Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: Pew Charitable Trusts Holds Clean Energy Action Plan Workshop
by Joanne Ivancic (Advanced Biofuels USA) As a member of the PEW Charitable Trust’s Clean Energy Business Network, Joanne Ivancic, Advanced Biofuels USA executive director, participated with innovators, investors, manufacturers and policy experts at the ”Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: A Clean Energy Action Plan” workshops held in Washington DC October 4-5. Focused primarily on electrical power production, Advanced Biofuels USA was pleased to represent the biofuels perspective along with David Hitchcock of Virent who served on the “Demand Side” panel, David Berry of LS9, and with James Glaser, general manager of Blue Honey Bio-Fuels of Wisconsin.
Although most of the discussion concerned investment, policy and innovation in the US, as former Senator John Warner noted in his concluding remarks, there is a “greater recognition of global competition” in the renewable energy world.
The panel discussion format with few slides lent itself to sometimes candid observations. Noting the oft-repeated admonition that government should avoid “picking winners and losers,” Douglas G. Parks of Dow Chemical Co., acknowledged that with a limited budget and severe public scrutiny, government agencies are expected to support what they anticipate will be winners.
He contrasted the US grant-based system with that of other countries where policies are established and candidates chosen to implement the policy. Thus, government remains engaged and supportive in the interest of successful policy implementation. He observed that in the US, once grants are made and initial projects completed, grantees are expected to fend for themselves. And these days, as many panelists observed, policy is uncertain and often short-term.
David Berry of Flagship Ventures, LS9 and other innovators exposed another quirk of US culture. He commented that as an investor, he expects that even though he’s engaged with businesses doing things that have never been done before, he expects that the first facility will be profitable; that investors cannot wait for the nth facility to make a profit.
Some of the most pointed remarks came from tax expert, Lee J. Peterson, senior manager of national tax practice for Cohn Reznick on the “Supply Side” panel, talking about tax code regulations’ impact on renewable energy investment. Not only the high-profile production tax credit and investment tax credits, but also tax policy that facilitates continued hiding of external costs. He spoke of externalities that do not show up in the price of coal, petroleum or natural gas and opined that if they were included in prices charged to consumers that renewable energy would have no problem being competitive.
Selected videos from the workshop are published on the Pew Charitable Trusts website. READ MORE WATCH VIDEOS