Washington state can lead the way to a green economy
Since 1970, Americans have set aside April 22 to celebrate the wonders of the big blue-green globe we call Earth — and to renew our resolve to protect it for our children and grandchildren.
On this Earth Day, I want to remind us all that there is no more time to waste.
The respected writer Thomas Freidman has a warning call to signal the importance of what we must do to save and protect our world and our incredibly beautiful state.
He calls it Code Green — a call to arms if you will — to reverse climate change, to make our world safer, and to create a green 21st century economy — all by reducing our use of fossil fuels.
And I firmly believe Washington State — where innovation is part of our very DNA — will lead the way and serve as a model for the country.
A green economy is not just a politically correct slogan for a bumper sticker. Neither our environment nor our economy can survive if we continue to depend so heavily on oil. It’s as simple as that. Oil is too expensive, too volatile, and the rest of the world’s growing populations are too happy to use it as much as we do. So why do we keep forgetting this simple reality?
I’m happy to report that Washington innovators understand Code Green, and they are answering the call of a generation.
First, our innovators are working on using the energy we already have in smarter ways. Second, government and the private sector are developing and creating economies-of-scale for a diverse menu of alternatives from wind power to solar to biofuels.
In short, it’s about harnessing our innovators and our technology to squeeze out every last clean electron we can to reduce our reliance on oil and save money. And we, with our incredible culture of innovation, can lead the world!
Washington State is the fifth largest producer of wind power and we’re working on ways to store it. We’re building solar-power components, and making real breakthroughs in bio-energy. And I’m talking with the governors of Oregon and California to create the first green freeway in the United States from the Canadian to Mexican borders.
We envision Interstate 5 with a network of rest stops where — as President Obama said when he looked at the idea — motorists would get more than a cup of coffee and bathroom break.
And this brings me to an important piece of a green economy — the role of government. We can and must help create markets for alternative-energy development. It’s all about infrastructure and incentives to give our innovators a reason to innovate. And it’s all about 21st century jobs for us and our children.
A carbon cap-and-trade system is already in place in Europe and some eastern states, and awaits action by the U.S. Congress. I want Washington to get out in front on this! We need to make sure our assets — like agriculture and forestry — get the credit they are due; that companies who have already stepped up to the challenge get the credit; that Congress delivers a program that is informed by our expertise so that it works for us.
When nearly $5 gas helped bring this country to its knees last year, I couldn’t help but reflect on how many times I’d seen this Grade B movie before — way back in the ’70s! Back in the ’80s!
We’ve been living on borrowed time long enough. It’s time for Code Green.
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