike Rocke, vice-president of marketing and business development, Transonic
• Brian Segee, staff attorney, Environmental Defense Center
• Jeremy Tittle, executive assistant to Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal,
• Jon Van Bogart, vice chair, Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition
• Charles Vinick, director, Business Development and Government
Relations, Ecomerit Technologies, LLC
• Patricia Wilmore, local area manager for governmental relations,