Climate & Our Economy
This article is the transcript of a live in-person event, Climate & Our Economy. The program was developed as a partnership between Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the Institute for Science & Policy. Find the program recording on our YouTube channel.
Climate change already affects large sectors of our economy, from infrastructure and property to public health and tourism. Even a company's bottom line may depend on how they plan and adapt to climate change now and in the future. While the risk is real and present, there are opportunities and creative ideas being pursued by forward-thinking businesses, individuals, and governments.
Speakers will address the national, state, and local impacts of our changing climate and the benefits to jobs and the clean energy economy as we support a rapid energy transition. Hear personal stories and examples that highlight the costs and economic opportunities for a clean energy economy and a just transition.
Chris Hansen, Colorado State Senator
Bob Keefe, Executive Director of E2
Suzanne Tegen, Assistant Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University
Trent Yang, Founding Partner & President, Galway Sustainable Capital
The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.
GEORGE SPARKS: I'm George Sparks CEO, of the museum [Denver Museum of Nature & Science], welcome here. This is awesome to see all of you out here like this. This is fabulous. Talking about climate in the economy. It was interesting today out in that where you hit drinks, we had about 70, folks. And we talked, we had a presentation from a paleontologist about the day the asteroid hit the Earth and what was like then turns out, it was about 10 to 15 degrees C warmer, it was less tropical kind of thing. Very, very different it is today. So the Earth goes through these cycles, we just shouldn't be the ones driving those cycles. And Colorado right now, the even people that don't necessarily believe that climate is changing, they understand now that something is changing here. It's, it feels different than it has in the past. I had to visit Denver folks out the other day, and I was joking with them that that Colorado brand used to be Coors beer, spring, mountain water, you know, snow, etc. Now, we're going to be known as Colorado, "Welcome to Colorado, the windy wildfire hellhole." And that's not a very good brand for for a lot of reasons. So our job is to keep that from getting any worse. And to make it better, and it has real effect on the economy. I mean, who would have imagined that the Marshal Fire would have destroyed 1000 homes-that's just beyond comprehension. We're replacing Brec [Breckenridge] and I used to think that we cut a couple, you know, 20 feet of trees in front of the place, it wouldn't burn. But now I've come to conclusion that it will burn someday. I mean, I think that's just the reality. If you live around here, if you live long enough, especially if you live outside of the city, it's likely your place will burn. So our our job is to keep that from happening if we can. Now this will, if humans have been around a couple 100,000 years, hopefully homosapiens this will be the largest collective action ever undertake, ever undertaken by humanity to evolve from carbon based fuels to some sort of new future. It'll be as big as the Industrial Revolution, we're going to do it a lot faster than the Industrial Revolution happened. And to me, it's really exciting. I think they're gonna be so many really cool things that come of it. How many of you remember the first time you saw a browser? How many of you know what a browser is? What browser is? So I remember first time I saw a browser though, wow, that's kind of cool. I bet could probably be useful some ways. And now we've gotten to where we live our lives on these, this technology and I think that'll be the way it is with energy. We're going to have so many really new cool ways to do things. If that will be better for the earth and better for us in the long term. So I want to thank all of our panelists here tonight, and especially Kristan Uhlenbrock, who's the director of the Institute for Science and Policy, who's going to lead us tonight. So with that, I'll turn it over to Kristan.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Thank you, George. Appreciate that. I also want to recognize and acknowledge our partners in putting this together, Environmental Entrepreneurs known as E2, we have their executive director here. And of course, Susan has been a wonderful co host and partner. So huge thanks to them as well for helping us scattered tonight. You have all of our speakers bios, there's a printout out there. So we're not going to spend time on a bio because we know we're standing between you and networking and food, and their wonderful ideas and comments. So we want to jump into conversation real quickly. But this idea of climate and our economy, right, I was talking with someone about this event recently, and they're like, "I wonder what this conversation would have been about 10 years ago, or 20 years ago," right? Thinking about how do these two things, these two major systems absolutely have impact on each other? And things are driving certain things. And very quickly, would this conversation have sounded very differently? And I absolutely think it would have from where we are today. But I'm thrilled to hear everyone's speaking. So let me just introduce quickly my panel who was sitting here left to me. So I have Bob Keefe sitting here right here next to me. He has a new book that was just released. There are copies out there, and he will sign them after tonight. So make sure if you're interested in picking up his book to come talk to him and see that. He's the Executive Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs. Sitting directly to his left is state senator of ours. Senator Chris Hansen. He leads our appropriations committee here in our state legislature. He's also Vice Chair of the Joint Budget Committee. He's an engineer and a scientist at heart, even though he went to the world of politics. And he does a lot here in our state, for those of you who are familiar with some of his bills he's passed. So I'm grateful to have him here this evening. Next to that is Suzanne Tegen. Suzanne is the associate director at the Center for new energy economy at Colorado State University. She's had a wonderful career, including a lot of stints NREL [National Renewable Energy Laboratory]. And I've had a little bit of an opportunity to work with her recently when we've been talking about the Just Transition here in the state. And I'm excited to have you here this evening. And last but not least is Trent Yang. Trent is the president and founding partner, just founder is probably the best way to say it, of Galway Sustainable Capital, a really thoughtful investment firm looking at both the sustainable and environmental and social impacts of investing and will bring a lot to this conversation. So thank you for being here today. Okay, we're gonna open it up with letting each of our panelists just provide a thought on-it's 2022, we will end up talking about some important legislation that passed. But I'd be curious beyond that important piece of legislation. This is a big topic-climate in our economy. Like, what's the one thing that you find yourself talking a lot about, you keep coming back to and talking with a lot of people about. Open up that conversation, I think we're gonna get some four very different answers to that. Do you want to start?
BOB KEEFE: Well, first of all, I just want to say thank you all for being here. How cool is it to be together again? Yeah. And thank you for the Institute and to the museum for hosting this fantastic event. Thanks to my colleague, Susan Nedell for all the hard work she put into this. And really thank you all for being here. The thing that that we've been talking about is exactly the topic that we're here for tonight, is the economics of climate change. And like most of you all, I'd looked at climate change as an environmental issue. I looked at it as a social issue. I looked at it as a health issue for so long, and rightly so because it is all of those things. But climate change now is an economic issue. There's no doubt about it anymore. Last year alone, we had $150 billion worth of damage to our economy nationally from climate related disasters. Here in Colorado. It's something like about 3 billion a year average over the past five years. Last year alone, something like $7 billion when you add in the horrific Marshal fire and drought, winter storms, etc. And all of this is hitting all of us in the pocketbook. So climate change has become an economic issue. Certainly the direct cost of those disasters is huge. But homeowners insurance up 40% in a decade's time. We're now paying more for everything from cornflakes to chicken, because of droughts because of flooding. We're all paying more in our taxes to pay for more firefighters to rebuild military bases that were hammered by hurricanes on the East Coast, and flooding in the West and the Midwest and elsewhere. So when you ask about what are people talking about, or what are we talking about? It's the realization that climate change is now an economic issue.
SENATOR CHRIS HANSEN: Yeah, just a couple of opening thoughts. You know, I think I quit my job and ran for public office to work on climate change. And I had come to the conclusion, about eight years ago, that action at the federal level was going to be slow or non existent. And my prediction eight years ago was pretty good. Until a couple of weeks ago, and we're gonna dive into the IRA here in just a second. And I look forward to talking about kind of how that bill is gonna play out in Colorado. But as I said, I quit my job. I ran for the Statehouse now in the State Senate, and I wanted to work on climate change, it was sort of the the thing that was driving me to get more involved in public service. And I think I can safely say, and I see tons of friends in the room who've been part of this effort over the last seven, eight years, Colorado is back in a leadership position because of what we've been able to do at the state level. And in the absence of federal action, for many years, Colorado has stepped up along with the, you know, another half dozen states you could point to, and we are trying to very methodically is in as fast and as smart as we can decarbonize the Colorado economy, and we have clear goals. And we've started filling that in with sector by sector legislation. And that's been really exciting to be a part of, right. It's, it's electricity, and then it's transportation. And then now we're moving on to buildings, and the ag [agriculture] sector and upstream oil and gas and just piece by piece of that emissions pie, we are making huge progress. And it's been so much fun to be a part of that work.
TRENT YANG: It's so great. Thank you for the great work over the last eight plus years, Senator Hanson and I would echo what you're saying, which was, it's been a long journey for I think, all of us here on the panel, and many of you down here in the audience. I remember when I started doing investing in sustainability and renewable energy 2006, you know, they didn't even call it "climate tech," which is the new word for it used to be clean tech. And what I love about what's happening today, is that it's no longer just a moral imperative that we do this, but it's an economic opportunity. You know, it's the numbers that are out there are mind blowing, right, we need to spend on the order of 10 plus trillion dollars per year for the next 25 years to make this transition. Right. And if I put that into perspective, you know, everybody have heard now Software is eating the world, right? Everybody is all of our lives are run digitally. The entire world market for software and software services is a trillion dollars a year. Right? This is a 10x opportunity versus software. So yes, it's an economic issue. Yes, it hurts pocketbooks. It's challenging. But it's a huge opportunity for all of us, especially the young people. I think, you know, if you're coming out of college, you want something to do. It's never been a better time.
SUZANNE TEGEN: Yeah, I would. I mean, I don't think I disagree with anyone I think I agree with with all of you. When I think about what I talk about most with people that I don't work with, you know, my neighbors, my family, they asked me, you know, are we doing enough on climate change? Can we stop climate change with what we're doing today? And we can't, right? Ee can't stop climate change, we can lessen the impacts of climate change. And that's what we need to focus on. We need to focus on making sure that this hockey stick curve that we've been seeing comes down, right and that the people in our communities really locally, you know, are not as hurt as they have been, or they could be if we don't take measures to stop this. I live in Luisville, Colorado where we had the Marshal Fire in December. And we're of course still suffering from that. But that was one of the horrific natural disasters that we've seen. And while we can't totally stop this, I think efforts like Senator Hanson was talking about at the state really helped. I mean, the electric vehicles, the renewable energy, you know, shutting down power plants that have harmful emissions, you know, all those things, we're, we're making strides. And then the IRA that we're going to talk about is a huge step in the right direction. I think we can also take measures to prevent more climate change. And some of these things that I just mentioned will do that i by shutting down harmful, emitting power plants, and making sure that we take care of the people who work there, of course, we'll talk about that too. And then the adaptation part of this, right, so we have to learn to adapt to our situation. And we have to make sure that we don't think we're just going from one thing to another because the "another" as, as we all know, right, is going to keep changing. The world keeps changing. And so we have to adapt as it changes. And so I think it's, it's just such a complex question, but we have to keep, you know, keep going, we have to keep doing what we're doing. We can't stop climate change but we can definitely make it easier for communities. We can build them better, we can make them more resilient. And all the little things that we're doing do do matter.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Thank you. All right. Before I talk to my panelists, I want to ask you all here in the audience is a show of hands. And we're gonna make this a binary. So you're going to be forced to raise your hand to an either or, as much as I tried to do both and thinking and break down some of this binary thinking, I'm going to force you into it. Because we're gonna talk a little bit about policy. So show of hands, I'd be curious, we're gonna give you two options. Do people think the most effective policy tools we have right now are carrots or sticks? So if you're in the carrot category, an incentive category, raise your hand. All right, any stick people in here? Okay, sorry, Carrots are winning. So we're talking about incentives right? lately. Okay, good. You all are leading us into the Inflation Reduction Act, we won't have to spend time talking about the title of it here. But that's okay. Our panelists have been referring it to the IRA. If you haven't been following the news in the past week, it is a major bill that's passed that has a big climate funding and energy funding portion to it, a lot of investments through both grants and tax credits and other incentives. So I want to I want to dive into it. But before I say that, we can call it the IRA. I've been calling it Ira in honor or Ira Plato, I just like IRA has a lot of connotations, right? I know, right? I think we gotta take back this acronym. I'm gonna call it IRA. And you all can laugh at me. But the inflation Reduction Act, it's a pretty big bill, let's focus on the Climate and Energy piece of it. There's a lot of cool stuff in there. Right? It's $377 billion, right, depending on how you count it. You know, we're gonna go here, and maybe we're gonna start with Bob first. And we'll just kind of go down the row again, or unless someone is chime in, but something in that bill that you were really excited to see what what stood out to you. What do you think our audience should be aware of?
BOB KEEFE: Well, I think first of all, we ought to be aware that this is the biggest climate policy we've ever seen. And it's been a damn long time coming. I was I was talking to somebody earlier. And the first climate legislation that was ever introduced in the Senate was in 1985, by this younger senator named Joe Biden. And the Senate has not passed, even come close to passing, a climate related bill. Since then the house has done a couple of things the Senate has not. So the mere fact that we finally got the political will to do the right thing is huge in itself. But as you mentioned, $370 billion worth of investments in clean energy and climate solutions. That's a huge number. The most we've ever invested in clean energy in this country was during the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act when we had $90 billion in clean energy investments. And what did we get out of that? We got 100,000 clean energy projects, we weatherized a million homes. We recapitalize the DOE [Department of Energy] loan guarantee program that spun off companies like this little thing called Tesla that exist, in part because it's got a $350 million loan back then and revolutionize the auto industry. So what we're talking about is something and huge orders of magnitude of that. And certainly tax credits matter. The direct investments matter. But one of the things that's really important here that sometimes gets overlooked is the market certainty that businesses in clean energy now have, I was just talking to one of our great E2 members, Michael Rucker, wherever he is. He's been in the big wind business for for decades now. And he was reminding me that the longest visibility he had previously, when it came to tax credits for wind was about four years. Well, this locks it in for 10 years. And there's nothing that businesses need more than visibility on the marketplace. As they're planning their future as they're hiring new employees, as they're making new investments. And so the market certainty is something that's, that's really important here.
SENATOR CHRIS HANSEN: Yeah, just a couple quick thoughts. I you know, the the bill will lower the cost of climate tech, roughly by 40%, across a bunch of different categories. Hydrogen, EVs [electric vehicles], CCS [carbon capture & sequestration], sustainable aviation, fuel, heat pumps, battery, long list. And on average, in those categories, we're gonna push things down by 30-40%. And those are the carrots. I mean, it was a carrot bill. This bill is less than half the size, it should have been, in my opinion. But it's a huge step. And we need to celebrate that we need to build on it. And it's going to help us to run faster. And that's super exciting. Super exciting. As we were joking before, a long time coming, not funny, not a joke, it's a long time coming. And we got here, I would just quickly add, one of the things that was on the cutting room floor that I care a lot about it was the transmission tax credit. Did not make it into the final bill, we badly need to upgrade and modernize our power grid, we cannot reach our clean energy goals in the West, in the country, in the world, without a really robust and reliable transmission grid. That's what's gonna let us get all this great wind and solar and batteries and other climate tech to the final customer, and do it in a really cost effective way. So that part I was disappointed in, this scale wasn't quite where I had hoped it would be. But still a massive step forward.
SUZANNE TEGEN: I'll just add to what you were just talking about with the transmission system, we're also not going to get to energy security, right, if we don't upgrade our grid. So just thinking about that. So I'm excited about so many different pieces of it [the IRA}. And when you look back to the early days of the census in the 1900s, till now, everybody does a 10 year census where it's more in depth that some people take and people, Democrats and Republicans and everybody in between and on whatever side agree on clean air and clean water, those are things that they want. So I'm excited that in this act is the methane emission reduction for methane. And it's a really potent greenhouse gas. And I think we really needed this. So that's one of the clean air parts, there's a lot of clean air parts. And then water, there will be $4 billion spent on the Colorado River Basin. And as you all know, because you live here, water is so important. And it's you know, going to be as important as oil, it's going to be as important as gold. I mean, we can't live without water. So I'm really excited about the water piece. And then just to add on on the end here. I'm really excited about the consumer parts of it because people will see cheaper electricity bills from the rebates that they will get when they buy a new heat pump, when they buy a new solar panel, when they buy energy efficient appliances. These this is these are real dollars that people are going to see in their pockets right away. So those savings will decrease their electricity bills for a long time to come. And I think that's really important to consumers.
TRENT YANG: Yeah, this is this is an amazing bill. I would say you know what echo Bob's comments around certainty, you know, as an investor, even though we're optimists and we're risk takers. You know, having that certainty, I will tell you will unlock billions of dollars 10s of billions of dollars into this market. I think that's the biggest carrot out there is getting private capital to work here. And hopefully there'll be a 10 100x multiplier, with private capital coming in to support this transition. If you take a step back and think about, what do we need to do in order to make this transition? 27% carbon emission comes from transportation. That was a big part of the bill, right? How do we get more people into electric vehicles faster? Check. 20+% is from electricity and energy use a huge part of the bill is on renewable energy and energy tax credits. To continue the transition over the last 20 years, we needed that. What's the third big winner out of the IRA? Think the third big winner was carbon capture and sequestration. All right, we will not be able to clean up everything that we need to clean up in the timeframe that we need to do it, and so inevitably we will need some carbon capture and sequestration, whether that's point source on industrial applications, whether that's direct air capture, all of the above. And carbon capture and sequestration got a big carrot. From a tax credit perspective, they doubled the amount, they extended the runway, I think that was really great. And then they had a lot of great things for buildings and building energy efficiency, we talked about a lot of the credits for individuals, to electrify your home and make more your home more energy efficient. The one part that I would say, I think we didn't do enough, in addition to transmission is the intersection of food and climate. Food, depending on how you look at it, food and climate, food contributes about 15 to 20% of our carbon emissions on an annual basis. We really didn't do a lot, there was some around, you know, promoting regenerative farming, which is great. But there's a lot of things we can do around alternative protein, making better farming practices, etc. So I think that was a miss in the IRA. But overall, I would say hit 80% of the things that we needed to hit, it's going to get us to, you know, by different measures 60 to 80% of our target for getting to net zero in a timely frame. So, you know, let's pat ourselves on the back?
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Well, let me pick up on that because I was curious about other's opinions on this bill. Are we going to reach our climate? Is this helping us reach our climate goals? Because there are absolutely key things missing. And we're going to have challenges with transmission, integration of our grid with renewables and demand for electricity, you know, and this bill does a lot and there's projections of it, I think is it 47% reduction by 2050? Is that right? Excuse me, yes, 2030 44% reduction. But, you know, that's eight years, from 2005, and we're on track and a lot of areas, but are we gonna be reaching our climate goals and targets? Is this getting us there? There are things missing that I think are critical.
SENATOR CHRIS HANSEN: Yeah, I mean, I think we could talk about several of the missing pieces. But the thing I find really exciting is to stay optimistic is that this is going to accelerate cost decreases in these categories, right, we're going to get scale, we're going to have private capital flowing in with that certainty that we just talked about. And that is going to accelerate the slope and the and the ability to lower costs in each of these categories. And that is a positive feedback loop. And so this first step is terrific. And I think the other thing we haven't spent much time talking about yet, which I think ties in really closely with the work that that you and your colleagues do. How does this translate into jobs? This, this is a jobs bill. It is heart, right? You can't outsource somebody putting a heat pump in your house, or getting solar panels on your roof and all the other great things in this bill. And if you look closely at the EV construction, it is going to require supply chains that are much more North American based, it's gonna take some time to get there. And you've probably seen some of that in the papers like, "oh, we can't, we're not there right now. It's going to take several years as we adjust our supply chains." But that is the other part of the bill that I think is super positive is that it is we are investing in ourselves right now. This is not a bill that's going to drive massive investment in far flung supply chains is going to move a lot of that back into North America, and our friends, especially in Canada with some of the key resources there. That is, I think has been under told part of this story. And those are going to be very positive feedback loops for our economy. And I think we'll build more support for what comes next right I sort of started with I wish we would have done a bit more. But this is a great way to build momentum. political support for what we're going to need as we get to '25, '26, '27. And when hundreds of 1000s of people are getting great jobs in climate tech, that in and of itself builds more political support for the next steps we have to take.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: I think we should stay on the jobs conversation, I think our whole panel is going to have something to say here. So yeah, Bob, please.
BOB KEEFE: Absolutely. Well, first of all, I would say the answer to your question is yes, we are going to get there. So we have a goal in this country to reduce our emissions by 50 to 52% by 2030, that's what science tells us we need to do. This bill get us 90% of the way there. But we we can't think of any piece of legislation as the end all. And that's gonna solve all the problems and everything, we got to realize the market signal that is sent by this, and what private industry does. And, you know, before I do what I do today, I spent about 25 years as a journalist, I know I don't look that old, but you know, I am that ol I spent about 25 years as journalists, and I can, and a lot of that was covering the technology industry. And I distinctly remember sitting in a room with other journalists and Steve Jobs back when and him saying, you guys might remember this, "Someday, you're gonna have 1000 songs in your pocket. And hey, someday, you're gonna be taking pictures with your cell phone." And we wrote this down as skeptical journalists and said, "What is this guy smoking?" You know, I remember sitting with the Google guys and the Google guys saying, "Someday you're gonna be able to find anything that's ever been written or published or painted from any computer in any place in the world." And we were thinking, "Okay, why would we even want to do that? We got a library. We got a phone book." Yeah. You know, I remember sitting with Jeff Bezos and Bezos saying, back when he was just trying to run a bookstore online, saying, "Someday you're gonna be able to buy anything and everything off of my website, including dog food." I don't know why Bezos was always hung up on selling dog food online but I distinctly remember that. And we were like, "Okay, well figure out this book thing first." But look how quickly those technologies have changed our lives, look how quickly they permeated our economy and everything we do. I really believe that clean energy, clean vehicles, energy efficiency, are at the stage where those things were back when I was writing about him not too long ago, 15 years ago or so. And then let's talk about jobs real quick. Quick, guess how many people do you all think work in clean energy in America? Any wild guesses? [audience member: 10 million?] That's a lot do I hear 11? Do I hear 11 million? 10 million's a lot. 3.2 million people work in clean energy in America, including about 65,000. I think here in Colorado. Several studies that have come out since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act say we're going to add about another 1.5 million jobs. And that's huge. And one of the things that we need to talk about next is what I was talking to my new friends, Susan, from the Workforce Board, we got to figure out how to train people to do these jobs. So that's going to be another big challenge. But we are on the right path, we're going to create a lot of jobs, we're going to drive a lot of investments, a lot of growth, and a lot of technologies that we don't even know yet. And through those technologies, and through those jobs, we are definitely going to meet our goals.
SUZANNE TEGEN: So I'll add that, before I joined the Center for the New Energy Economy, I worked at the National Renewable Energy Lab and one of the one of my focuses was on the wind power workforce. And a new report just came out about how the wind power workforce and the wind power industry is having trouble finding qualified workers. And so they are actually looking at European and other workers to hire them to do you know, the wind projects here in the US because we don't have qualified workers trained in the US, we don't have enough of them. So there are jobs in renewable energy, you know, we from you know, social science, we need we need lawyers, we need construction workers. We need electricians, we need you know, we need everybody. We need bureaucrats. We need so many people in the in the electric generation workforce, the new workforce and energy workforce and transportation. There's so many jobs and there's really room for everyone. And I know at the National Renewable Energy Lab, there is this report on the wind power workforce and the difficulty hiring, but then there's a great report from the US Department of Energy called the US energy and employment report that will tell you how many people are working in each industry, what they're doing in each industry. And then it goes by state. There are 8000 people, more than 8000 people in Colorado that work in wind generation. There are - sorry, there's more than 7000 in wind, they're more than 8000 in solar. And so it also talks about coal and natural gas. And you know, it goes through the gamut. They're always the most people and energy efficiency, that's the most jobs in the clean energy sector. And then, of course, we have a lot of oil and gas workers in Colorado, as well. But we need training for these folks. We need training at the community college level, we need internships, we need apprenticeships, we need training at the graduate student level, and then we need training at the fourth through eighth grade level, that's where we really get people interested, we get kids interested in what they could maybe do in their future. So let's get them interested in you know, at that level, and then keep going we can have student competitions, like they do do have now with, I know they have electric vehicle competitions, they have solar competitions, and wind competitions, they have hydro competition. So there are a lot of great things that are happening, where we can involve the future workforce, and we have to keep funding these. And they have to be they have to be all across the country. There certainly are places like the in the Northeast and the Mid Atlantic where they're really looking to train the offshore wind workforce. We have one offshore wind farm in this country. And it is off the coast of Block Island, which is off the coast of Rhode Island. And it's a beautiful place, but it only has five wind turbines. And the wind turbines were, a lot of the parts were imported, because we haven't done offshore wind before. But the sub structures that go actually into the sea were built in Louisiana, and a company did that that had built structures for oil and gas rigs before that. So we can transform the companies, you know, from what they had been doing to the new clean energy economy. And so I think that that piece is is really important. And there are states that are taking lead in this and like Senator Hanson said, states are really leading in this effort to, in this case, it's educate the workforce, you know, of the future.
TRENT YANG: Yeah, I'll just add a couple of words on on jobs. If you guys want to make a difference, get involved, there's a ton of jobs out there. I can tell you that our companies just can't find people, right. And these are high paying well paying jobs. That's happening today. And it's gonna get accelerated because of the IRA. But to bring it back to your original question around how are we going to get there, it's a little bit of a loaded question. I think, probably, if we polled the audience here, "there" means a lot of different things for everybody. We're certainly not going back to where we were. Right, to me, the great thing about this act was, you know, we were on a pathway to potentially three and a half, four plus degree change. And if you talk to scientists, that gets us into into an area with that could be a runaway change. And with this act, and with, you know, coordination around the globe, I think we're now looking at potentially containing this change to two degrees, two and a half degrees. And while that's not great for certain parts of the globe, and for certain populations, certainly a lot better than four degrees. So I would say, you know, this is the first step, right? Or maybe the third step for many of us here, and but it's 100 step journey, right, we still got a long ways to go
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: I like that. Thank you.
SUZANNE TEGEN: Before we get off jobs, I just want to talk a little bit about- because I've been doing some work in coal communities where the coal miners and coal plant operators, and also the indirect jobs that are associated with those will go away as the coal plants close in Colorado and elsewhere. And so there are a lot of different things that the federal government is doing and that this IRA is doing to help support the coal communities and make sure that they are not left behind. Right. So we're diversifying. We're working on diversifying economies in Craig and Hayden, Colorado, and they got a grant from the Commerce Department, which wasn't from IRA. This was through a different mechanism. But there's something called the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and that is 11 federal agencies working together. And the director is the director of the National Energy Technology Lab. That's known as the father So lab, it's a lab of the Department of Energy. And they're working really hard to actually go into coal communities and do listening sessions. They just did one today and heard from a lot of the Navajo Nation. And really importantly, here what people need to transform their economies, because if coal goes away, that might be half of their revenue, right? Their local revenue, it might be more than half of their revenue in Craig, Colorado, it was about half of their revenue came from coal. And so it's not just the jobs, it's not just that the culture and that the people might leave. It's the revenue for the town, how are they going to keep those schools going? And now thankfully, there is support and there is resilience built into these communities to help them diversify their economies. And it's not, you know, there's this big spectrum of environmental justice and energy justice, right. So part of it is the coal workers. And then part of it is the underserved communities that have been underserved for so long. That where we've put energy generation plants, we've put electricity generation plants like coal plants, or natural gas plants, and the emissions have been terrible around those places. We have the Suncor refinery issues here in Colorado, in the Denver area. And I think with the Inflation Reduction Act, and with other pieces of legislation, also the infrastructure law, there is help for communities and I don't want to move on from jobs without talking about how important it is. Inclusion is always, needs to be intentional. And so we need to have these communities at the table when we're making plans for for them for their location. The people who live locally and host the generation facilities need to be brought into the conversation, maybe they can get some benefit, even if their electricity is being exported. You know, in Wyoming, there aren't that many people there, but there's a lot of wind, have you ever been there, it's really windy, so why not capitalize on this wind that they're gonna send to Vegas, or they're gonna send to Portland or LA, right. And maybe that community, though, can can benefit somehow, maybe they can have a storage facility there or get some of the electricity or maybe they can co-own some of the facility and, you know, earn money on each megawatt hour generated, there are lot of solutions like this that we can think of. And so when we think about jobs, I want to also think about inclusion.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Thank you, I did not want to move off this because I think it's an important topic. And so thank you for making it personal, right? Because we are talking about markets driving things, we're talking about the economy. But a lot of this comes down too to different cultures and values that people have. And you know, I've got a panel up here who is very pro, you know, anything renewable and solving our climate. And that is not necessarily what we see across America, right? And so that's kind of thinking about communities, thinking about certain jobs in communities and the values that they hold. And that friction that we start to see when it comes down to on the ground change, whether that's behavior change, or culture change. And I think what's fascinating is, of course, when you look at how markets can change and how what can lead and what can follow from that. But Suzanne, let me say with you and others, like what are some of those stories that you're seeing about where those friction points are? As we think about change in transition, right? George alluded to this transitions are hard. They're messy. They're complicated. You are very positive. And I love that. And I love the optimism. Let's keep that. But there is friction in this system, particularly when it comes down to individuals behavior change. I mean, where's that coming out for you? Where are those focus and pinpoint areas that give you that keep you up at night? And someone can start or Suzanne, you can keep going, but I would love to hear some thoughts.
SENATOR CHRIS HANSEN: Yeah, this has been a super important part of what we've been tackling in this transition at the capitol. In my first year in legislature introduced a bill that would create a financing mechanism for some of these transmission or transition programs. And that was in 2017, it passed the House of died in the Senate. And I brought that back in 2019. And we got it got it done that year. And for the first time, and I think Colorado was is a leader among the states on this, we had explicit financing mechanisms to help address transition issues and environmental justice issues and climate justice issues. And it's Hayden and it's Craig. And it's all the other places in the state where this transition is happening. We now have an office that's focused on it we now have a way to to go after federal grants in a really organized way. So we are far from perfect on this. I don't sit up here saying we got it all right, because we have not, but through the hard work of a lot of folks in this room. And you know, just confronting it not putting your head in the sand, not ignoring it. I think Colorado is in a better spot than most of our of our neighboring states. And it's it's dealing with it upfront and creating clear financing mechanism to tackle it. And the great news here is this this transition can ultimately finance itself. I mean, the point is that we are going to be generating savings, just what does that look like? Well, right now a coal plant in Colorado is about $35 to $40 a megawatt hour roughly, wind and solar new projects with storage $20 to $25. So there's savings here that are being generated over time for ratepayers that can help us pay for some of these externalities, if I can use that word, the economics term, but these are real people and real communities and real schools and real teachers. And we cannot forget that. And, again, we have not been perfect in Colorado, but I think we took a huge step in that direction to tackle those tough issues.
TRENT YANG: Yeah, one of the things I want to just talk about, I have a couple points here. One is, this is difficult. It's a hard transition we're making, right? Look at what's happening in Europe. Europe was so far ahead of us in terms of green energy and supporting solar, etc. And now they're having, electricity - imagine paying $1,000 a month for your electricity bill, and for your natural gas bill, right. That's what that's what that's what France and Germany and other European countries are going to be going. I mean, of course, there's externalities there because of the war, etc. But it shows how difficult you know, these policy transitions are. We can't imagine every scenario out there. And I also think, let's not point fingers, right? One of my portfolio companies does carbon capture and sequestration, we're hiring a lot of people from oil and gas industries, because there's a lot of relevant skill sets that that's doing that. One of my friends who started a geothermal company just raised 140 million dollars. This week, half of their hires are from oil and gas industry, right. So let's take what we have, and take those skill sets, and let's make it work. And let's repurpose that. But I think, you know, to back to your point, Suzanne, we're changing the whole economy here, right? I mean, just take transportation as an example. We're gonna electrify everything, first and foremost. And in the process of doing that, we're going to be able to have all sorts of new modalities of transportation, micro transportation, with electric bicycles, with, you know, small electric bands that can come and go, you can call them like Uber, there's a company called Circuit that's doing this on on the East Coast. And they're basically like Uber, except they're like, they're partnering with local communities. And they're like a bus that you can call to ride from your city where you are to Walmart, or to the beach or to the mountains. And so that gives us a lot of opportunity to address economic inefficiencies, where do we put charging stations, right? Where do we put bicycles? Where do we put cars? And I think there's a ton of work we can do collaborating public-private partnerships, in addressing these issues as we make these changes.
BOB KEEFE: So I was on a statewide radio show in West Virginia about a month ago, right in the thick of all of the debate over the bill. And this was right after Joe Manchin Senator Manchin said he was pulling out and right before he said that he was back in, so I take full credit for getting him in on the bill [laughter]. But it was interesting because I went on this show and it's Hoppy Kercheval Show, which is Joe Manchin's media outlet of choice because it's what everybody listens to in West Virginia. And I went on there with the host, and he said, "Now, Bob, before you start talking, I hope you're not going to tell us that we're all going to work in solar, and we're all going to drive electric vehicles and all that kind of stuff. Because we've heard that before. And it's not true. You're just gonna be lying to us." And I said, "Well, listen, I'm not gonna lie to you Hoppy. What I will tell you is this. You guys have been sold a bill of goods for a long time. Yes, you are supposed to all be working in solar and wind and yes, coal was going to be coming back and powering our economy again. We know those things didn't happen. If we have to be realistic about it, and we have to be truthful about it, there's a ton of people who are going to be out of work as part of this transition." But here's the deal. When you strip away the technology, when you strip away what we're talking about, what what we're actually talking about as energy jobs, and who better to work in energy jobs and people in the energy industry, it's kind of like, you know, we don't, I don't want my brain surgeon to have to come from a grocery store. These are the people that know how to do this stuff. But we need to figure out how to empower them. And to train them and to get them to funding in their in the right communities, to put these folks to work, and and they built our economy once before, and they can help do it again. I'll mention one other thing, and that's about equity. So my organization E2 has been tracking clean energy job growth for more than 10 years, we have the deal, we get started with the user report. And what we now know is that clean energy has a diversity problem. 90%, I think, 79% I think of people who work in clean energy or white folks, and they're males, women make up about 50% of our nation's workforce in clean energy, they make up about 27%. Blacks and African Americans make up something like 14 or 16% of our nation's workforce, they make up about 8% of the clean energy workforce. One of the good things about the Inflation Reduction Act is that it specifically targets funding into LMI communities, communities of color. And hopefully, we'll start to get some of the advantages that other folks have had in this country, into the communities that deserve them and need them more than than others. I mean, right now, solar and wind is the cheapest power available. Electric vehicles are the the most cost effective vehicles there are. And everybody wants them because not too many people want to pay, where I come from $8 A gallon of gas sometimes. And energy efficiency, whether we're talking about LED lighting, or high efficiency HVAC systems, or energy star appliances can save people money with every single monthly electric bill. What this legislation does, is make those things more affordable, more available to more Americans. And we need to get it implemented because we need to do those things, for a lot of reasons.
TRENT YANG: Before you jump, I'm just gonna say I can't believe Bobby took credit for passing IRA. Because I was gonna do that - we're funding the first greenhouse in West Virginia. So we're showing them that there can be great sustainability jobs. But we can't both take credit.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Hold that thought, everyone. I put this slide up - I apologize. I should did it earlier, if you want to ask a question, because I do want to hear some questions and try to work in from the audience. And you want to pull out your phones, you can ask questions in here up vote other people's questions. And I'll try to pull in some of your questions in this conversation. But we're going to probably wrap up about five or 10 minutes. But wanted to make sure you all had a chance to get some questions. And that's what this slide is for. Suzanne, please.
SUZANNE TEGEN: I just wanted to talk about one of the really big challenges that we face is that climate change is happening so fast, and we need to act on it really fast. But when we work with the communities that we've been talking about, who don't necessarily agree that we need to go full throttle into climate change mitigation and adaptation, it's a very slow process, right? Because you have to build trust. And trust building takes a lot of visits. And it takes a lot of time and getting to know people and sitting on their front porch or, you know, they don't necessarily trust you if you come from the outside and just say "Hi, I'm from Boulder, Colorado, and I really want to talk to you about this rural community," which makes perfect sense that they don't trust you. And so it takes a really long time, but we don't have a really long time. So that is one of the main challenges. So if any of you have suggestions, when you ask your question, you can also tell me what can we do about that challenge? That would be great. And then I wanted to mention, there was a program called Solar Ready Vets. And I don't know if it still exists, but it was a program that looked at Veterans who came back from the military and they their job skills were listed and then the solar job skills were listed, so that they didn't have to go through all the training that a solar technician or solar manager or solar scientists or whatever needed to go through because they've already been through some of that training. So they kind of listed their job skills and the solar job skills and they said okay, actually this is not going to take you six months this is actually It only going to take you four weeks because you've already been through these things. And there are a lot of things we can do like that, where we sort of do skills mapping. And people can go from one career to another without having to go through the entire training process. They don't have to get another bachelor's degree or do three other internships or something like that. There are, you know, really good training programs like that. And then Senator Hansen mentioned, Colorado, and what we've done on environmental justice, and I thought, if it's okay, I'll just talk about a couple of other states that are good examples. I want to start with Oregon, because in 1997, way back then Oregon adopted an environmental justice policy. And now they have an Environmental Justice Task Force. But they've been thinking about these issues. And they passed legislation to think about these issues a really long time ago. They have an online mapping tool for how communities are impacted by health disparities from environmental issues. A lot of other people also now a lot of other states now have online mapping tools, including Colorado, and Oregon was one of the first ones, California or I guess next, I'll go to New Jersey, because that was 2009. And they require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to look at overburdened communities, and the burdens that they have from the eight different types of facilities, including electricity generation facilities. In California, they also have an Environmental Justice Task Force, and they came up with the Cal Enviro screen, which is called Enviro, but it's actually environmental and justice screening, where they help decision makers, policy makers, before they make a decision on something they look at how this will impact bipoc communities. So that includes black and indigenous and other people of color communities, low income communities, and so that they can take that into consideration when they're doing their decision making. We talked about Colorado and also Washington has an Environmental Justice Council. And they also have a mapping tool. And they require state agencies to recreate and adopt community engagement plans. And so this is one of the things I was talking about before - we want the people who are hosting the electricity generation at the table from the very beginning when they're planning, because whatever it is, is going to be in their community. But they require that the stakeholder engagement in Washington,
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Thank you. So we have some amazing questions. You guys are creative and good. But let's talk about technology in particular. Maybe Trent we'll start with you, but others as well. You know, what needs to be developed to decarbonize the economy? What what do we still need? What are some of those emerging things that you have on your Horizon? I'm sure others do too. But Trent, do you want to start?
TRENT YANG: Sure. That's such a big question. We talked about the different industries, I think car electrification transportation, electrifying transportation and netzero transportation that's already happening, right? We're now just walking down the cost curve. So that's just going to take time. Renewable energy, electricity, we're now just walking down the curve for there as well. Can there be you know, real innovations like safer micro nuclear facilities? Sure. But, you know, do we have to have those to get to where we need to go? Probably not. You know, the next thing you think about is buildings, we probably have 90% of solutions we need for buildings, right? To get to net zero buildings, energy efficient buildings, mass timber buildings. And so and so so so many of these solutions, I think our just execution and deployment right now, we have a lot of these solutions, we just got to get them out how to get them out in an economic, financially positive and just way? I will say the one area that I think does require a lot more economic innovation to really drive down the cost is in carbon capture and sequestration, right? The idea that to take carbon out of the air, what we have already admitted for what we will be emitting, the cost of that is still relatively astronomical. So it's right now I think the lowest cost groups out there for direct air capture is in the order of $1,000 per ton of capture, we need to get that down to $100 or less, maybe $50 or less. And so we're talking about an order of magnitude change. So I would say that's one area that I'm really looking forward to seeing significant technology improvements
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: What about supply chain issues? Who wants to talk about that? We've got a lot of supply chain issues when it comes to batteries and development of things. Where are we stuck on that? What do we do is what people are asking?
BOB KEEFE: You guys figure that out? Yeah. You know, battery technology, Trent probably knows this better than than anybody. But battery technology is really just getting started. And we need to figure out how to do it better. And we need to figure out how to how to do it. So it's less invasive in our environment. Basically, there's a there's a cool project going on, right now in the Salton Sea in California. Which is anybody's ever been there. It says big, nasty sea of salt, really. But there's, there are many companies, including, for instance, Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett's company and other companies that are trying to figure out how to essentially use that briny, salty stuff in the Salton Sea for battery technology now, and that's a huge deal. And in my really cool, far-out, space age technology category, there's something called phyto mining. Is anybody ever heard of that? There's a book for sale in the back and it has a little bit about phyto mining. At the end. It's really cool stuff. Basically on the on the island of Borneo right now. It's just fun to say that "on the island of Borneo right now," there are scientists and private companies that are working on on ways to harvest ferns on the island. These firms actually absorb things like nickel, like cobalt. And so they're hopeful that they're going to be able to figure out ways to harvest and to replant and harvest again, these big forest of ferns to get the cobalt and nickel and other heavy metals that we need for battery tech to build all the batteries ee say we need to build. Is that going to be next year? The next couple of years? No, but a lot of people like Trent are investing in that kind of stuff. Plus, it's just kind of cool on the island of Borneo.
TRENT YANG: I like to go to Borneo.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: So I think we are holding people from more networking and ask me specific questions. Great questions in here. I apologize. We're not getting to all of them. But I want to close out the panel with pulling on a couple of themes from the questions I see here. Something that you said about finger pointing earlier. And the idea of again, who voted for the IRA bill, some of the polarization of political divide that we see on these issues - through the context of the lens of leadership, right. I mean, what do you envision there's defeatism and doomism out there. I think about some of the conversations I have with even pretty young up and coming folks in our in our day and age, who have a lot of defeatism, a lot of doomism feelings about the future. I think, you know, this new passage, I'm hearing a lot of optimism here. But we do need to think about leadership, the next generation of leadership, and perhaps even reimagining leadership in this space. I mean, who wants to go give me a 30nd viewpoint on where you are seeing leadership? And what gets you excited about reimagining leadership in this space?
SENATOR CHRIS HANSEN: Yeah, I'll jump in on that one, I'm seeing leadership come from every direction I like, from the young to the old, every part of society, I think is starting to bring the focus that we need to get get to the get to the right spot. Think about this for a second, it is 9990 days, until 2050. We have to be net zero by 2050. It means every single person in this room, every single person, you know, the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, everybody's gotta get involved. And we've got to have leadership from every single circle and do our part. And that's what I see happening. And I see, I've got two young kids at home that are 13 and 15. And they are fired up about this topic. And that is what it's going to take every single generation, every part of society figuring out their contribution. And I am super optimistic we're gonna get there with 9990 days to go.
TRENT YANG: Yeah, I think what I would say is there's a pathway there. We know what that pathway is, right? And I would just encourage, and I know a lot of times when you're just sitting there and watching the news, you know, the world seems to be going on fire and it's all doom and gloom. But I would just encourage everyone here to be out there leading and saying, we're doing this. You got to get out and do this. We know what we have to do. There's, there's, you know, there's a set of steps and actions that we have to take to get from here to there. John Doerr, who is one probably one of the most famous venture investors in the history of venture investing, just came out with a website that clearly lays out, you know, the 10 steps to getting to net zero by 2050. These are known facts, right? So, I would just encourage action, and leadership. So thank you for all the work you're doing.
SUZANNE TEGEN: Second that, thank you. I, when I studied German literature, so I got to where I am. At the University of Wisconsin Madison, and we could not major in environmental studies really or minor in it, because it wasn't a thing back then. I don't look that old, either. I know. But, but one of my professors in an environmental studies class said to me, when we were talking about we were seniors, and we're talking about where we were going, and he was asking everybody what they were going to do. And some people said, I'm going into finance, you know, sorry. But he said, "That's great. We need everybody, every single job can be an environmental job, right?" Every single job can be a justice job. He didn't say that back then. But that's what I'm saying now. Every single job can be a job that gets us to these goals that we where we want to be. And so just make whatever job it is that you have into that job, right. You're the person in your office that keeps bringing these things up the inequities that you keep bringing up, I think we could recycle that, or whatever it is. And maybe it's a little bit naggy, but really, people will appreciate it in the end. And one last thing is that I will go and teach my kids classes, which they love, especially now that they're older when mom comes in, and but when my younger daughter was in third grade, I was talking about wind power. And one kid in the class was eight years old. He said, "couldn't we climb a mountain and put a wind machine up on top of a mountain because you know how when you climb a mountain, it's windier up there?" And I was like, "I want you, kid!" I said, "It took 100 years for the scientists to figure this out." We have like kite wind, right? We have a wind that's on a kite that we can then take the electricity and transfer down here. But it was amazing. So I am also optimistic. I have a lot of hope. And I think the next generation - I can see some of you in the audience. You're not looking right now. But I have hope and I have faith in you guys. Yes.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Bob, wrap us up?
BOB KEEFE: Well, I might wrap us up where we began, which is where we're talking about the intersection of climate change and the environment and the economy. And as we were talking about the economic damage when we first came together here, and the fact of the matter is, the economics of climate change has made this a pocketbook issue. And once something becomes a pocketbook issue, people start paying attention. These costs aren't something that's being borne in the Arctic, it's not being borne on some faraway Pacific Island. These are costs that are hitting us. We have weather as wildfires in the West are so many hurricanes in the east that we ran out of names for them, drought and flooding in the Midwest. But the other thing is the flip side of the climatenomics coin, if I may, which is the economic benefits of climate action. And right now, there's 3.2 million jobs in clean energy, we know that those are in every single state in the country. There's nothing partisan about that. These aren't red state jobs. They're not blue state jobs. They're red, white and blue jobs. And I have to say, as the economic costs of climate change continue to be felt whether it's in places like Kentucky, and Dallas was just faced a 1000 year flooding. And as the jobs for those clean energy jobs, go to states around the country. I think that's going to change some some thinking. And right now, one of the places that we really see that is around electric vehicles. Electric vehicles were the fastest growing part of clean energy, the clean energy industry last year, up 26% Guess where those jobs are going? Yes, some of them are going into Michigan and Ohio, but they're going to Kentucky, they're going to Tennessee, they're going to the Carolinas, they're going to Texas. And it's going to get harder for politicians for everyday citizens to say, "Oh, that's some California crazy, Colorado, New York thing." When it comes to both the cost of climate change and the benefits of climate change, because it's impacting us all now and that really gives me hope that this thing that has become a partisan issue be even though it has nothing to do with partisan ism can reset the thinking around climate change. And you know, call me an optimist, but maybe he'll some of the division in this country, period.
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: Thank you. All right, join me in thanking the panel, please. I love that, thank you. How nice to gather in person and a huge thank you to those who joined us online, I know we're going to wrap up our virtual hybrid presentation. We can do this and 2022 people here, people all around the world tuning in to watch us tonight. So thank you all. I'm going to have Susan come here and say a few closing remarks. And, I do want to say thank you to E2 for being a co host and a co partner in this. You know, the Institute for Science & policy was founded here at the museum in 2018, by our president CEO, George Sparks. I started in 2019. You know, they said we gotta get some staff to do this. Take this idea to life. And it's to have conversations like these, to tackle wicked problems in society. And there's not easy answers. And I love the optimism and the hope that everyone brought here. So thank you for that. And I know I have some of my council members here today, some friends of the institute's and supporters. So thank you all for also supporting the institute in what you do. Those of you who don't know about us want to learn more, you can come talk to me, there's some colleagues and museum colleagues here in the audience as well to definitely find one of us after today. Huge thank you to Susan, you've been wonderful to work with. Do you want to wrap us up? [audience applause]
Susan Nedell: Well, thank you, Kristan. It's been wonderful to work with you. And thank you to all your staff. It's just a dream to work with you. All that I do is really show up...after our months of planning, but and thank you all for being here. Bob said a little bit about me too. I'm the Mountain West advocate for a two here in Colorado, I do some work in New Mexico and also Nevada. I have in the audience, there's a number of E2 members. My job is to help bring their voices to talk to our policymakers both at the capitol as well as agency and talk about why the clean energy economy in this economic boom is important for not only your businesses, but what you see in the state. And so if you'd like to learn more about E2, we'd love to have you join us. If E2 members could raise their hand, you can talk to them too. And I'm so grateful for you to be here and thank you so much for coming. It's really been a joy. It's been an excellent conversation and thank you to all the panelists and thank you Bob for coming. Yeah, Bob'll besides some books for those of you who want it, there is more food and drink out there and networking. So please join us out in the reception. I'm going to ask our speakers to head out there because I know they're gonna get pinned with questions. So maybe head on out to the atrium and enjoy your evening. Thank you.
The Institute for Science & Policy is committed to publishing diverse perspectives in order to advance civil discourse and productive dialogue. Views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, or its affiliates.