This blog is designed to highlight the diversity of views and news stories on urban energy topics that appear daily in the media. They are intended to provoke discussions on how cultural, geographic, political, and institutional influences shape the way energy markets operate and energy policies are made in cities around the world.
Mayors of the Bay Area's three largest cities vowed Wednesday to set aside provincial interests and back an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by building houses near rail lines and expanding employment in solar energy and green technology.
Meeting at Santa Clara University for a conference about going green and how it can be profitable, Mayors Ron Dellums of Oakland, Gavin Newsom of San Francisco and Chuck Reed of San Jose agreed to push for local laws to get people out of cars and onto public transit and encourage housing, commercial and job development near transit hubs.
"We all have deficits," Reed said. "It's not about spending money. It's about innovation."
The goals of the Clean and Green conference, hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, also included the need for local and state green building standards, increasing renewable energy and the use of electric vehicles.
"Time is not on our side," Dellums said, adding that city and state leaders first must convince residents used to gas-guzzling cars and far-flung suburban living that it is in their interest and the interest of their children and grandchildren to reduce their carbon footprint.
One of the biggest impediments to accomplishing the mayors' ambitious agenda, Dellums said, "is getting people to understand there are no options. Either we do it or we do not survive."
Newsom said his city is switching much of its municipal fleet to biodiesel and electric vehicles as well as establishing green building standards in hopes of encouraging other cities to follow.
He has also proposed building urban wind farms in neighborhoods and harnessing wave energy from ocean tides off San Francisco's shoreline as alternatives to relying on carbon-based fuels.
Newsom and Dellums said the jobs created by the green economy - such as installing solar panels on buildings - must go to Bay Area residents, and local residents must be trained to be ready for hire.
"There are economic opportunities of enormous proportions here," Newsom said.
The mayors were joined on a panel by Kim Polese, CEO of Redwood City software company SpikeSource, who echoed Newsom's assessment.
"We have an opportunity to create a whole new economy," Polese said, citing $1.8 billion in venture capital money that flowed into the state last year alone to fund such efforts as turning algae into jet fuel and developing carbon-negative cement. "Business has a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous opportunity."
While some business leaders have said laws requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are detrimental to the economy, Polese said such government mandates "open the floodgates to investment."
Dellums said he recently visited Washington to promote the city's efforts to expand green job training as private industry shifts to growth in that sector.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, have agreed to develop legislation to expand the concept of the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, a pilot project with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights that seeks to train 40 low-income residents for jobs in the green economy, Dellums said.
"We can fight pollution and poverty," Dellums said.