Colorado Senator Michael Bennet lays out green energy goals

In an exclusive interview with SmartPlanet, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet laid out his legislative goals for the upcoming Congress and discussed what could motivate Democrats and Republicans to work together.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor

Finite resources and environmental challenges are compelling governments to take more aggressive action to induce new technologies to power the future. Yet, consensus on how to best move forward remains elusive – even as an energy crisis looms.

As 2011 draws near, the world’s population is approaching seven billion, and the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization based in Paris, forecasts marked increases in worldwide energy consumption.

That demand cannot be met without greater conservation and investments in new sources of energy, including green energy technologies. Meanwhile, efforts to implement a comprehensive energy policy in the United States met with failure.

2011 brings a new Congress in the United States; many pundits predict that it will be deadlocked by deepening political acrimony. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., maintains a more positive outlook: He insists that the Senate can make some progress on renewable energy.

SmartPlanet interviewed Sen. Bennet to learn what may motivate the new Congress to act, and which ideas will succeed on both sides of the isle.

SmartPlanet: What can be done for alternative energy from now until 2012?

Michael Bennet: In the near term, Congress needs to focus on clean energy innovation and deployment. With capital markets still recovering, we can play a critical role in innovation and investment to fill this void. The Energy Committee has done work on this issue in the past, and I look forward to engaging in the debate going forward.

Additionally, the Senate can work on simple fixes to existing law and agency guidance to help incentivize new improvements in energy efficiency and clean energy installations. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing holds great promise to transform our energy economy from the ground up, yet a federal agency is halting these programs across the country. I look forward to working with members of both parties to rectify these issues and advance forward-thinking programs like PACE financing.

SP: What aspects of green energy do Democrats and Republicans agree on? Is it motivated mostly by business or environment concerns?

MB: It’s becoming increasingly clear that there are plenty of priorities that the conservation community and the business community share – protecting public health through technology innovation, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and keeping America competitive in the global marketplace of the 21st Century just to name a few.

Secretary of Energy Chu has repeatedly said that China is spending more than $9 billion a month on clean energy and legislators from all stripes know they’re going to eat our lunch on this if we don’t get our act together. Couple our falling behind in the clean energy race with the knowledge that we’re over-dependent on finite fossil fuels that science tells us harm our health and our planet’s land, air, water and climate, and any reasonable person will tell you that the status quo is unsustainable and we need to change course.

Most folks now realize that the old choice of environmental protection vs. economic development has proven to be a false one and I’m optimistic that Democrats and Republicans can have a fruitful discussion on these issues in the coming years.

SP: What is the Senate’s role in promoting green technologies?

MB: It is in both our national security and economic interests to have a tax code and a system that encourages innovation and entrepreneurialism. An innovation economy that moves us towards cleaner and greener energy in the 21st century will also help protect our land, air and water. I think we can, and need, to make progress for the sake of our nation’s future.

Colorado has been a leader and can serve as a model for the rest of our country as we work to build an innovation economy and transition to clean energy.

SP: What priority is it versus others?

MB: Energy reform – particularly through the lens of job creation through research and innovation – should be a top priority of the Senate.

SP: What motivates legislators? Is it becoming an issue of national pride?

MB: On these issues, our national security, economic and conservation interests are aligned.

We can’t afford to be out-paced by China, or any other country, on this front in today’s global economy. We have a real opportunity to create jobs at home while transitioning away from foreign sources of fossil fuels that harm our health and our planet.

SP: Thank you for your time, Senator.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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