What do you get you when you put four experts in a San Francisco energy camp called OpenEco 2008? You get something between a bar brawl and poetry recital. Actually the opening segment for yesterday’s Sun Microsystems sponsored-UCSF based-camp began with Dave Douglas, VP of Eco Responsibility at Sun Microsystems leading a spirited discussion panel of L. Hunter Lovins (tough to miss in her black cowboy hat), president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions; Ted Nordhaus, Chairman of the Breakthrough Institute; Michael Shellenberger, President of the Breakthrough Institute; and Adam Werbach, Founder and CEO of Act Now.
Even when you get a panel of so-called experts, there tends to be disagreements. In fact, when asked about all the controversy among what to do about the energy crisis and sustainability and alt energy Adam Werbach blurted, “First thing that we need to do is to kill all the experts,” which got a laugh but also made a good point. Lovins showed some lovin’ for her case that innovation comes with healing. In her case, she argued that investing in sustainability rather than armies would work in places like Afghanistan where she’s off to teach, not how to shoot an M-16 but of course, sustainability. Like political pundits, the talk shifted to taxes (like a carbon tax) versus subsidies. We, like most of the crowd pondered the thought of adding a “carbon tax” to various products and services. But we all know how much this country loves its taxes. But then what about subsidies? It’s no shock that dirty energy like coal and oil look relatively cheap because of the subsidies. Green foodie Michael Pollen of Omnivore’s Dilemma fame, dedicated numerous book pages talking about corn and soy subsidies, and here the group and audience did the same. That subsidized corn ends up as high fructose corn syrup in so many cheap processed foods. We don’t see any spinach subsidies. Balance the energy scale. We think that it’s time for more Green energy subsidies (not just solar). People don’t want their dirty energy taxed so we need to make clean energy cheap. (more…)