Tom Steyer is the founder of Farallon Capital Management and the co-founder of OneCalifornia Bank. He also created the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University. He was the keynote speaker at today's ACORE-sponsored Renewable Energy Finance and Investment Network event in San Francisco, California.

"These are tough times in the U.S.," said Steyer, referring to nine-percent unemployment, flat median incomes, low congressional approval ratings, and tough times all around.

"The failure of Solyndra has cast a shadow over advanced energy in the country -- especially in D.C."

The picture being painted in the press is very misleading, according to Steyer. Steyer gave some reasons to be cheerful.

  • The new miles-per-gallon standard is absolutely a big deal.
  • NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a $50 million gift to the Sierra Club to fight coal.
  • Positive outcomes expected on upcoming house bills on the EPA and mercury regulations.
  • The majority of respondents in a field poll support carbon legislation.

Steyer urged us to "get past what's written in the paper and listen to real Americans and realize that things are in our favor."

Steyer made a distinction between renewable energy and advanced energy. Steyer views the shift from coal to natural gas and the focus on energy efficiency as part of this move to advanced energy.

He said it's a "new way of how we generate and consume energy."

But, Steyer said, "If the fight is jobs versus the environment -- we'll lose," adding, "We need the right messenger. The American Lung Association has been fighting for health and we need them on our side. We need business people. We need the right message and right messenger."

He suggested, perhaps controversially, "We need to push for the end of all subsidies," adding: "Include the 13 bucks a gallon [that are necessary] if you include the cost of keeping shipping lanes open."

Steyer concluded, "Americans already know that renewable energy is the future. What they are worried about is the cost." He urged us to remember that "the people are on our side and the facts are on our side."