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Video: Former Bush EPA Director Stephen Johnson on the "upcoming, beneficial explosion of cleantech"

3 min. read

On September 16th, I had the opportunity to attend the CleanTech OC 2013 Conference and Expo in Irvine, California.  If you haven't heard of it, CleanTech OC is "is a trade association that seeks to promote economic growth in the Orange County clean technology industry, which is likely to be one of the most significant engines for job growth in Southern California over the next decade." As for the CleanTechOC Conference, it is the "only annual conference in Orange County dedicated to covering the clean technology space and connecting industry stakeholders from throughout the region & state."

With so many clean technology industry leaders in attendance, it was a perfect opportunity to sit down for videotaped interviews with several of them, and that's an opportunity which I was excited to take advantage of.

So, today, we resume our "Scaling Green on the Scene" interview series, as I talk to Dr. Stephen Johnson, who served as President George W. Bush’s director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2006 to 2009. Our discussion covered a range of topics, but for now I want to focus on Dr. Johnson's views regarding the future of clean energy (Dr. Johnson's talk was called "The Coming Explosion of CleanTech in California.") According to Dr. Johnson:

I believe that there is an upcoming, beneficial explosion of cleantech, not only here in Orange County, and not only in California, but...nationwide and I believe globally as well...I really believe that clean energy is a national and international imperative....Of course there will be the politics surrounding that. But when you think about reducing the economic burden of energy or waste consumption on a consumer, on business, of helping to promote public health and social well being, it is really hard for a politician, in the end, to really vote against those kind of compelling arguments.

So I think that yes, there's politicization that occurs and will occur, but I think we need to keep our eye on the prize that clean technology is the way of the future, and I believe that there will be a beneficial explosion of cleantech in the coming days.

I share Dr. Johnson's view that we need to keep the eye on the prize and certainly not politicize the tremendous business, economic, environmental and national security opportunities offered by clean technology. With regard to the "coming explosion of cleantech," the statistics actually show that it's not just "coming," it's already happening right now:

  • For instance, Liz Salerno of the American Wind Energy Association wrote recently about wind power's "growth and amazing low cost today" as a great "American success story," one that's "on track to support over 500,000 American jobs by 2030, as envisioned by the Department of Energy."
  • And, as rapidly as wind power is growing, Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that solar power worldwide may be growing even faster, adding " about 36.7 gigawatts globally in 2013," driven by "dramatic cost reductions in photovoltaics, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China," among other factors.
  • According to Greentech Media, "the global smart grid market is expected to cumulatively surpass $400 billion worldwide by 2020, with an average compound annual growth rate of over 8 percent."
  • Navigant Research expects the global market for energy efficient buildings to surpass $100 billion by 2017.

The bottom line? Dr. Johnson is correct on all counts: clean energy is growing fast, will continue to do so and is a "national and international imperative" that should not be politicized. We encourage policymakers to take heed of this wise advice.