Archive for March, 2009

Guest post by Alex Park

Shell might not have been a major player in clean tech, having never dedicated more that around 1 percent of its investments to renewable energy, or a paltry 1.25 billion dollars between 1999 and 2006. But as of this week, Shell has decided that it won’t be a clean tech player at all. The reason? In the words of one exec, “We do not expect material amounts of investment in those areas going forward.” That’s according to a story posted yesterday in Reuters.

In other words, even with diminishing oil production, even with Obama in the White House, even with climate change, Shell is taking its money out of renewable energy because as of yet, it is simply not bolstering the firm’s bottom line. And if it can’t do that, then Shell can’t stay in renewables if it wants to stay in business. It’s that simple.

But the news is not just about Shell…


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This post is a contribution to the Special Breakthrough Issue, “After Power Shift: What’s Next?

By Helen Aki

For the activists and advocates of my generation, the 2008 election was possibly our first taste of political success. And despite the daunting task of starting our careers in a plummeting economy, there is a sense of hope for those of us who eventually plan to make a living off clean energy, sustainable development, environmental design, and other green jobs.

But between today and the clean energy economy of tomorrow, we still have a lot to do. After witnessing Obama’s election and inauguration, and after Power Shift 2009 (the party of the year for the youth climate movement), what can the youth movement do to sustain momentum and advance energy and environmental solutions? It has become clear that the traditional model of youth activism must be improved upon. Although canvassing, rallying, and subscribing to a larger movement can be important political tools, the problems we face today demand more from this generation of activists. On Tuesday, Teryn Norris and Jesse Jenkins called for an “innovation-centric approach” to climate and energy, urging the youth of today to use their strengths and passions to solve the challenge of making clean energy cheap. The new model for youth activism should empower individuals to rise to this challenge.

An ideal example of what the youth movement could look like can be found at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2005, a group of MBA students at the Haas School of Business recognized the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration on the subject of contemporary energy problems. They also acknowledged that the large Berkeley population (around 35,000 graduate and undergraduate students) makes it difficult for people with similar interests and agendas to find one another. So they created the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC), to bring together people with varied backgrounds but a common interest. Today, the 27-person leadership team includes liaisons to the schools of business, law, public policy, environmental design, engineering, physical sciences, social sciences, and natural resources. This community of entrepreneurs, engineers, economists, and future lawyers and policymakers is exactly what the clean energy movement needs to drive innovation and change.


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This post is a contribution to the Special Breakthrough Issue, “After Power Shift: What’s Next?

By Morgan Goodwin

Power Shift brought together the youth climate movement and let us feel how powerful we are. More of us share a strategy of how to move forward and build our power. And we see how far we still have to go in building a clean energy economy and stopping global warming.

We must accomplish the two major goals of passing bold climate legislation and stopping dirty energy. And then we must become the builders of the clean energy economy by starting innovative businesses and working in companies that drive our goals forward.

We are going to pass bold national climate legislation in 2009, and it’s going to take a lot of our work to make it happen. Our planet’s ecology and energy supplies shorten the timeline to solve our energy problems, but our world’s political processes give us an exact number: 41 weeks. The US must go to Copenhagen ready to lead, with all the moral conviction that our nation used to command.

To do this, we need bold national legislation from Congress, signed by the president. It must have a mechanism to directly regulate the amount of emissions across all sectors. It must support the development of new energy technology and rapidly expand the opportunities for work installing the energy solutions we already have. And it should leave no doubt about the direction of our energy economy by banning all new construction of fossil fuel burning power plants.


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The opportunity to advance transformative, progressive change has never been greater. Now, in the wake of the 2008 election and the historic Power Shift summit, young progressives have a unique opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture: How can the we continue advancing bold solutions on energy and climate? What can young people do beyond energy and climate? And if national climate legislation succeeds, what’s the next “Big Idea” for the progressive youth movement?

These are just some of the ideas we’re exploring in a Special Breakthrough Issue – “After Power Shift: What’s Next?” – to examine the next steps for the progressive youth movement. The issue will include contributions from some of the country’s top young leaders throughout the week, and we hope you’ll join the discussion. Here’s our first piece to kick it off.


Want to Save the World? Make Clean Energy Cheap.

By Teryn Norris & Jesse Jenkins
The Huffington Post

Over 12,000 young adults attended the recent Power Shift 2009 summit in Washington, DC. Their goal? Building the largest youth movement in decades to save the world from global warming.

Largely missing from Power Shift, however, was a critical group: young scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Maybe it was mid-terms. Perhaps the event seemed too political. Or maybe the summit recruited too many traditionally-defined “activists.”

Whatever the cause, we have very little chance of overcoming climate change without enlisting young innovators at a drastically greater scale. Simply put, they represent one of the most important catalysts for creating a clean energy economy and achieving long-term prosperity.


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Last Thursday, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu delivered groundbreaking Congressional testimony (testimony PDF) to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee about Obama’s energy plan and what’s necessary to create a clean energy economy:

“Our previous investments in science led to the birth of the semiconductor, computer, and bio-technology industries that have added greatly to our economic prosperity. Now, we need similar breakthroughs on energy. We’re already taking steps in the right direction, but we need to do more

Developing Science and Engineering Talent: Several years ago, I had the honor and privilege of working on the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report commissioned by Chairman Bingaman and Senator Alexander. One of the key recommendations was to step up efforts to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. The FY 2010 budget supports graduate fellowship programs that will train students in energy-related fields. I will also seek to build on DOE’s existing research strengths by attracting and retaining the most talented scientists.

Focusing on Transformational Research. The second area that I want to discuss is the need to support transformational technology research. What do I mean by transformational technology? I mean technology that is game-changing, as opposed to merely incremental…

Speeding Demonstration and Deployment: While we work on transformational technologies, DOE must also improve its efforts to demonstrate next-generation technologies and to help deploy demonstrated clean energy technologies at scale…

We will move forward on all of these fronts and more, as we invest in the transformational research to achieve breakthroughs that could revolutionize our Nation’s energy future.


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A new, Post-Kyoto international climate treaty needs to take a radical new approach that focuses less on binding emissions targets and more on technology innovation, economic development, and adaptation. That’s what the Breakthrough Institute has argued for years (e.g. see “Scrap Kyoto“), and that’s the message coming from an increasing number of experts, according to the New York Times:


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Ezra Klein reports this morning that Pelosi wants “heavy investment” in clean energy technology and infrastructure as part of a cap and trade policy this year, declaring energy policy the “flagship priority” for Congress. She said she’d like to see this all in one bill — a sentiment I also heard from Harry Reid in a meeting yesterday with Power Shift delegates. Here’s Klein:

Just returned from a small breakfast the Maria Leavey Memorial series put on with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This much, I think, was clear: Pelosi is focused on energy legislation. She named energy policy as this Congress’s “flagship” priority. Cap and trade, she promised, would come to the floor this year, in a bill that she hoped would include not only carbon pricing but heavy investment in renewables and a reform of the energy grid. “I’d like to see it as one bill,” she said. “That would show the integrity of it: How each piece relates to the other.”

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