Closing Plenary: Latinos Leading in the Green Economy and Partnering for the Future
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Four clear messages emerged from Tuesday's closing plenary on Latinos leading in the green economy: People are adopting exciting alternative forms of energy and environmental measures-it's not as far out as you may think. A strong economy and a healthy environment go hand in hand. Everyone can be a part of this revolution. Our addiction to foreign oil is a threat to our economy and our health. Now is the time for the United States to step to the plate and become a player in one of the most important revolutions of our time.
Bob Hertzberg, co-founder of, G24i, invested in a technology that uses of photosynthesis like process to generate electricity in even fairly low levels of lighting with lightweight flexible panels. While we tend to think of ourselves an innovators, other countries are adopting exciting technologies such as solar water pumping in Mexico and electric motorcycles, 400,000 electric cars, and solar water heaters in China. "The United States is not yet in the race," he said. He said that the key to tipping the scale is making alternative forms of energy affordable and reliable. He says that the green revolution has been top down-from government, corporations, and the wealthy, and that it will take government subsidies to move it to a bottom-up revolution that will succeed.
Nancy Sutley, chair of the president's council on environmental quality, said that we need to commit to an economy not tied to the oil industry-a strong economy and healthy environment go hand in hand. The Economic Recovery Act is investing $80 billion in clean energy and training for workers for the jobs of tomorrow. It also provide on-half billion dollars for green jobs and job training. Another $5 billion for the act are earmarked for weatherizing homes. There's a lot more to do she said, we can let jobs be created abroad or right here.
Al Carey, CEO of Frito-Lay North America, demonstrated energy efficiency can become a reality. His company now saves more than $70 million annually through alternative energy and environmental measures-looking at every category of savings possible from plant and equipment to solar concentrators and capturing waste heat and converting it to steam. The company's goal is to take one of its plants as far off the grid as possible and then bring the others along. From water filtrations systems to bio mass boilers, one plant has reached 90 percent of that goal.
Rep. Ben Luján called renewable energy the issue of the generation and he has put to practice what he preaches in his own home. His wife, a physician, saw an increase in asthma among many of the poorest children because of the air quality in his district. The Lujáns home is now nearly electricity neutral and he is working to gain broader acceptance of net metering-with electricity generated by homes and commercial buildings to be returned and sold to the grid.
Melynn Schuyler, executive director of YouthWorks, discussed how a small nonprofit has found a way to make a significant impact on the local economy while reducing the high school dropout rate and training students for a career path that will sustain their lives and help the environment. The program engages youth in river and land restoration, erosion controls, and other related tasks.