13 April 2011

Steven Chu at Berkeley Stanford Clean Tech 2011 - The Train Is Leaving The Station

Steven Chu US Energy Secretary - Berkeley Stanford
Clean Tech Conference 2011 (Photo Mary Vincent)
By Mary Vincent - Twitter @MaryVincent
was a common word used at the April 9, 2011 Berkeley Stanford Clean Tech Conference in San Francisco with this year's theme being 'Sputnik 2.0, the Pursuit of Green Jobs in China and the US'.  Fong Wan, Senior Vice President, Energy Procurement PG&E, mentioned that "these (clean tech) programs have created more jobs, and are of strategic importance in our future. There's a clean tech revolution and a desire to out-innovate and out-create - it's not competition with China, it's coopetition."

The Keynote Address was given by Steven Chu, the United States Secretary of Energy. Here's a Video for you to view in two parts:
Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Dan Reicher interviewing Steven Chu with
'Train is Leaving the Station' slide in the background
(Photo Mary Vincent)
Fireside Chat with Steven Chu
A Fireside Chat took place with Steven Chu and Dan Reicher, Executive Director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University, and it was mentioned that if the Democrats and Republicans didn't compromise last Friday, Steven Chu would not have been able to give his Speech in San Francisco.  Chu also mentioned that: "Going forward, hopefully it's not a vanilla across the board Cut; they have to set priorities - research, development, education are important in the development of the US.  I'm hoping the American people and the Congress would not want to sacrifice the future. Lockheed Martin's previous CEO said that in times of austerity, you do not want to cut research and development - it's like discovering your plane is overweight and cutting off an engine.  I'll do all I can to help influence Congress to invest in our future...
America STILL has the opportunity to lead the world in clean energy and capture the jobs of the 21st century, but time is running out. The train is leaving the station." (see Steven Chu's Presentation Slide photo of a high-speed train leaving the station)

Question by Dan Reicher: What do you think the effect of the Japan nuclear accident will have on nuclear development?
Chu: "It depends on the country... Germany decided to close them down, other countries like the UK are going through this.  I think the feeling of the US and myself, is that we're going to learn alot from Japan and make it safer.  I believe we can make nuclear power safer like Airplanes got safer."

Question: Looking back on the situation in DC, what is your level of optimism given the situation in Congress?
Chu: "We're not going to expect the passing of a comprehensive energy bill and a price in carbon in the next couple of years. We're trying to educate people on the clean energy standards - the 2035 goal allows technology to catchup and gives you a big cushion. If you're going to be competitive, you're going to have a market."

Question:(Paraphrased) Should the government step in financially?

Chu: "Until financial markets feel comfortable making loans, the government needs to.  If things are stalled, the government needs to step in.  We should continue our pre-IP research.  Every other country has read our Playbook. (Steven Chu reminds the audience of what actually happened with the Wright brothers and the airline industry where even though the US invented the airplane, other Countries took over the technology and started innovating and investing in it. The US was behind, and the US Government stepped in to invest in the Airline Industry.)"

Question/Comment: In a 1/2 year, we could be behind.
Chu: "Obama and I will do our best to convince the country to remind what made America great - which is the interplay between the Public Sector and Business.  For example: In the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln started the National Academy of Sciences (which was a key cornerstone of American prosperity) and setup a Rail System with huge subsidies incuding free land and cash (during the time of the Civil War)."

Question: (Paraphrased) What are your thoughts about the Middle East?
Chu: "Abu Dhabi and all of these Countries are sharing in a common goal, and efficiency standards of one country could potentially be universal while each country could still develop their own refrigeration standard.. What's invigorating is that there's this feeling of genuine cooperation - we all share one planet, and we can help eachother. (unlike what happened in Copenhagen)"

Question: What surprised you when running the Department of Energy?
Chu: "The good things are the incredible people who are very dedicated and who want to help with the energy problem. We were able to recruit a numer of people who left higher pay and great places to come to Washington."

We live in a fast-changing world, and the US has an opportunity to productively cooperate and use factual data to make the right decisions. Democrats, Republicans, Business, Technology, NGOs and every other Stakeholder must continue to realize that Innovation is important alongside consistent iteration and implementation of the best actions which will move us to a better short term and long term sustainable energy future with green jobs. Many Countries have taken great actions to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) and create a sustainable energy future. As a result, some of these forward-looking Countries have a lower unemployment rate per Bill Clinton's February 2011 RSA Conference Speech I videotaped. Many people and colleagues in the US have been trying to move us forward.  (You as a Reader of this article are most probably one of them.)
Many US businesses and politicians 'get it', however, others are stifling progress and thus the US' Political Will to move us forward has declined.  How long must we wait for the US to take a major Leadership role? I hope it's not the 2035 date that Steven Chu mentioned in his speech above.
One of my favorite Finance Gurus Jim Cramer recently stated that if the US continues on its current path, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may have to step in. I don't think we want the IMF to run the US' decisions, so the time for the US to move forward is now.