Two committed environmentalists, including Democratic Party Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington state, are urging the country to create a clean energy economy. They make their case in a new book that cites numerous examples of environmentally friendly businesses already operating successfully in the United States. Producer Zulima Palacio talked to the writers. Jeffrey Young narrates the story.
Representative Jay Inslee and co-author Bracken Hendricks say developing clean energy technology and halting the effects of global warming is mankind's most important challenge. And as they contend in their new book, "Apollo's Fire, Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy," it makes economic sense, too.
Congressman Inslee told us, "America is poised on a new leap on technology and a new leap forward in our economy -- same kind we had in the space race. What we did in the Apollo space project, we believe we can do in the field of clean energy."
President John F. Kennedy initiated the Apollo space project in 1961, and set a goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The U.S. did, with months to spare, on July 20th, 1969.
Inslee sits on the House Energy and Commerce committees and has sponsored environmental legislation called the New Apollo Energy Act. He is a vocal critic of the Bush administration's environmental policy.
He says the private sector has taken major steps toward clean energy development, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. "The private sector is going to provide most of the economic muscle, if you will, to get this revolution to where it needs to go. But government can provide what I call the road signs. It will be the private sector driving, but the government has an important role as to providing the signals to the economy."
"Apollo's Fire" offers examples of numerous clean energy entrepreneurs -- producers of efficient light bulbs, wind and solar energy and people who operate in simple garages and complex laboratories.
Co-author Bracken Hendricks is the founder of the environmental group Apollo Alliance. He says, "More importantly, it tells the story of the solutions. People like Felix Kramer, an entrepreneur in California that took a [Toyota] Prius car and transformed it into an electric hybrid."
Another example is a San Francisco television station's cartoon creation promoting energy efficiency: "Lighting is everything. You might want to use compact fluorescent bulbs. They are cheap and they use less energy."
And there's the story of David Pearse in Silicon Valley, California. He is trying to mass produce affordable solar panels that can compete with other home energy sources. He explains, "I'm sort of a serial entrepreneur. This is my sixth venture-backed company and this is the most exciting market opportunity I've ever been in."
Hendricks adds, "We really look at the crisis of global warming as an opportunity to re-invest in the foundations of our economy, creating new markets, creating new opportunities. And we found that what is really in the midst of a very troubling situation there is tremendous opportunity to do good, to re-build and to restore people's lives."
In fact, as the authors conclude, they had a difficult time keeping up with the pace of innovation while writing the book. They say the accelerated pace of bad news about global warming has created a greater sense or urgency that is spawning innovative and creative solutions.