Last week’s U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, 2012, the world's largest conference dedicated to green building is over, but its voices still linger in my head.
Newark, N.J. Mayor Corey Booker, on the controversial stimulus’ green investments: “I know that it is very controversial to spend our stimulus dollars on energy, but it is a good investment. We in America, unfortunately, spend so much money on the back end of problems … it is so much more expensive, as opposed to making critical green investments on the front end that bring a healthier, more productive society.”
George Pataki, former Governor of New York, on how to advance clean energy: "The problem isn’t that government shouldn’t be trying to advance the ball and encourage a result; it’s that government shouldn’t be picking a company or a technology."
The comments were made during the conference’s opening plenary. The previous week’s election and the re-election of pro-green President Obama was the catalyst for the morning’s discussion with numerous regional media celebrities, sustainability experts and social media leaders. MSNBC's Morning Joe co-hosts Mika Brzezinksi and Joe Scarborough interviewed Newark, N.J. Mayor Corey Booker, and George Pataki, former Governor of New York, among others.
Booker, on the value of the stimulus’ green investments: “First, we have to stop thinking about green in terms of left and right.
“Someone needs to make the hard call. Until we start telling the truth right now and making difficult political choices that necessitate investment now, we’re going to continue to see these storms come. Being on the ground during Hurricane Sandy, it was apparent that there were things we should have done 10, 20 years ago in terms of infrastructure improvements.
“I know that it is very controversial to spend our stimulus dollars on energy, but it allowed us to retrofit and upgrade numerous buildings in our city. It is a good investment to make because the return of that investment is great. As anybody of fiscal prudence understands that ultimately, this lowers the cost of government, lowers the burdens on taxpayers.
“So if you have the conversation with that perspective, realize that we in America, unfortunately, spend so much money on the back end of problems. If you’re against big government, I would say, our government has had to spend money taking care of poor health, related to lead poisoning, the high asthma rates … when we pay for them on the back end, it is so much more expensive, as opposed to us making critical green investments on the front end that bring a healthier, more productive society.”
Pataki, on how to advance clean energy: It should be set as a national, not a political goal. But how do we advance clean energy? There was Solyndra, and others that didn’t work … the problem isn’t that government shouldn’t be trying to advance the ball and encourage a result; it’s that government shouldn’t be picking a company or a technology. We don’t know what the technology is going to be a year from now, two years from now that might work better than existing technologies. When government is a company, it is investing in a technology. Government doesn’t know how to mow my lawn, much less pick a technology for the 21st century.
"Incentivize the result. For example, if you want to have cars that are extremely efficient, don’t say you’re gonna have electric cars, or natural gas cars or fuel cell cars, incentivize any cars that gets 100 mpg of petroleum, low carbon emissions, and then a company will come along and say “I can do this.” That how you do it. that’s how we got the hydrogen buses. You come up with the technology and we’ll support you.
"It is economically driven. When gasoline was $4.50 a gallon, everyone was saying, my god, we’ve got to have alternative-fueled vehicles. When it’s $1.95, no one really cares about clean energy. I don’t want to see a tax put on those sources to guarantee a high price, what I’d rather do is set an overall goal. I think the hardest most controversial issue is carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, and global warming in the political context. And that’s where it’s going to be difficult to achieve consensus but I think we have to. And we don’t necessarily have to put in place a national cap and trade program, but we can put in place standards for transportation, standards for power generation that drive up significantly the efficiency and reduce the energy carbon footprint of all of these elements.
"And when the Kinsey did its greenhouse gas initiative, they found that 40 percent of the reduction in carbon emissions could be done in an economically positive way."