The distinguished group of panelists,speaking before a capacity crowd of almost 100 people, included:Applied Materials’ very own Chairman and CEO Mike Splinter; New YorkTimes columnist Thomas Friedman; and Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. FoxBusiness Network anchor Liz Claman did an excellent job moderating thisfascinating exchange. And with a special appearance by NobelPrize-winning and 2008 recipient of the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award, Muhammad Yunus,who spoke about his inspiring work bringing affordable solar power tothe villages in his native Bangladesh, the night was anything but staid.
There was a broad consensus among the panelists that in order forthe U.S. to usher in a low-carbon economy, a focus on renewables is amust. China, as Friedman rightly pointed out, is sprinting ahead in theclean energy race and has little intent of slowing down. Historically,the U.S. has not been accustomed to playing catch up to anyone, butthat is exactly what will continue to happen if we don’t take swiftaction now.
With the right mix of a low-cost financing mechanism for renewableprojects coupled with long-term, stable policies such as a strongnational RES, the U.S. can once again become a leader in the cleanenergy sector. Hearing President Obama’s commitment to clean technologyin his State of the Union address and how that will lead to job creation in the short and long term was certainly well-received by many of the forum’s attendees.
Hopefully that message also resonated with Senate leadership acrossthe pond who will be grappling with passing either climatechange/energy legislation this year. It would behoove our lawmakers toreflect on WEF’s ambitious theme this year — Improving the State of theWorld — as they begin to take up the issue again. Without a seriousprovision for renewable energy in whatever bill we end up with, thechance for meaningful improvement will be greatly undermined.