In our first post on the Clean Energy Forum we held recently at Tigercomm, we noted that there's an aggressive, ongoing effort by the fossil fuel lobby to push clean energy policy into the culture wars (hat tip to J. Patrick Coolican of the Las Vegas Sun). How to combat this assault is a pressing question not just for those of us in the clean economy, but also for politicians who get the urgent -- even existential -- need for our country to develop abundant energy that's clean and cost-effective.
All too often, though, we have had to choose between one candidate who might support us and one who is cheering our demise (go figure!). Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine recently ran for, and won, a U.S. Senate seat from Virginia. A few weeks earlier, Kaine was willing to sit with some of the sharpest minds and most dynamic companies in the mid-Atlantic region's clean economy community (note: also see our first and second posts on the forum). He actually wanted to hear from us and had an understanding of what we're doing.
During the roundtable, Kaine made a number of astute observations, but one particularly jumped out at us regarding the phony Solyndra "scandal." According to Kaine, demonizing the entire solar industry over one particular company's demise would be analogous to people arguing that the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill should make us stop using oil completely.
More from Kaine:
- It's time for opponents of clean energy to stop acting like the reign of fossil fuels as our dominant energy source constitutes some sort of inviolable theology.
- Even for those who don't "believe" in climate science, or who think clean energy is a science project, it's still common sense to move ahead aggressively with energy efficiency and clean energy. Unless, of course, they want America assigned permanent international follower status on the technologies other counties want to lead.
- If we find out in 50 years that the climate science was wrong, we're still ahead by getting off the dirty stuff. If the 98 percent of practicing climate scientists were right and we let clean energy pass us by, we'll deeply regret it.
- Clean energy adoption is being slowed by an inherent, incumbent advantage that fossil fuels have and are using to block innovative new technologies.
- We don't have a level playing field for clean energy because even the way we currently price electric power provides little incentive for energy efficiency and conservation.
- An important step is to "take all the incentives that we currently put on heavy carbon and move them to mid-carbon, low-carbon and no carbon [energy sources]... we don't need to subsidize mature industries and we shouldn't be subsidizing the Big 5 oil companies."
In sum, Senator-elect Tim Kaine understands that we can't transition to a clean economy overnight. However, unlike many of the clean economy's deniers, he also clearly understands that we need to be moving a lot faster for powerful economic, national security, and environmental reasons that aren't going away.