Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ICOSA Driving Force Radio: Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs – a discussion with co-authors Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar

Clean tech isn’t partisan – except in Washington, D.C.  When it comes to clean tech, “we need to hear less from Capitol Hill and more from Main Street” concludes a report by DBL Investors, a venture capital firm located in San Francisco whose goal is to combine top-tier financial performance with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the region and sectors in which it invests.  The report titled, “Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs,” (the “Report”) looks at the disparity between Washington D.C.’s view of “green jobs” and the rest of the country.  On Capitol Hill, “in general,” says the Report, “Democrats support them.  Republicans oppose them.  End of story.”

This isn’t how it’s always been.  “Indeed, some of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation were enacted during the presidency of Republican Richard Nixon.  The polarized discussion of the environment is a relatively recent phenomenon, and, perhaps sadly, echoes the sharp divisions occurring throughout American political discourse,” continues the Report.  At the state level, clean tech doesn’t appear to have a political party.  Indeed, “many of the governors working the hardest to bring clean tech jobs to their home states are not only Republican, but are usually regarded as leaders of their party.”  Governors are focused on creating jobs and the data shows that they are using clean tech to bring high-quality jobs to their states. 

Clean tech is a significant part of the economic engine in the U.S. contributing significantly more employment opportunities than the coal industry.  However, even though the clean tech portion of the economy is much larger than that of coal, clean tech receives proportionally less attention in the national discussion of the economic effects of environmental policies.  The Report explains it this way:

According to the National Mining Association, coal employs 136,000 people in the entire country.  (See, National Mining Association, Fast Facts About Coal 2012) But three states all by themselves each have more clean tech workers than all the coal mining workers in the USA.  The total number of Americans working in clean tech is many times the size of those in coal.  This rarely-acknowledged statistic suggests that we broaden the national discussion of the economic effects of environmental policies.  That discussion often emphasizes their impact on the coal industry, without the much larger clean tech portion of the energy economy receiving proportionally much less attention.

The Report bolsters its conclusion by highlighting the clean tech efforts of five Republican governors: Mississippi Former Governor Haley Barbour, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Texas Governor Rick Perry.  It appears that while each governor approached clean tech differently, the result was the same – job growth and a higher voter approval rating.  For example, Governor Christie moved New Jersey from second to the first largest solar market in the U.S. by signing a law mandating solar purchases for state utilities.  According to the Report, at the time of signing Christie commented that, “having renewable energy in our state, having it be a larger part of our portfolio, creating jobs, is not a Republican issue or Democratic issue. It’s an issue that the people of our state demand we work on together.” 

In order to maintain momentum, the Report urges implementation of policies that support long term investment including: (1) keeping the Solar Investment Tax Credit; (2) redrafting tax legislation affecting clean tech-related Master Limited Partnerships and allow for solar REITs; and (3) extending the Production Tax Credit. 

The emphasis is that clean tech is recognized by both Parties as a valuable tool for job creation at the local and state level.   “We all need to understand that green jobs and clean tech are not merely the idle dreaming of a small group of partisan activists and insiders, but a source of livelihood for millions of Americans, literally in all parts of the country.  What’s more, their numbers are growing every day.” 

Co-authors Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar will join Jan Mazotti and co-host Kelly de la Torre on ICOSA’s Driving Force radio ( next week.  Nancy Pfund is Managing Partner of DBL Investors.  Nancy writes frequently on matters relating to clean tech and “Impact investing.” Last year, she co-authored a widely-cited study showing that contrary to popular belief, current federal subsidy levels for alternative energy sources are in fact much lower than they ever were in the early days of “traditional” energy sources, such as coal, gas, and nuclear.

Michael Lazar is an MBA candidate at the Yale School of Management.  During the summer of 2012, Michael joined DBL Investors as a Summer Associate.  Prior to Yale, Michael worked for the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications and political advocacy firm in Washington, D.C.  Michael earned his BA from Stanford University.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Night of Sustainable Celebration with the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Former Governor Ritter and Vice Admiral McGinn

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado (the “Alliance”) held its Heroes of Sustainability event this evening at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, CO.  The event was a Who’s Who of sustainability in Colorado including a number of former Ritter administration cabinet members including Jim Martin, current Administrator for EPA’s Region 8 Office and former executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; and Alice Madden, Wirth Chair for the CU School of Public Affairs and former Climate Change Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to Ritter.  Former Governor Ritter himself was there to highlight the Alliance and introduce the Hero of Sustainability, Vice Admiral McGinn, President of the American Council on Renewable Energy.

After a hearty standing ovation, Ritter started by saying that, “being in this room tonight may be one of the most comforting things that I’ve done since leaving office.” The people in the room share values for quality of life for years to come.  “It is with great pride that I stand up here.” In his new position as Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, Ritter works with people around the country.  Ritter emphasized that 220 million Americans live in states with a renewable portfolio standard or renewable energy standard and 240 million Americans live in states that have efficiency standards. The take home message is that there is public support for what the Alliance and for what Colorado is doing.  “The people in this room are doing the things that the public wants them to do.”

This sentiment is echoed in an article by Mark Jaffe in the Denver Post (, titled, Red, Blue and Swing States are Green When it Comes to Renewable Energy.  According to Jaffe's article:

"Showing clean tech job growth in some of the blood-reddest of states and aggressive renewable energy policies by Republican governors, even Tea Party darlings like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, the analysis by Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar contends 'clean tech and green jobs are only contentious inside Washington.'

'It is almost universally appreciated as the important engine for job development and economic growth that it is,' says the study Red, White & Green."
Following another standing ovation, true to his character, Vice Admiral McGinn recognized that while this is an individual award he recognizes that life is a team sport.  He then proceeded to recognize Veterans Green Jobs (, a non-profit organization that connects military veterans with training and employment in the green sector economy.  It is very important that we employ our veterans and use their skills to make a more sustainable nation and a more sustainable Colorado.
The military gets it, said McGinn, and he explained why.  He served with other veterans – retired Generals and Admirals with CNA, a research group that represents all of the military services and the Coast Guard.  CNA produced a report titled, “Climate Change and the Threat to National Security.”  The title says it all, urged McGinn.  Climate change is a threat because the increase in global warming and weather events will increase the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, like drought.  In this way, climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability and fragile governments will fail.
Even in the face of great science, however, some people just don’t get it.  It may be that we are afraid of believing in climate change because we may have to give something up.  The truth is that sustainability is a way to live better.  Increased energy security, environmental security, economic security - all factors in making a better life. 
The military gets it, repeated McGinn.  In another report by CNA, Powering America’s Defense Energy and the Risks to National Security, the unambiguous conclusion was that America’s energy posture, and in particular, America’s dependence on foreign oil puts our country at risk.  Those who wish to do us harm can exploit that vulnerability.  Using September 11th as an example, we can no longer believe in business as usual, emphasized McGinn.  What we can do, however, is come together in alliances like this one.  We can come together in every town and village across the country.  We can create opportunity for jobs and local, regional and global environmental quality.
These problems won’t be solved in Washington but in states around the country.  Referring to the statistics offered by Ritter, McGinn emphasized that multitudes of people are already living in states with RES and RPS standards.  This is just the beginning.  This beginning is being led by the military services.  From here in Fort Carson by creating a net zero installation and prototyping microgrids coupled with traditional forms of energy.  Leading the way technically and culturally.  We can follow that lead and we can see the technology benefits.
Sustainable technologies have made a tremendous impact on military personnel, especially at forward operating bases, by reducing the number of fuel convoys that have to resupply these units to decreasing the weight of the backpacks.  What is the take away? The military gets it because sustainability comports with the bottom line namely, operational efficiency and combat effectiveness.   According to McGinn, just like we benefit from GPS or the Internet and economic drivers from investments that the military made decades ago, so too can we benefit from their investment in renewable energy and efficiency.  We also can’t let political noise drown out the signal that this country will be more secure and more prosperous.  This is good for business.  CO and the Alliance is a leader in showing the nation how we can move forward.
The alliance is about being everyday heroes as part of this team sport called life for our children and our children’s children for many generations to come.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn – Alliance for Sustainable Colorado 2012 Hero of Sustainability

Many people understand the direct link between oil and America’s enemies. But what they may not understand are the realities of our oil dependency as a nation.  As a 35-year veteran of the Navy and President of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Vice Admiral McGinn understands these realities because he’s experienced them.  The good news is that his knowledge and experience puts him in the ideal position to change our dependency on traditional energy sources by creating opportunities for Americans.  Better yet, he’s leading the charge.

In addition to his ACORE presidency, Admiral McGinn lends his expertise to, among other energy and climate boards, the CNA Military Advisory Board.  The CNA Board comprises 11 recently retired three- and four-star generals and admirals, examining the national security implications of climate change and the nexus of energy, climate change and national security.

McGinn believes America’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels poses significant security risks to the country and our military.  This is not a new issue for him.  He became interested in national energy security issues during the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970’s when there were long lines at the gas pumps.  “We were relying too heavily on imported oil.  I realized then how vulnerable we really were, and I haven’t lost focus on the critical link between energy and America’s economy and national security,” recalls McGinn in CNA’s Voices of Experience.  Further, he believes, “our dependence on fossil fuels comes as a cost that is not fully reflected in the amount paid at the gas pump,” says McGinn.  “Every time we fill up, we need to understand the costs involved, especially the high price we pay with the lives of the men and women in the armed forces.” 

Our dependence on oil undermines our national security on multiple levels.  Vice Admiral McGinn explains that oil’s pervasiveness in America’s energy policy forces the country to engage at various levels with hostile and unstable regimes, weakening our international leverage and putting our economy in a precarious position.  According to one CNA report, “The United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil production, yet controls less than three percent of an increasingly tight supply.”  The trouble is that oil is traded on a global market, a market that is vulnerable to manipulation by those who control the largest shares.  “Without bold action now to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, our national security will be at greater risk,” testified Vice Admiral McGinn, before a U.S. Senate panel.  “Fierce global competition and conflict over dwindling supplies of fossil fuel will be a major part of the future strategic landscape.”  America’s goal should be, he believes, to relieve our oil dependency by diversifying our fuel supply, increasing the efficient use of fuel and increasing our use of low carbon technologies.

Moving toward low carbon energy sources and technologies also helps confront the challenge of global climate change.  “Climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security, acting as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the world’s most volatile regions, adding tension to stable regions, worsening terrorism and likely dragging the united States into conflicts over water and other critical resource shortages,: testified Admiral McGinn before a Senate Committee.  “The truth is, climate change aside, our energy choices have a direct bearing on our economic well-being,” he says.  “If we’re not economically strong and stable we aren’t going to be militarily stable.” To address these challenges, there needs to be recognition that “climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.” 

Security, infrastructure, and climate threats are more than challenges-they are opportunities-opportunities to create industries around energy efficiency and renewable and low carbon technologies.  Notes Vice Admiral McGinn, “One of ACORE’s guiding principles is that we are for all kinds of renewable energy, and against none.  ACORE is about building a more secure and prosperous America with clean renewable energy because that is part of the solution.  We need to apply every technology and efficiency to solve our energy challenges. There is no ‘one size fits all’ energy solution.” The energy platform can’t be rigid. The platform needs to evolve depending on variables like need, geography and availability of resources, to name just a few.  For example, solar might be the best resource for Arizona while wind is better in the Midwest. We are looking at an integrated system of variable parts and we need to look for solutions to fit with that system.

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado ( will celebrate Vice Admiral McGinn as the 2012 Hero of Sustainability on September 11, 2012 in Denver, CO.  According to Vice Admiral McGinn, “we can be the ‘Next Greatest Generation’ in the 21st Century by taking on the new challenge so today that are threatening our way of life.  We can do something about these challenges.  The beauty is that to do so doesn’t mean sacrifice – it means more jobs, more national and energy security, and more economic security.  Let’s get over the fear of the future and do something now to shape a better future for all of us.  Business as usual is not the answer.”

This article is a truncated version of the article from ICOSA Magazine ( written by Kelly de la Torre.  For more on Vice Admiral McGinn go to, and