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Dancing in a new era …

January 20th, 2009 · 1 Comment

My writing, my intellectual energy, and my life passion are rarely targeted to the dance floor, but this first evening of a new era in America and, perhaps, global history called for putting on a tuxedo. Not for attending an “official ball”, to struggle for a peek at our new President, but to an environment more fitting to my writing, intellectual energy, and life passion: the Environmental Ball and Clean Energy Ball. While twirling on the dance floor was a joy, the most moving and powerful element was being among so many people who were not simply celebrating Obama, but celebrating an opportunity to put their skills, passions, expertise to work.

Among those dropping in to the Ball, the new Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu. Scott Sklar introduced Chu, who emphasized the power and importance of having not a politician, but a nobel-prize winning scientist with experience running a national laboratory at the head of the Department of Energy. Chu spoke simply, yet powerfully.

We all know how serious our challenges are and what the implications would be of unchecked climate change.

As Chu understands all too well, the Environmental Ball’s attendees might “know”, but that understanding is not shared by all Americans.

We have a hard task ahead of us. What unites us is a concern for a better world for ourselves and our children …

Actually, a “better world” is the high end hope, achieving a livable world represents a serious challenge in the first order.

We have to change the path of the United States and of the world. As President Obama has said, the United States can and will lead.

Chu spoke briefly but spoke to not just the challenge and the need for national action, but also for individual action, from those in the room and, I think, outside it as well.

You have to convince your firends and your neighbors about this.

Service is to continue the process, from our own closest circles out, to educate and build the support for the sort of serious action that we require.

Consider the following as words from a freshly minted Cabinet member:

We are on a path that scares me.

As Joe Romm expressed it, “it takes a very serious, very confident person to admit in a public meeting like that they are scared of what we face. But then again, he has a Nobel Prize in physics and has run an energy lab. Anybody who truly understands both scale of the problem that climate science has detailed and the scale of the energy solution should be scared. I certainly am.” So am I.

While Chu laid out quite clearly the seriousness of the situation, he spoke with a form of optimism.

I have confidence as a scientist, as an American that we will figure our route out of this.

Chu finished with an appeal …

Help me. Help the U.S. Help the world. And, we can figure this out.

Among others, Senator Tom Udall spoke briefly and quite directly. He stated that “we all know” that there are three core requirements:

1. A nation-wide renewable portfolio standard for electricity (hopefully, the Federal policy will be a base, minimum figure);
2. Energy Efficiency; and,
3. A price on carbon, a firm price signal to hasten the move away from polluting energy sources.

A note about the community …

In a version of Tom Friedman’s line that the ‘Green is the new Red, White and Blue’, it is worth noting that this was, at least somewhat, a bi-partisan crowd with at least one Bush Administration appointee (Andy Karsner, who Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) and other Republicans in the room. Even so, not hard to imagine that the “Environmental and Clean Energy” crowd would be dominated by “D” affiliation, even without the event being a celebration of President Obama’s inauguration.

As an aside …

As an example of how we, all, need to be thinking and acting differently, perhaps we can consider police and security habits. In the tradition of DC security, it seems that Secretary Chu arrived in black Suburbans with security. Of course, those Suburbans were kept running (and polluting) throughout Chu’s stay at the Ball. This reminds me of the police crossing guard at Elementary Schools who leave their engines running the whole time that they are helping kids cross the street. Dealing with this won’t end our oil addiction nor will it solve Global Warming, but we might ask ourselves whether it just might be time to change that unnecessarily polluting behavior? And, we could even look to ‘technology’ as part of the answer: why aren’t these security vehicles hybrids and why don’t we incentivize development of hybridization of police/security fleets across the country?

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Tags: climate change · Energy · Global Warming

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