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Liveblogging the Energize America Panel

by: Robert Cruickshank

Fri Jul 18, 2008 at 07:02:36 AM PDT

This year brings the third iteration of Energize America, a netroots project launched in 2006 by a group of Kossacks including A Siegel and Jérôme a Paris of European Tribune. This year's panel is heavy on Democratic candidates - US Senate candidates Jeff Merkley and Mark Begich are here, as is Debbie Cook, who is of course running for Crazy Dana's seat in CA-46. It's great to see them taking such a lead on energy policy.

[Update] Jérôme opens with a chart showing where oil was in 2006 - $75/bbl. We're nearly double that today. "If you're just grumbling it's not high enough yet."

Provides a good overview of Peak Oil. The only way out is demand destruction - "you're going to have to stop burning oil whether we like it or not." The only issue is how we will destroy demand - whether it's forced upon us without any plan or whether we can plan for the inevitable.

Mark Sumner - "anybody who thinks we can drill our way out is crazy" - oil producing nations are heading into decline, so there's not enough oil on the North Slope or off our own coast in California to make up for this ongoing decline. Points out that the estimates of high costs and lost jobs from the 1990 Clean Air Act never materialized - so why should we trust industry/right-wing estimates being floated today?

A Siegel floats a 5-part agenda for progress: improve capacity for change, 50 state impact, public-private and fed-state-local partnerships, not a comprehensive solution, and establish freshman class (in Congress) leadership. This last part is vital - Democrats are doing an extremely poor job in Congress on energy issues. New blood can help turn that failure around.

Debbie Cook is up now - the peakists haven't yet won, we still have work to do explaining peak oil. Our national policy agenda is "more of the same" - drill, flatten mountains, starve people to put corn into our gas tanks. She is really good on this - clear and engaged.

Cook makes a point I've personally argued but never seen anyone else point out - we lived perfectly happy lives in America before the oil age. We don't need oil to find prosperity and contentment. Extolling walkable communities and community gardens. Red meat (to me at least!).

What will we look like in 50 years? Uses her town, Huntington Beach, as an example of change - from oil derricks to new density (though not nearly enough of it).

Mark Begich up now - currently mayor of Anchorage and candidate against Tubes Stevens in Alaska. It is VERY significant that he is here - for an Alaskan politician to speak out against new drilling, drilling that results in an actual check to Alaska residents, is a welcome act of reality that more Democrats would do well to emulate.

Most of his talk is about retrofitting existing buildings and cities to be more energy efficient. It's useful but not exactly bold.

Jeff Merkley is at the podium, currently the speaker of the Oregon House and running against Gordon Smith. Now we need "Energy Smart Congress" to complement the other Energy Smart projects. Amen to that. Sort of a campaign speech as opposed to the policy-focused talks that came before.

Q&A over the flip.

Robert Cruickshank :: Liveblogging the Energize America Panel
Matt Stoller points out that we have a framing problem - the right is getting traction from "Drill Now!" because it's clear leadership, whereas Democrats are more muddled. How do we counter this?

Mark Begich takes the first response - says we need to know where we're going first. Not sure that's a good answer to Stoller's concerns but if developed this can have value. Stoller wants to know how we can help but Begich doesn't give a clear response. Merkley doesn't really do it either.

Cook has a much better response - borrows from Lakoff, "drilling is killing." Makes a key point - we don't need another Apollo or Manhattan Project, this isn't a scientific government project, but it instead need to be a citizen-led effort. Absolutely - unless Americans take responsibility and become participants in this, we will never change how we live.

Merkley calls for a West Coast high speed rail from Seattle to Portland to CA. Woohoo!

My conclusions: Debbie Cook is brilliant. Begich and Merkley aren't as willing to be bold. The other three activists - A Siegel, Jérôme, Mark Sumner seemed a bit overshadowed by the candidates, which is a shame, but this has the potential for good collaborations, especially once these folks get in office.

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Pelosi on offshore drilling (0.00 / 0)
in the New York Times:

"The president of the United States, with gas at $4 a gallon because of his failed energy policies, is now trying to say that is because I couldn't drill offshore," Ms. Pelosi said in an interview. "That is not the cause, and I am not going to let him get away with it."

Nice to see her throwing down as Debbie Cook rocks the argument against drilling ourselves into oblivion.

Right on (0.00 / 0)
I attended the panel and agreed with your take on it (ok, I live in Debbie's district so am admittedly biased). Debbie also made an important point: while the crowd was very good, she was surprised this session wasn't standing room only, as this is THE issue that's already affecting our world and will continue to grow. All of the participants worked well together to illustrate how experts and policymakers can work together.

As the EA folks said, our top priority needs to be electing a freshman class that's strong on energy issues. These are 3 excellent candidates all need our help. Our contributions not only get great people in - but kick out some really bad officials like Rohrabacher, Stevens and Smith.

drilling is killing (0.00 / 0)
I noticed this this morning - "drill here, drill now" is really catching on, as is "Obama doesn't have any solutions." It's disturbing. Put away the giant drill bits and step away from the corporate contributions, Newt.

"Drilling is killing" is ok maybe, although it's a negative frame and probably too cute by half. At a training recently I took a quick detour through some issues and talked about messaging a bit. I kind of stumbled into it but I started talking about how great it's going to be when we solve the traffic problem. That seemed to work.

I agree about the red meat here Robert. Ms. Cook is on the right track with this: "we lived perfectly happy lives in America before the oil age. We don't need oil to find prosperity and contentment. Extolling walkable communities and community gardens." Is that an exact quote do you think? I'd like to twitter it.

I don't know how to compress that exactly: "walkability and transit here, community gardens and new urbanism now!" Ha. Wish I was there to kick stuff around with y'all but thanks for the update.

I'm the project director and statewide organizer for California VoterConnect.

It's close to exact (0.00 / 0)
I think the panel was filmed and archived so you can find it for yourself, but I am sure she said something extremely close to "we lived perfectly happy lives in America before the oil age."

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
Energy efficiency comes first (0.00 / 0)
"Most of his talk is about retrofitting existing buildings and cities to be more energy efficient. It's useful but not exactly bold."

Really? Shouldn't energy efficiency be the first priority? Otherwise generating capacity (renewable or otherwise) has to be oversized. And existing buildings consitute the majority of the stock (98% or so), so retrofits are extremely important.

Have you ever been to Anchorage? There's quite an assemblage of existing buildings that waste energy. Mayor Begich's energy efficiency initiative there is indeed bold. Anchorage has recently authorized over $2M for energy efficiency (and the State of Alaska is now looking to join in). Anchorage knows they can't solve everything from the supply side(example: solar energy is scarce in the winter when Alaskans need a lot of energy), so energy efficiency is Energy Smart for them. And it is for us in the lower 48 as well.

Energy efficiency may not have the sex appeal of renewables, but it's not just a "useful" part of the solution, it's a critical one. Sure, you can't get off the grid with energy efficiency alone, but it's neither cost-effective nor functional to try to solve buildings' energy and climate change problems without serious attention to buildings end-use energy efficiency and retrofits of existing buildings.      

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