Energy is a hot topic at the DNC; also, Death Cab
Here it is, almost 3 a.m., I’m at my hotel, and this is the first time I’ve had an internet connection all day. There’s no wireless in the convention hall and no wireless at any of the venues I’ve been to so far. There’s (allegedly spotty, slow) wireless at the Big Tent for bloggers, but who wants to go sit in the Big Tent when there are all these interesting events happening? Don’t these people know there are journalists in town? Why is there not universal wireless yet? And where’s my jetpack? I was promised a jetpack.
Long and short of it is, I’ve been running full speed all day, basically attempting to remember everything I see for when I finally get a chance to post. Those who know me know that my memory is, um, less than reliable. So I’ll just try to throw a bunch of stuff out, and maybe return to some of the more interesting bits when I have more time.
(Incidentally, Kate’s been able to post throughout the day because she has one of those fancy cards that get you wireless access anywhere you get a phone signal. I gotta get me one of those.)
The first interesting thing I went to today was a "Rocky Mountain roundtable" on energy and environment issues, moderated by Vijay Vaitheeswaran, a writer on these subjects for The Economist. (Vaitheeswaran is super-smart, but he talked too damn much — an affliction for which I have a great deal of sympathy.) There were politicos like Rep. Markey (who’s ubiquitous here), Rep. Blumenauer, Sen. Bingaman, Colo. Gov. Bill Ritter, and Seattle mayor Greg Nichols, along with an array of private sector and nonprofit folks. The panels were running all day — I caught the last two.
My high-level takeaway was this: it’s astonishing how sophisticated the energy conversation has become in a relatively short period of time, at least on the left side of the aisle. Virtually everyone up there — notably including the politicos — had smart things to say, good policy proposals, and nuanced views. There was no BSing about fake solutions like ethanol and clean coal, only a tight focus on how to structure markets to allow rapid scaling of renewable energy and efficiency.
Markey summed up the general sentiment well when he said (paraphrasing): the tide of history is moving inexorably in our direction on these issues. The technology, the private capital, the entrepreneurship, the economics of renewables, and even, finally, slowly, the public policy. Everything is poised to take off. Republicans may look like they own the energy issue right now, but it’s a last gasp, a final flail before they recede into irrelevance (at least until they get with the 21st century). Nobody on stage seemed to think that the basic direction of the future was in question. It was a matter of timing and details.
(Incidentally, Van Jones got three minutes to make his spiel, and yet again, the crowd greeted it with wild enthusiasm. The power of his message is just manifest to everyone who hears it. In one venue after another I’ve seen him speak and seen people’s eyes light up. It’s amazing.)
There was an interesting cleantech meet-and-greet later, where Kate and I got a couple of good video interviews, but I expect she’ll be uploading those soon, so I won’t get into it.
And then there were the convention speeches. Kate did a few posts earlier tonight, so I’ll just follow up with my general impressions. Former Va. governor and Senate candidate Mark Warner: what a $%*! snooze! Ohio governor Ted Strickland: snooooze. Mass. governor Deval Patrick: started out OK and then … snooze. Don’t these people speak in public for a living? There was nothing on climate from these guys, and only token energy stuff, all via bland mentions of "energy independence."
Then Mont. governor Brian Schweitzer: now here’s a guy who can sell a speech! The guy’s just a hoot to watch. Lamentably, he shilled a bit for clean coal, biofuels, and Montana oil. But on balance, he hit climate change and renewable energy way harder than any of the other speakers, and hit them well — with strength, and with appropriate mockery of McCain.
Hillary Clinton: I’m almost scared to read the mainstream press accounts of her speech, because I just know they’ll contain the kind of tired cynicism that sours things like this. But to me, it was pitch perfect. She was subdued at first — obviously it’s not pleasant for her to be officially marking the final death of the dream she fought so hard for — but she made a powerful case, and the crowd responded with a passion and electricity that had been notably lacking earlier in the evening. The message to her supporters was unambiguous: don’t make the mistake of voting for John McCain. It’s about America, not Hillary. It was the best speech I’ve heard her give, by a considerable margin, and absolutely crushed the speeches before it.
Finally, to cap off the night, an excellent party thrown by the League of Conservation Voters, featuring a performance by Death Cab for Cutie. Well, it was billed as DCFC, but it turned out to be singer Ben Gibbard (supporting wicked bitchin’ new sideburns and hair) and sideman Chris Walla doing an acoustic gig. The crowd ate it up, though. A big success for LCV.
Tomorrow: a T. Boone event that promises a few fireworks, my panel on new media which promises … um, me blabbing, and then over to the hall to see Bill Clinton and Joe Biden (assuming I can scam another credential). Hopefully I’ll be able to get online during the day so I won’t have to do another one of these rambling, half-intoxicated late night brain dumps.