The day started for me in New York at noon at the B.B. King’s Jazz Club that was offering an MLK Day Matinee with the Harlem Gospel Choir hitting the double gold with Reverend King and President Obama (What day is it today? // MLK Day. // No – it is MLK and Obama Day!) At the end – the very mixed crowd took to singing, clapping and feeling happy. I had my honey mascarpone, berry compote, buttermilk pancakes brunch.
I took then the 2:05 PM Amtrak train #161 from Pennsylvania Station, and it arrived 5:30 to Union Station in Washington DC.
My first obligatory stop at Union Station is the Au Bon Pain coffee shop were people were showing to one other what they bought that day – the paraphernalia of the Presidential Inaugural and MLK items. People packed the station. When I stepped outside – more people. Burly people buying from each other huge T-shirts, or jackets, adorned with a lot of official emblems, and crests – future family heirlooms. The idea being I have been there – it did happen in my lifetime.
The time was well after the inaugural parade and the swearing-in ceremony, and ahead of the starting time of the Inaugural Balls.
As I wrote in a previous piece - www.sustainabilitank.info/#28693 – there were going to be two official Inaugural Balls – both at the Washington Convention Center – one military, the other civilian – but there were going to be held many other parallel functions. I came to Washington for the Environmental and Clean Energy Inaugural Ball – please see www.sustainabilitank.info/#28651 — My target was the Sequoia Restaurant at 3000 K Street NW in Georgetown (30th Street & K Street, NW).
In front of the Union Station there was a long line of people waiting for taxis and as I had the time – I decided to get to my target on foot. This turned out to be a very revealing experience.
I started to walk uptown along Massachusetts Avenue and then veering west on Avenues G, H, and K (there is no J Avenue). By the time I crossed Streets 3 and 4 I realized that I was in a city under siege. It looked rather like what Johannesburg must have looked in the modern South African pre-history – but stranger. The streets, mainly office buildings – government, courts, and private, were empty and cut off by parked armored vehicles – police standing on watch and blue alarm lights on top of vehicles turning mad. The emptiness was potmarked surrealistically by a man here, a couple of men there, a couple, dressed in black-tie suits well covered because of the cold, pretty gowns showing from under coats – a few fur coats, silently making their way to a ball. I was still blocs away from the Washington Convention Center that stretches between streets N – K and 8-9 but saw locations were ticket holders lined up to get there. Nearby, oblivious to what goes on, homeless were still sitting at park corners – only evidence of continuity. Things started to change when I reached the Capital Hilton – also home to a ball – but obviously more subdued and away from the government offices area that were empty for the weekend – and thus under pseudo-military care. Highways that snake under Congressional areas having been blocked of by the armored vehicles.
By the time I reached Farragut Park – life was back to normal, and vendors were selling paraphernalia at raised prices. I bought the Washington Post and Washington Times at jacked up prices from a regular all-days newspaper store (today the papers are more expensive I was told).
When I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue to continue on K Street at Foggy Bottom, I had to dance sides of the Street as the area was built for cars only, even though much of the structure dates only to the time of the construction of the Kennedy Center. To have a Green Washington much has to be changed here so pedestrians can use the area as well in days that streets are busier then at the time of my walk – and my target was the Environmental & Clean Energy Event. In the business sections of this area all was closed except one bar, and the bartender was very nice coming outside to show me how to proceed. By 7:30 PM I reached my destination – a nice three levels restaurant with snow-flake lighting in a plaza right behind that 3000 K Street address.
The Co-Chairs of the Ball were Jan Hartke of the Clinton Climate Initiative and Douglas A. Durante of the Clean Fuels Foundation.
The presenter of the Young Marines Color Guard was decorated Marine Veteran Bill (William C.) Holmberg, now with the American Council for Renewable Energy, but in the 1980s-1990s was one of the principals with the US Department of Energy Office of Alcohol Fuels created by the Energy Security Act of 1980. This was the DOE office that fought to put ethanol in US motor-vehicle engines so that today practically all US used gasoline contains some ethanol. I know the gentleman from back those years when we had to fend off Mobil Oil from interfering with efforts to decrease US dependence on petroleum. Bill Holmberg was speaking security already those years. Thanks to him the Colorado based Solar Energy Research Institute came up in may 1982 with the volume “Fuel From Farms – a Guide to Small-Scale Ethanol Production” that I am proud to state that I was connected as a Consultant on Energy Policy (report #SERI/SP-45 1-5 19 ). In those days activities were bi-partisan and hearings in Congress were not intended in order for one party to needle the other even though interests did not overlap even then. I was able to calculate then that there was enough land from the lands that the Department of Agriculture was subsidizing for non-production, for the creation of the ethanol needed to have the additive to gasoline to replace the lead compound that was being outlawed. This was clearly a negation of the food versus fuel issue that the oil lobby loved to suggest.
Douglas Durante mentioned in a tribute Fred (Frederick Ladd) Potter who also went back to those years, and then in 1981 started Information Resources Inc., merged in 1991 with Hart Energy, and established the industry newsletters for input of new and renewable sources of energy to the general energy sector. He was on the committee that planed the Inaugural Ball but past away in 2012.
Scott Sklar, back in those years on the staff of New York Senator Jacob K. Javits, and with the Senator’s backing was fighting for US sourced renewable energy, and now with Stella Group Ltd., a strategic marketing firm for clean distributed energy.
Carol Werner, Executive Director of the Washington Capitol Hill based Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). She is active with the Environmental Advisory Committee of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology.
and John C. Topping Jr., of the Climate Institute spoke about the organizers and host committee before introducing the Honored Guests (who were given wooden plaques), and the Speakers of the evening.
The specially honored guest was the outgoing Secretary of the US Department of Interior, Mr. Ken Salazar of Colorado, under whom there was a small boom in the use of renewable energy – Solar, Wind and Geothermal.
Also, the US Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Ray Mabus, who openly declared correctly that new energy sources were always introduced to the US via the Navy, be that sails, coal, nuclear, and now the renewables – in particular liquids, gasses and solar. This is absolutely true and we attest from our own experience that it is easier to bring in a new idea via the Department of Defense, then via the Department of Energy. This because Defense has much more leeway and freedom of action. In effect we expect that D.O.D. will have an important role to play in Energy Policy of the Obama Second Term Presidency.
The Outgoing Secretary of Energy, Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, was next honored guest,
and Robert “Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator, represented the Environment Protection Agency, EPA, whose number one, Administrator Lisa Jackson, is leaving the Administration.
He was followed by the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Professor John Holdren. He hails from Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center. He has an important role to play in explaining in the White House effects of Climate Change and what should be done to push back on CO2 emissions. Obviously, his input will be helpful in explaining the effects this all has on the global economy.
Heather Zichal, next speaker that was introduced to the audience is the actual Deputy Assistant to the President on Climate Change.
Landon Van Dyke spoke for the Department of State. He is with a unit on Environmental, Energy and Sustainable Performance that looks also into activities at the UN. It is this unit at State that will look at greening US embassies overseas – i.e. with the help of solar energy.
Admiral Dennis McGinn was introduced as President, American Council on Renewable Energy,
and The Reverend Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, reminded us that it is also the MLK birthday.
From Congress among those present were: Senators Christopher “Chris” Coons, Democrat from Delaware, Kay Hagan, Democrat from North Carolina, and Chris Murphy, newly elected Democrat from Connecticut, and Congresswomen Elizabeth Esty, Democrat from CT, and Diana DeGette, Democrat of CO. Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts spoke to some of the participants mentioning his expected running for the Senate seat that is expected to be vacated by Senator John Kerry. Ed Markey was on the side of the renewable energy proponents in the 80s.
Among the Committee members of this Inaugural event we find also some Republicans – like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa who as a Member of the House was one of the original backers of the ethanol program, and Congressman Thomas E. Petri of Wisconsin.
The International Committee for the Ball included also 21 Ambassadors – Australia, Canada, Germany, Micronesia, Finland, Japan, Israel, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Monaco, Austria, Cyprus, Kenya, Singapore, Slovakia, Turkey, Slovenia, and the UK.
Also a list of 20 individuals with strong background in green policy or energy independence – the likes of Denis Hayes, Lester Brown, Amory Lovins, Robert C. McFarlane, Timothy Wirth and James Woolsey. A long list of corporations then shows the business hopes in the development of alternate fuel systems and novel ways of feeding the needs for electricity. The event was thus planned by people that want to see corporate interest that is needed to develop a new energy economy in the US, and hope that the Obama II Administration will take the country in that direction.
What is needed as next step to be reported from the White House are the nominations for Secretaries of Interior, Energy, and Administrator of the EPA – all these positions are already vacant or are going to be vacant in the very near future. This fact cannot be hidden – the reality that the bipartisanship is very thin at this moment, and evidence is clear when we look at the issues of the two Washington newspapers of Inauguration Day.
While the Washington Post seems all hopes, and includes a reprint of the November 7, 2012 issue – the detailed election results that give the mandate to President Obama to fight for change, it is the pro-Republican Washington Times issue that paints everything in one-shade gray.
The front page reads: “Obama faces a daunting 4 years,” “Four years after signature promise, Gitmo is still open,” and “Senators say Obama’s proposal for gun control has little support.” To top it all, the left side column comes from West Point and is titled “‘Far Right’ report outrages critics of federalism – Conservatives labeled as violent.” Yes, this seems to be a lack of the capability to recognize that the elections were lost fairly, and the fact that if Obama will face difficulties – this is the whole country that will face these difficulties, and there is no reason to gloat about it.
The empty streets that looked like under siege, were thus an America on guard against its own nuts, more then the possibility of an attack from the outside. It is the American nuts with guns that have to be feared, and why do those gloating Congressmen not realize that the Joke is on them, and indeed Conservatives can be justifiably called violent and West Point is a good place to learn who your enemies are.
To our issue at the Environmental and Clean Energy Ball – the less oil America uses that is for the better, and any interference with activities in the area of renewable energy, and energy saving, is anti-American. The presence of people in the White House that can justify switching funding from exaggerated purchase of weapons to the reduction of the dependence on oil is a matter of enhanced National security. We look forward to the Obama II Administration and hope to see action and movement of expenditures in directions that help America, and not just its upper 1%.
After midnight, I still walked a little the empty streets of Georgetown, and eventually took a cab back to the Union Station, had an obligatory soup at Au Bon Pain, and the #190 train at 3:15 AM back to New York City.
Later in the day I started to get information from the elections in Israel. I link these two events – the Presidential and Congressional elections in the US and the elections to the Israel Parliament (the Knesset), because in both events there seems to be a common element – the loss of American Extreme Right Republicanism while money from the same source, i.e. Casinos in Macao, were funding right wing candidates. Where Israel had it better, it was the effect of the young people’s social foment a year ago that gave birth to new centrist parties, and thus a political realignment towards the center, rather then only the expected move to the right. The final result will be made clear in the coalition formation process, with the stage set for another election in a couple of years from now. In the US the occupy movements had less of an effect – this because of the folks reluctance to transform their movement into the backing of candidates for the House of Representatives – so there was not enough opposition to the Tea Party candidates, who were in many places the only proponents of change – and a change that did not lead to better results.
Thinking Green – the Ball I went to was not the only Green Inaugural Ball. Washington being home to all those industry lobbies has had at least one more Ball – this one was a night earlier – on January 2oth after the first swearing in ceremony.
A “Green Inaugural Ball” has been scheduled to celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, according to an invitation of the event. The ball will be held January 20, the day of Obama’s second inauguration, at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C.
Co-sponsors of the event include: Greenpeace, Solar Electric Power Association, The Trust for Public Land, UN Foundation, The Vote Solar Initiative, The Wilderness Society, as well as many more.
Sponsorship of the event requires at least a $10,000 donation. But don’t worry: the donations “are tax deductible,” according to the invitation. They are made to a 501(c)3 organization, which allows for donations to be deductible. The cheapest tickets available are a mere $250, which allows one general admission. More access and more perks require are available at greater cost.
Here’s the invitation (courtesy of futureofcapitalism.com)
Looks like fun. I wonder if there is an inaugural ball for the coal, oil, and gas industry? From an email invitation:
What: The 2013 Green Inaugural Ball
Who: Co-Hosted by: American Renewable Energy Institute, American Rivers, As You Sow, American Wind Energy Association, Blue Green Alliance, Carbon War Room, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Policy Institute, ecoAmerica. Energy Action Coalition, Energy & Environment for Obama, Environment America, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, Geothermal Energy Association, Green For All, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Hydropower Association, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Oceana, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industry Association, Solar Electric Power Association, The Trust for Public Land, UN Foundation, The Vote Solar Initiative, The Wilderness Society, World Alliance for Decentralized Energy (host committee in formation)
When: January 20, 2013
Where: Washington Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC. Doors open at 7pm.
Why: To bring together the broad environmental, conservation and clean tech community to celebrate the past four years and look forward to the future.