With 21st century politics at their most polarizing since the battles of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (Alien & Sedition Acts anyone?), there is a lot of talk of hypotheticals based on various election scenarios for the House, Senate and White House. Speculation is that the expert predicted best case scenario for the GOP (maintain control of the House, even split in the Senate and capturing the White House) would be the worst case scenario for the cleantech industry.
There may be some truth to the notion that GOP-led houses and a Republican president would eliminate any chance of meaningful energy legislation at the Federal level that sets a renewable portfolio standard, caps carbon, pursues agressive regulation at the agency level or provides funding support for different cleantech industries. But unless the Democrats have a clear majority in the House and a super majority in the Senate, any such meaningful legislation is a pipe dream anyway. Let us not forget that energy is not a clear party-line vote with Democrats from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states with heavy coal and oil interests unlikely to support anything that rocks a local economy.
So what then are the likely outcomes of different federal scenarios? I don't believe there is a huge variation in impact based on the different election scenarios unless a super-majority situation unfolds which most experts agree, is very unlikely. There are a number of checks and balances that would prevent a GOP super majority situation from killing cleantech innovation and adoption. Some of these include:
- The ability of California and other progressive states to continue most of their current and future initiatives;
- The ability of state regulators to continue to enforce smart grid adoption and a modernizing of the grid;
- Market-driven sustainability as a supply-chain cost cutter and product differentiator, and strong consumer sentiment for more sustainable products;
- Billions in investment by strategic investors like Total, ABB, GE, Siemens and others in clean energy and efficiency products and services helping to support continued adoption, education and growth;
- International leadership on climate change forcing US exporters to become more sustainable abroad.
Simply put, the clean technology industry is in much better shape than it was four years ago, when a crashing economy, rampant federal deregulation and support for legacy energy sources threatened any momentum lent to the sector by venture capitalists. Today, the sector could probably weather a worst-case election scenario. But will it have to? Most experts agree it is incredibly unlikely.
In fact, in one of his most recent posts, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com and the New York Times says that President Obama is now a 60-40 favorite to retain the White House based on recent polling and economic trends (projected GDP growth of 2.5% this year, and unemployment below 9%). This is not Silver's opinion, but a prediction model based on historical data from past election cycles. That trend, combined with rampant gerrymandering of Congressional Districts by GOP-led state assemblies, means that we're likely to wake up on a Wednesday in November with exactly the same government dynamics we have today. And don't forget that the GOP would not only need a majority in the Senate, but a super majority that could overcome the parliamentary tricks of filibusters and stopping bills and appointees from coming to a vote.
So what does the status quo look like post November for cleantech? We'll explore that in a post later this week.
Posted by Jason Morris on February 21, 2012 at 1:53 PM
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The full, 821-page Climate Bill, aka the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, is available here.
Kerry's synopsis, focusing on green collar jobs, national security and the broader economy is here.
We'll have some thoughts on the bill as a whole, including the public relations, public affairs and funding implications for Cleantech Companies soon.
My apologies to the Senior Senator from Massachusetts as the title and focus are better than I expected in terms of targeting economic and national security audiences. That said, I think that legislative communications teams could do a better job of branding bills in advance of their release with more context for the media.
Posted by Jason Morris on May 12, 2010 at 1:51 PM
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The Hill has a Climate Bill summary document this morning that was circulated among staffers which gives a bit more detail on exact provisions in the final bill. While it is light on details and specifics, it does outline some key initiatives that will no doubt have the Cleantech media, public relations and public affairs waorlds buzzing all day.
-The legislation will establish a clean technology R&D fund. At a time when appropriations-based funding is becoming tougher for projects, this could provide a new cleantech funding avenue for emerging growth companies and their venture capital backers.
-Sets GHG reduction goals: The goals are not as aggressive as California or Europe, but would still represent the first federal line in the sand. Here are the targets:
- 95.25% of 2005 emission levels by 2013
- 83% by 2020
- 58% by 2030
- 17% by 2050
-Regulates the emissions of not only Carbon Dioxide, but Methane, Sulfur Hexafluoride, Nitrous Oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons and Nitrogen Trifluoride. Carbon Dioxide may get the headlines but there are other worse emissions (on an impact basis, maybe not volume).
-The bill does not set a carbon tax, but directs EPA to set emission limits for certain activities. Allows for emission offsets, including things like renewable energy credits, offset projects (the most common of which is plant a tree), etc. My guess would be that penalties would ensue for companies who can't satisfy the equation of "emissions - offsets < limit set by EPA," but the panalties are not spelled out in the summary document. In any event offset providers, like EcoSecurities, may stand to benefit from this legislation.
Posted by Jason Morris on at 12:42 PM
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Between Apple iPad and the State of the Union, yesterday was a really interesting day in the world of technology, green and PR. Some quick thoughts on what transpired:
State of the Union, Green Policy & the SEC: I was pleasantly surprised at once again, how aggressively the President tied energy and cleantech to the economy and positioned cleantech as critical to the US' position as a world leader in technology, manufacturing and jobs. Its clear that President Obama sees energy policy as core to solving the economic woes of the country and that an energy bill is back on the table. More and more people are understanding that energy is intertwined with the economy, national security, human health and the environment, and so it is good to see it be a central theme of the SOTU.
While the focus on energy is not new, what has changed in recent months is any legislation as it relates to greenhouse gas emissions. Recent EPA rulings and yesterday's news that the SEC now wants disclosure on climate change risks to investors, sends a clear message that the administration will cap and regulate GHGs through agency rulings and not Congress. Is this the first step in GHGs being a financial reporting requirement?
Apple iPad: Has anyone found a person who likes the name "iPad?" iSlate, iTablet, iBook? So many options, so little branding sense. However, since just about everything Apple introduces turns to gold, I am sure it won't keep people from adopting it. So while it goes gold, is it green? Good post by Earth2Tech on this topic.
And speaking of the media, some are calling the iPad a savior for the print media universe, as it becomes a platform to keep people reading their daily newspapers, magazines and books. I'll keep my eye out to see if come April, I see people on BART using the iPad as a Kindle replacement and a mechanism for reading the newspaper.
Posted by Jason Morris on January 28, 2010 at 11:18 AM
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It's been awhile since we posted on Renewablog and with good reason. After a very busy 2009 in which we saw the federal government's attitude toward renewables and cleantech change overnight, the blog team went on a short hiatus to focus on 2010 client planning.
It also served as good time to reflect on what worked in 2009 from a green public relations, government relations and search-engine marketing perspective, and what else needs to be done in 2010 by cleantech stakeholders. I think most would agree that 2009 ended much stronger than some would have anticipated entering the year.
Even with an underwhleming Copenhagen and the lack of a climate bill, 2010 holds a lot of promise. European and Asian companies continue to look at the US as TNBT in green adoption, even without a climate bill. The EPA's naming of carbon as a public danger and the willingness of the agency to enforce reporting rules has many saying it is only a matter of "when" and not "if" carbon emisssion reductions (CERs) become mandatory. Obama continued to accept and promote new ideas, like "Cash for Caulkers."
But even with some positive signs, there are some things that keep cleantech marketers and public affairs pros up at night, the biggest of which is the midterm elections. It is now unlikely that a climate bill will get passed in 2010. The big question will then be what will Congress look like when it takes up the bill in 2011? If the Democrats have significantly smaller majorities in the House and Senate, will a bill be so watered down that it will have little meaning?
The silver lining is that there are a lot of ways to skin the climate cat, including further EPA regulation or very aggressive, big economy states, like California and New York passing laws that become de facto national standards for cap and trade. The hope is that the federal government takes the renewable-powered torch and runs with it in 2011, but it is comorting to know that if it doesn't, there are ways to move climate measures forward.
So this is the backdrop as we approach the first two renewable energy shows of the seaon: Retech 2010 in Washington DC and Renewable Energy World in Austin. Both are interesting events that tackle very broad themes and market segments, including solar, wind, biofuels, waste to energy, waste heat to energy, geothermal and a number of others. Retech is a bit more policy focused, whereas REW will help shine light on Austin's rapidly growing cleantech credentials.
We'll do our best to take the temperature of both events and report back what we learn.
Posted by Jason Morris on January 19, 2010 at 10:19 AM
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This afternoon at GreenBeat 2009, John Doerr will give a keynote focused on the main theme of the event: The Smart Grid. With the recent $3.4 billion in stimulus funds allocated to projects, the smart grid market has a PR problem, becoming a lightening rod for debate about its cleantech and stimulus credentials.
I am of the personal opinion that any technology that reduces our energy use is cleantech. I also think that anything that helps consumers save money and makes energy more efficient has huge economic value. After all, utility bills likely rank third after mortgage/rent and car payments as the most expensive budgetary item for households. Reducing utility bills by even 20 percent creates more consumer spending power which is a key cog in an economic recovery.
But back to Doerr...beyond just his affiliation with one of Silicon Valley's premier VC firms, he is a bright and interesting guy. He has some creative and pragmatic ideas on how to address the energy, environmental and economic crises, including one written about today by the New York Times (via Yahoo! Finance).
Doerr apparently has pitched a weatherization stimulus that would incent homeowners to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes through improvements in insulation, windows, etc. Doerr calls the program, "Cash for Caulkers" and word is that the White House is seriously considering it.
I am looking forward to today's keynote to hear Doerr's opinion on Smart Grid and see if he has any other ideas that should be promoted as policy. Doerr's speech should be the first in a number of compelling presentations at the GreenBeat 2009 event.
Posted by Jason Morris on November 18, 2009 at 4:38 PM
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Monday morning saw two pieces of good news for the Green Economy as it relates to job creation.
A study published by three universities shows that President Obama's focus on Green Collar jobs will help create 1.9 million jobs and boost annual household income by $1000. If the $1000 figure focuses on an increase in gross household income, the study likely fails to measure the increase in discretionary household income that could result in more efficient home energy practices driven in part by Smart Grid adoption by consumers. Consumer spending is a huge economic stimulus in its own right and reducing one of the largest monthly budgetary items for households, while boosting gross income, would be a huge boon for other sectors.
A separate study by iSupply shows that the solar panel supply glut is working itself out, which could lead to recovering solar prices and kickstart a new wave of solar cell and module manufacturing. With many Asian and European solar manufacturers looking to boost manufacturing capacity inside the US to take advantage of government incentives and grants, and a number of US companies ramping up their manufacturing capactity, the result could be a wave of new manufacturing jobs in places like Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Silicon Valley.
These trends, combined with a thawing in financing and a broader economic recovery, point to 2010 and 2011 being boom years for Cleantech job creation.
Posted by Jason Morris on November 16, 2009 at 1:06 PM
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It's not every day one is lucky enough to see the President of the United States speak. Add in the topic (energy), timing (eve of Senate hearings on the Climate Bill) and location (MIT) and you have a seriously major event.
The crowd began lining up three hours before the scheduled start time to clear security and nab seats in the intimate (at least for a Presidential speech) Kresge Auditoium at MIT.
Once the crowd entered the warm venue (it was pretty chilly outside), the auditorium turned into a big schmoozefest (with no food or drinks, they were prohibited along with laptops from coming inside). As usual for Presidential events, things started a bit late. In this case, it was because President Obama was receiving a briefing from professors and students on new clean technolgies being developed at MIT, including wind.
President Obama entered to a rousing ovation. After a few jokes, he launched into a speech that was classic Obama--soaring language meant to inspire. One of my favorite passages:
"I'm excited being here and seeing these extraordinary young people...because it taps into something essential about America -- it's the legacy of daring men and women who put their talents and their efforts into the pursuit of discovery. And it's the legacy of a nation that supported those intrepid few willing to take risks on an idea that might fail -- but might also change the world."
But the President wasn't at MIT just to inspire. Obama used his speech as a call to action for America to innovate more rapidly and solve the energy problem, framing it as an economic imperative:
"Countries on every corner of this Earth now recognize that energy supplies are growing scarcer, energy demands are growing larger, and rising energy use imperils the planet we will leave to future generations. And that's why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century. From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation."
And Obama was clearly conscious of the hurdles within the US political system that still need to be cleared, in some eyes taking the fight directly to the opposition:
"I think it's important to understand that the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we'll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to the much needed action that we're engaged in. There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy -- when it's the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs. There are going to be those who cynically claim -- make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary."
The President brought it home with more words of inspiration--"This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow, so long as all of us remember what we have achieved in the past and we use that to inspire us to achieve even more in the future," and then he was done.
I was pretty sure he wouldn't work a rope line (he was already late to a Governor Deval Patrick fundraiser), but he dove in. Sensing a chance for a shake, I rushed up and extended my hand. Sure enough, I got my first Presidential shake.
A fantastic finish to a great day...but more importantly, the cleantech community received indisputable scientific evidence that President Obama is a huge supporter of innovation's role in solving the energy problem.
Tags: cleantech pr
, Climate bill
Posted by Mike Farber on October 24, 2009 at 7:13 AM
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On the heels of the spectacular A123 IPO, President Barack Obama's "major" energy policy speech tomorrow at MIT keeps the cleantech spotlight on New England. It's a great validator for what I (and many others) believe about New England's role in the cleantech economy--we've got some some of world's biggest brains and it is through scientific innovation at places likes MIT that we'll solve the energy problem.
By simple virtue of its timing the speech is a big deal. As The New York Times reports, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (aka the Climate Bill) is finally ready for take-off:
"Obama's speech in Cambridge, Mass., comes the same day that U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson plans to release the agency's economic and environmental analysis of the climate bill (S. 1733 (pdf)) from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). With the EPA analysis in hand, Boxer is set to begin a three-day series of hearings in her Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 27, with testimony from Kerry, Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff."
Two of tomorrow's most interested spectators represent one of the other big assets New England brings to the cleantech economy: the strength and leadership of our Congressional delegation. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is heading the energy push from the House and Sen. Kerry is the lead sponsor of the Senate legislation.
For the cleantech economy to truly take off, there needs to be cooperation between the private sector, government and academia. Tomorrow's event represents one of the highest-profile examples yet of how the three constituencies intertwine...and it's happening here in New England.
, Climate bill
Posted by Mike Farber on October 22, 2009 at 3:08 PM
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