Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Jay Inslee ...Focus on the Future

February 27, 2006

Focus on the Future: Interview with Jay Inslee
from : http://www.evergreenpolitics.com/ep/2006/02/focus_on_the_fu.html

Congressman Jay Inslee
of Washington’s 1st CD, sees the future and it is all about the need for energy independence. This one large and critical issue impacts our ability to compete in the world, retain jobs for the middle-class, maintain a credible foreign policy and manage not to destroy the planet. It is that important and Inslee has been aware of it for a long time. Only now is it coming into vogue in the political world.

Jay and 14 other Members of Congress introduced a bill in Congress in June of last year. I didn’t even bother to ask if it had gone anywhere. How could it with the Republican dinosaurs in charge? Here’s a summary of the bill, called the New Apollo Initiative, from his website:

Inslee’s legislation will use new and innovative tax incentives and market-based assistance, along with energy performance standards to address three challenges to America: creating clean energy manufacturing jobs, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill’s key features are: 1) loan guarantees for construction of clean-energy generation facilities, 2) significant reductions in daily domestic oil consumption, 3) incentives for driving fuel-efficient vehicles and developing fuel efficient cars and planes, 4) capping emissions of greenhouse gases, 5) investing in federal research into advanced clean technologies, 6) requiring utilities to produce 10% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021, 7) creating national standards that allow homeowners to feed surplus electricity back into the energy grid and reinstitute regulatory oversight of energy trading markets, and 8) closing abusive corporate tax shelters and loopholes.

Naturally nothing of substance can get done on freeing America from the grip of the oil companies until Democrats gain some dominance in Congress. Knowing that everything he knows needs to happen in this country is stymied until we can take over both houses of Congress, Inslee has been a generous and firm supporter of Darcy Burner in the 8th CD and untiring, although thus far unsuccessful, in his attempts to get good, viable Democratic challengers to run in Washington’s 4th and 5th Congressional Districts in eastern Washington.

I enjoyed sitting down to talk with Jay and hearing his thoughts on the subject he is most passionate about. I think you'll enjoy it too. The interview is after the fold.

Interview with Jay Inslee, Congressman

Q: What prompted your interest in energy independence?

JI: Energy and the environment have both been long-time interests of mine. I went to Stockholm for an international gabfest on the environment in 1972, which in some ways was the birth of the environmental movement. What was most amazing to me, though, was the way the Swedes were already recycling, using recycled materials, focusing on public transportation – all the things that we are doing just recently. It was already built into the society.

Now of course they are again way ahead of us.

In the last three years, I’ve taken that commitment and focused it on legislation. A constellation of things have made the need obvious – such as the decline in our economy, the loss of jobs to overseas companies, and incontrovertible and dangerous global warming.

The focus on energy independence is also a no-brainer for Washington State. We are the place where caring for quality of life, such as clear air and clean water, meets up with being a hotbed of innovation. We have Boeing, high-tech, a history of innovation. It is a perfect focus for this area and a slew of small start-ups here are again rising to take on this challenge. Also, with the passage of the excellent environmental legislation here, we are ahead of the nation on this issue and what we do here will go nationwide whenever the political conditions allow.

Q: How closely have you been involved at the state level with these issues?

JI: I’ve been involved with the Washington Energy Security initiative that we expect to get on the ballot here this fall. The initiative will guarantee that by 2020, 15% of the electricity from Washington’s largest utilities comes from plentiful and home-grown renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and will help homeowners and businesses save on energy bills by assuring that we get all the cost-saving energy efficiency available in this state.

Q: How much support do you have in Congress?

JI: The Bush Administration lives in a big castle with a moat around it. Good ideas get thrown up but bounce back off those high walls. There is no response. Just recently Bush is mouthing support for getting off oil and there is some good news in that. It may allow us to get some bills through in 2006 if control of Congress switches – bills about flex fuel, the use of biodiesel and increased research & development.

The UAW also came out a few weeks ago to say that looking at alternative fuel sources for automobiles is a good idea. They’ve seen that some manufacturers have moved forward. They’ve seen success in Brazil where 40% of what’s in the tanks of cars is now biofuels.

Manufacturers have been about to get huge efficiencies by going to less wasteful practices. BP committed itself to meeting the Kyoto targets themselves and they’ve done it with 2-3 years to spare and saved tons of money in the process. GE has made a commitment. Venture capitalists are dreaming of the technological companies they can back that will do well in the new businesses of fuel efficiency and alternative energy development.

The Democrats are united behind this. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are committed and if we get a Democratic majority in the House and Senate this year, we can probably move some of the agenda, not the whole new Apollo package because we’ll have to drag the White House along, but some of it.

Q: What’s the low-hanging fruit, the things we can do as a nation without a lot of difficulty?

JI: We can get half way to where we need to get with existing technology. Then means passing the Washington Energy Security initiative and then implementing it and spreading it to other states is a start; using a higher percentage of biofuels in our automobiles; implementing flex fuels in our cars, which costs only $100 and allows our cars to use different fuels depending on what is available; improving the CAFÉ fuel economy standards, which we certainly have the technology to do but which are hard to do politically; making tax credits for wind technology permanent; and improving building codes and standards for appliances.

Q: Where are the long-term gains, the policies we need to implement for the future?

JI: The large-scale gains will come from huge increases in the budget for research and development, which we did for the original Apollo project to reach the moon. This is critical. The fate of our entire planet is at stake.

The possibilities include using algae to produce biofuels, improving the efficiency of solar cells and advances in materials engineering such as using carbon fiber to make automobiles much lighter than they are today.

Wave power has some potential by capturing the energy of waves either through buoys or wave collective walls.

The thing is, there are no silver bullets. It makes no sense to look for one thing. It will be 1000 different ideas working together that resolves this issue.

Thank you.


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