From NBC's Abigail Williams and Ashley Codianni
Carol Browner, head of the Obama-Biden transition's energy and environment team, opened the doors to the public yesterday, leading a panel discussion on the convergence of energy, the environment and the economy. The discussion entitled "Green Recovery" was held at the left-leaning Center for American Progress and featured speakers Gov. Ed Rendell (D- PA), and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Broadcast live online, the event gave a glimpse into the types of ideas and discussion on energy President-elect Obama promised would take place in his administration. Browner acted more as a moderator, fervently taking notes as Rendell and Friedman hashed out their perspectives. Friedman, who wrote a book on the subject, carried the audience into the "Hot, Flat and Crowded" world.
"To be energy poor in a world that is hot, flat and crowded," Friedman explained, "means you will not have the energy to dig a deeper well when the hot gets hotter; you will not have the energy to turn on a fan; you will not have the energy, most importantly, to get to Google, which means you will not get to connect to all the world's knowledge. In a world that is hot, flat and crowded, being energy poor will be devastating."
Meanwhile, Rendell, as a current state leader, laid out the more practical problems and solutions in implementing energy-saving initiatives at a state and federal level.
"I wrote down just five things I think the federal government can do and really only one of them requires money. No. 1, they could make the tax credits for renewable energy permanent... . Tax credits will be important someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, and without them, renewable energy cannot compete."
Another suggestion by Rendell, targeted the federal fleet, advocating the conversion of existing sport-utility vehicles to be solely electric and hybrid. Such a move would have a ripple effect, Rendell said, creating a large enough market to drive down the price and make fuel-efficient cars affordable to the average American family.
The panel also discussed the possibility of creating a "National Energy Council" as the counterpart to Obama's recently instituted National Economic Council. While Browner was mute as to her prospective role, Rendell jumped at the idea, saying he would be "honored to serve" on the council -- though he has said he is uninterested in joining the cabinet.
The discussion continued as Obama met with the National Governors Association this morning, Rendell with yesterday's ideas, at Obama's right hand side.