The National Energy Summit: Speed Dating for the Cleantech Set

by: Greentech Media

By Michael Kanellos

The National Clean Energy Summit takes place today in Las Vegas. Everyone you can think of is there: Al Gore, Arnold, Steve Chu, T. Boone Pickens, Van Jones, John Podesta, Wesley Clark.

You can watch the ongoing proceedings here.

It's not bad, but most of the speakers only have about five minutes to speak, so they aren't getting too deep into the details. A lot of time gets spent thanking everyone else in the room. Some highlights:

  • Pickens said that if the U.S. could convert the 18 million big rigs rolling down our roads right now from diesel to natural gas, we could cut OPEC shipments by 2.7 million barrels a day. Right now, the U.S. imports 4.5 million barrels a day from OPEC. Pickens claimed he was an oddball a few years ago and was the only one saying the U.S. had to get off foreign oil. If you ignore Nixon, Clinton, Carter, Gore and a few others, he's got a point.
  • U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell said energy is a $6 billion market and that it could create jobs. "As Nevada goes, so goes the nation," she said. As a native Nevadan, I can explain that: it means summer jobs wearing a silver thing on you waist that spits out quarters. But there could be energy jobs too.
  • Al Gore likes natural gas 18 wheelers and natural gas coal fired plants to some degree. Natural gas emits less carbon than oil and much less than coal, he said. Batteries just aren't ready to propel big rigs down the road.

"Wind is ready," he added. More wind has been added in the last two years than conventional energy. (See data backing that up here.)

Gore also pointed out that the U.S. invented most of the key technologies in renewable energy but we lag in commercial production. It's a good point. PV cells came from Bell Labs. Hybrids got jump started out of the DOE. The Sodium Sulfur battery was invented by Ford (NYSE:F), he said. The biggest manufacturer is NGK in Japan.

He also swoons over waste heat capture. "But in many jurisidictions... it is effectively against the law," he said. 65 percent of energy in coal in a standard plant is wasted, he said. The problem is that utilities aren't incented to sell heat. Not sure about the nuances of waste heat regulation, but it's a favorite energy source of ours. How do we boost renewable demand: Put a price on carbon and devise renewable power standards.