Monday night's dinner speakers offered a common theme: the future of our economy is tied to the future of our environment.
Keynote speaker Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell emphasized that the development of renewable energy is not just "a race for energy independence" but also "a race for economic superiority," where we will lose our strong economic position in the world if we drag our feet. "It is absolutely criminal that we are moving at a snail's pace." (Watch the video.)
Gov. Rendell pointed to the Gamesa wind energy project in Pennsylvania as a model. Gamesa representative Michael Peck already addressed the dinner audience, explaining how their "sustainable partnership" with the United Steelworkers is on its way to bring 1,000 good-pay, high-skill union jobs to the Keystone State.
(Check out this American Prospect piece for more about how the Gamesa project came to be.)
After Gov. Deval Patrick declared his intention to make Massachusetts the capital of renewable energy, Gov. Bill Ritter threw down the gauntlet on behalf of his Colorado.
Patrick, who won election promising support for a groundbreaking wind farm off of Cape Cod, announced yesterday (watch the video):
I don't just want the wind farms. I want the companies that build the turbines. I want the ones that assemble the hybrid vehicles and consult on the conservation strategies. I want the companies that design and manufacture the solar panels. The whole integrated industry ought to and can have a place in Massachusetts ... I really believe that if we get this right the whole world will be our customer.
Governor Patrick talks about bringing jobs to Massachusetts. We're going to arm wrestle you for those jobs because we want those same manufacturing plants.
This competition is nothing but healthy for our energy future, as Ritter noted:
...that's a good thing to have two governors competing for those jobs, competing in this industry to build out the turbines competing, to have the wind farms located in their state. That's the right way for us to think about it.
Damon Silvers, Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO stunned the room this afternoon, announcing that while there's $160 trillion of fossil fuels currently underground, the economic costs of unchecked climate change will total between $700 and $1,400 trillion -- possibly causing a global depression.
Silvers said that's why the AFL-CIO backs investing union pension assets into clean energy funds -- because you're not responsibly investing for the future, if you're not investing in a sustainable future.
Further, Tom Croft of the Heartland Network stressed that it's important for unions to control their assets and invest in sustainable projects that will create good jobs.
Investment experts at the "Moving Labor & Public Pension Funds into Clean Energy Investments" panel assured attendees that the rapid growth of the clean energy market means it's easier to create financially sound, diversified portfolios.
In turn, there is no trade-off between investing green and making green. With the help of folks who know the energy industry , it's not hard to do both.
And since there are hundreds of billions of dollars in union pension funds, a clean energy investment strategy may have significant impact.
The broad array of participants -- brought together by our Apollo Alliance coalition -- are finding critical common ground: highlighting state and local projects that have enhanced energy independence while creating jobs with good pay and benefits, and developing strategies that can build on these successes nationwide.
I'll be liveblogging the action for the rest of today and tomorrow, and our friends at PoliticsTV will be posting video highlights and interviews. Keep checking back!
The NY Times reports today that the European Union will cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2020, if the US will too.
Obviously, the EU knows that President Bush won't bite, and if you read between the lines of the NYT piece, it would seem the offer is a way to gloss over differences within the EU over how aggressively it can combat global warming.
(The EU at least plans to shoot for a 20% cut by then, which ain't bad at all, as it could put us on the path to cut emissions 60-80% by 2050, widely considered to be the ultimate goal.)
But there are a lot of folks looking to replace Bush these days. Will any of them pledge to take the EU up on its offer?