Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Conference Call with Senator Kerry

On Thursday, I participated in a blogger conference call with Senator John Kerry. David Eisenthal has a report on the call, and other participants included Susan from Beyond 495, Lynne from Left in Lowell and Andy formerly of Mass. Revolution Now, and currently of a new mysterious blog project. David's rundown is superb, so I won't go into too much more detail, and hopefully some of the other bloggers will give their reactions as well in the next few days (I'm surprised that more haven't, actually).

My question to the Senator was on Cape Wind. I have seen people on both sides of the issue try to claim lately that Kerry agrees with them, so I wanted to hear directly from him what his position was, particularly given his new book and recent focus on the environment. His answer likely would disappoint both those in favor and those against. He would not comment on the merits of the project, but only said that he supports wind energy in principle. He noted that those against he project have serious concerns about the siting and he's content to just let the permitting process work, and see what the Coast Guard has to say about it. On that, he asked "Does a developer have the right to just plunk down anywhere and say, 'here, I'm doing this here' or is there some sort of siting standard?" He noted that he has concerns whether the proposed site is the "number one prime location" or if another spot might be more effective and that only 6% of the country lends itself to wind use. The upshot seems to be that he won't work to stop it, but neither will he try to help it through.

It was a little frustrating, then, to hear Kerry go on to talk favorably about small wind turbines people could put on their roof when asked a question about the decentralization of power generation. Where were his concerns about whether a rooftop turbine would be the number one prime location for generating power to a home? Why no talk of countless hoops a home wind user would have to go through? Yes, I understand there's a difference between putting up a single turbine on private property and putting over 100 on public land, but it seems incongruous to say on the one hand that you're worried about people putting up windmills willy-nilly and on the other that everyone should have their own.

That all said, Senator Kerry is exactly right on decentralized energy. He hoped that decentralized energy sources would be a big part of how we deal with energy problems. With the proper incentives, the marketplace will begin to provide more choices for consumers. He talked about putting tax credits or other programs in place to make putting up your own solar or other renewable energy system affordable, and he's looking personally to be on a "green grid".

One thing that David did not mention was how well briefed Senator Kerry was on all of us. I've done a bunch of blogger conference calls in the past and Kerry is so far the only one who had been at all prepped on all the participants.

Senator Kerry also was at an event this past weekend in Cambridge. He and his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry did a reading of their new book This Moment on Earth at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square. John Kerry's blog has a complete account of the event.