Congressman Jay Inslee spoke on "Government Policy Promoting Cleantech Entrepreneurship" at Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) on Monday evening in a sold-out event sponsored by Battery Ventures. Inslee represents Washington's 1st Congressional District, and he has a broad cleantech position, including having authored a net metering bill and a feed-in tariff bill (Inslee graciously conceded that he sometimes has trouble remembering the numeric designations and formal titles of the specific bills he has worked on).
Battery Venture's Jason Matlof introduced the speaker. (Battery's greentech portfolio includes solar microinverter firm SolarBridge, LED networking firm Redwood Systems, biofuel firm Qteros and several others.)
The congressman started his speech by citing a new technology from BP -- "converting lies to energy," since "lies are a totally renewable resource."
Inslee said that, "Entrepreneurs and technology alone will not solve the problem." Policy has to play a role.
We've "paid for the sea lanes to the Mideast," and "subsidies that allow waste from the oil industry to go into the atmosphere." There's only one way to correct that, according to Inslee: "Policy that sends the right cost signals to the market." He sees his job as setting policy that sends the right market signals.
Inslee sees his role as being a Paul Revere figure, except his alarm call is not "'The British are coming'"; it's "'The Chinese are coming.'" According to Inslee, China intends on dominating the clean energy market.
Despite the "risk aversion" in Congress, he sees room for optimism. Inslee sees increasing numbers of clean energy partners in the federal government -- including the military.
"Where are we today?" The answer is that there is "no House energy bill tomorrow." But, "We are going to try desperately to get some measures through in the lame duck session." Amongst those measures are a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) of 20 percent, with 8 percent from energy efficiency, and a continuation of energy-friendly tax provisions.
We've had "an attack of chronic stupidity" in the last few months, according to Inslee. Candidates who once supported cap-and-trade legislation and are now going up against Tea Party opponents are suddenly attacking "cap-and-trade as a Communist plot."
"Here is my hope," said the congressman: as the EPA gets closer to a decision, his "friends with primaries" will "come back and start working in a bipartisan fashion."
"We need a legal limit on carbon in this country," said Inslee, who supports a cap-and-trade system, not a carbon tax. He does not want the atmosphere used as a dumping ground. Inslee has also promoted the Greenbank -- a way for technologies to build the first commercial factory and cross the chasm from development to production.
Inslee concluded, "My basic message is of undaunted optimism, despite the Senate's failure to act."