WA Governor Gregoire on Earth Day

Since 1970, Americans have set aside April 22 to celebrate the wonders of the big blue-green globe we call Earth—and to renew our resolve to protect it for our children and grandchildren.

On this Earth Day, I want to remind us all that there is no more time to waste.

The respected writer Thomas Freidman has a warning call to signal the importance of what we must do to save and protect our world and our incredibly beautiful state.

He calls it Code Green—a call to arms if you will—to reverse climate change, to make our world safer, and to create a green 21st century economy—all by reducing our use of fossil fuels.

And I firmly believe Washington State—where innovation is part of our very DNA—will lead the way and serve as a model for the country.

A green economy is not just a politically correct slogan for a bumper sticker. Neither our environment nor our economy can survive if we continue to depend so heavily on oil. It’s as simple as that. Oil is too expensive, too volatile, and the rest of the world’s growing populations are too happy to use it as much as we do. So why do we keep forgetting this simple reality?

I’m happy to report that Washington innovators understand Code Green, and they are answering the call of a generation.

First, our innovators are working on using the energy we already have in smarter ways. Second, government and the private sector are developing and creating economies-of-scale for a diverse menu of alternatives from wind power to solar to biofuels.

In short, it’s about harnessing our innovators and our technology to squeeze out every last clean electron we can to reduce our reliance on oil and save money. And we, with our incredible culture of innovation, can lead the world!

Washington State is the fifth largest producer of wind power and we’re working on ways to store it. We’re building solar-power components, and making real breakthroughs in bio-energy. And I’m talking with the governors of Oregon and California to create the first green freeway in the United States from the Canadian to Mexican borders.

We envision Interstate 5 with a network of rest stops where—as President Obama said when he looked at the idea—motorists would get more than a cup of coffee and bathroom break.

And this brings me to an important piece of a green economy—the role of government. We can and must help create markets for alternative-energy development. It’s all about infrastructure and incentives to give our innovators a reason to innovate. And it’s all about 21st century jobs for us and our children.

A carbon cap-and-trade system is already in place in Europe and some eastern states, and awaits action by the U.S. Congress. I want Washington to get out in front on this! We need to make sure our assets—like agriculture and forestry—get the credit they are due; that companies who have already stepped up to the challenge get the credit; that Congress delivers a program that is informed by our expertise so that it works for us.

When nearly $5 gas helped bring this country to its knees last year, I couldn’t help but reflect on how many times I’d seen this Grade B movie before—way back in the ‘70s! Back in the ‘80s!

We’ve been living on borrowed time long enough. It’s time for Code Green.

(originally posted here)

Happy Earth Day!

The promise of a “Green Collar Economy” vs. the availability of Green Jobs

Renew Energy – the “biofuels industry leader for innovation and efficiency” boasting the largest ethanol plant in Wisconsin – has just filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Their struggle, along with the eminent demise of other leading ethanol producers and distributors, begs the question: How can we have a Green Collar Economy with a shrinking, besieged green sector? Perhaps more critical: Are we depending on the right resources and jobs to create a Green Collar Economy?

With over $100 billion dollars allocated to “green projects” in the proposed economic stimulus package, green jobs have the potential to replace jobs in declining sectors such as manufacturing and other occupations that are being shipped overseas.

Let’s look at ethanol. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) can be manufactured and used as a biofuel alternative to gasoline, mostly for use in cars. It is conventionally referred to as a renewable resource that is easy to manufacture and process because it can be made from common crops like corn (although it doesn’t come without it’s fair share of criticism and risk – namely the food vs. fuel argument.). Less than two months ago, The Renewable Fuels Association, at the request of President Obama, submitted a statement highlighting how the ethanol industry provides green jobs. The RFA stated that more than 238,000 green jobs were created last year because of the ethanol industry. This boded especially well for parts of the country like Wisconsin, where rural communities are struggling under the weight of the economic crisis and jobs are in short supply and high demand.

For now, the ethanol-producing industry is failing in Wisconsin and the other Midwestern states who lead the country in ethanol production. But with the rising price of gasoline – and the finite availability of that resource coupled with the desire for energy independence and a healthier environment- will biofuel production find its way back into the green jobs sector? Should we keep pouring resources into the biofuel industry or focus more intently on other energy producing sources?

General Biodiesel here in Seattle offers a promising alternative that doesn’t come with the risks associated with ethanol biofuels. Instead of using raw materials, like corn, they utilize waste cooking oil and animal fat as sources for fuel: sources that are renewable and sustainable, or a “waste to energy” model. Although wind turbines currently account for only one percent of energy production in the United States, Washington ranks fifth in the country and is poised to create thousands of new jobs as the sector expands.

Maybe when we put our time, money and energy into resources that are truly renewable and sustainable, we can create the green economy we envision.

-Elise Roberts