The Woods Institute for the Environment and Manatt hosted a panel on Thursday night with representatives of the key California gubernatorial candidates. Jerry Brown has not formally declared, but he had a representative at the event.  In addition to Brown, there were representatives of candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner.  The event was hosted by Don Kennedy, Woods Institute senior fellow and former president of Stanford, and Craig Moyer, chair of the Land Environment & Energy Division of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

The aim of the evening was to explore the role of the next California governor, replacing Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, in "maintaining California's leadership in the cleantech industry."   We ended up with a few evasive answers and bromides, but a bit of heat was generated when the topic of AB 32 came up.

California's AB 32, passed in 2006, aims to create mechanisms to lower greenhouse gas levels to 1990 levels by 2020.

Michael Kanellos reported on candidate Meg Whitman's AB 32 worldview (as seen through 2006 gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly's lens) here.

The panel did their best to stake out their positions on AB 32.  Considering that they were representatives.  And that Brown hasn't declared.

Whitman's team must have read Kanellos' piece because they seemed a bit softer on the AB 32 issue.  Whitman's representative and Policy Advisor, Amisha Patel, spoke of how Whitman still wants a moratorium on AB 32 in these difficult financial times.  Not a reversal, mind you, but a re-assessment that looks at "better implementation" and "stronger leadership" with regards to the bill.

Jerry Brown's non-representative in his non-campaign, Julia Levin, said that Brown was a strong defender of the environment and will continue to rally against the serious effects of CO2.

And Steve Poizner's representative and Deputy Policy Director, Ken Stalter, cited a paper from the dean of the CSU business school, Sanjay Varshney.  The paper claimed that AB 32 would cost the typical household $3857 and the typical small business $49,691.   And that Steve Poizner is not going to let that happen.  

Jim Sweeney, the Director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, said that that study was gravely flawed and added that, "he [Stalter] should take that study and deposit it in the waste basket."  

An audience member, Craig Lewis of Right Cycle, asked the panel about feed-in tariffs. The candidates positions on FITs consisted of: "Send info, please," "We don't have a detailed position," and "Would love to have a detailed discussion."

According to Lewis, the feed-in tariff is the most effective policy mechanism for getting renewable energy deployed.  And jobs follow deployments.  The California Energy Commission has a FIT plan that applies to deployments below 20 megawatts, a size that fits on the distribution grid and does not require transmission build-out.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Jerry Brown is a home-run for cleantech."  added Lewis.