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From panelists, many calls to action

Thursday, September 30, 2010; AA07

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

"If you want more clean, reliable and cheap electricity in large amounts, you build nuclear power plants. . . . I mean, China is building a new nuclear power plant every three months. . . . If we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the single best way to do that is to electrify half our cars and trucks. . . .

"In 10 years, I think it will be that the utilities and the electric distributors have found a way to put to use the single greatest untapped resource we have in the country, which is all the unused electricity at night. And it will be used by, one, electric cars that are plugged in at night; and two, water heaters that are plugged at night."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

"When President Nixon was president, only 36 percent of the oil that we used was imported oil. Today, under President Obama, it's 63 percent.

"I think everyone knows it has gone up, but to go up from 36 percent to 63 percent is alarming, to say the least. . . . We are in danger of losing the race to develop alternative energy sources and technology. In the year 2001, China contributed just 1 percent of the global solar panels. Today, China has 46 percent of the market for solar panels. . . .

"The president needed to inspire the country with a long-term goal of becoming energy independent 10 years from now and then setting out a specific plan. . . . What happened instead is the president did convene a couple of bipartisan meetings at the White House -- I attended both of them -- but there was no follow-up."

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D)

"I think we ought to have a 20 percent renewable energy standard, drive our country -- as others are -- towards more wind and more solar energy production. It just makes sense. That ought to be the minimum we do by the end of this year. We understand how unbelievably vulnerable this country is with 60 or 65 percent of our oil coming from outside of our country. That's why we have to produce more here. Conservation is critically important, efficiency is very important, and it's why we come back to these issues of moving towards electric cars, moving towards a renewable electricity standard. . . . Every garage in America with a plug-in is a filling station, and if we can move in that direction aggressively, we will have done something important for our country."

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)

"I think (the Senate) agenda over there is held hostage by Kentucky coal and Oklahoma oil. I just think it's a small number of senators representing coal and oil that do not want us to reach comprehensive legislation because their industries feel threatened by new technologies moving forward. . . .

"China is eating our breakfast and moving on to our lunch and dinner in the renewable energy field. They produced 45 percent of all the solar panels last year, and they exported 95 percent of them. That's their target. America does not have a plan. If America has a plan, we win. . . .

"Can I just say there already is a tax on carbon; the tax is imposed by OPEC. And when it does go back up to $144 a barrel, which it will when the global recession is over, we will, as American taxpayers, at the pump, be sending that money as a tax to countries all around the world. . . ."

Ian Somerhalder Actor ("Lost" and "The Vampire Diaries") and environmental activist with nearly 350,000 followers on Twitter

"The youth of this country are listening. They're aware. They're educating themselves. . . . This article goes out, and say there's even three-quarters of a million kids on their way to school and they read this thing, and it might have little or no effect, or it might have a profound effect on them throughout the day. . . . Whether you're reading Foreign Affairs and then watching Fox News, whether you're reading The Economist and then reading the Huffington Post . . . taking that information and being inspired by it or moved by it or angered by it . . . and making it cool to share with people who the worst part of their day is that Jackie kissed Kevin in second period. "

David J. Hayes Deputy secretary of the Department of Interior

"We had three days a week in the situation room, the deputy secretaries from all affected agencies working on this. . . . The intensity of the effort is hard to explain and convey, but that is the one point I want to leave as we continue on the discussion. I think that's going to be an important legacy as we look ahead: that when these small-probability, big-impact events occur, we have got to be ready for them. . . .

"We had oil companies, all the major executives . . . in our conference room; folks were saying: 'You've got to stop this moratorium. We need to drill right now.' If there had been a second accident with every asset in the world essentially [mobilized] on this one incident, how were we going to deal with the second one?"

Jack Gerard President and CEO of American Petroleum Institute

"We, as an industry, will learn a lot. We will change our practices and some of the things we have done. . . . But the thing we should remember is the energy fundamentals or the energy reality of the United States has not changed.

"For 30 years in the United States, 30-plus years, the policy of the United States has been a moratorium on about 85 percent of the outer continental shelf. That was lifted in a relatively short political time span in 2008 by Speaker Pelosi and others. Why was that? Because when the price of gasoline started to rise, the public's attention turned to the question of energy, and once the energy debate was front and center, the public overwhelmingly said: 'Wait a minute. We're sitting on domestic energy resources and allowing the price to move up.' And the public said, 'No more.' "

Jacqueline Savitz Director of Oceana's climate and pollution campaigns

"We've heard for years from the oil industry about . . . how it's safe, how it creates jobs. But what we saw this summer was that it's not safe, it's dangerous and it's dirty and, in fact, it's a big job-killer not in just its own industry but in the fishing industries and tourism industries as well."

Daniel Yergin Chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates

" . . . The trauma of this was for the gulf, the loss of life, the tragedy, the fact that every morning when you turned on your TV, this was the lead story. . . . Everybody saw the pictures from the robot. Of course this is going to be part of the psyche in terms of thinking about energy in the future."

Asked what journalists would be writing a year after the oil spill, Yergin responded, "After a year of investigation and reform, activity has begun to resume again in the Gulf of Mexico in a subdued, measured and somewhat uncertain way."

Tony Posawatz Vehicle line director, Chevrolet Volt

"The first electric plug-in cars will be plugged in overnight. So when you talk about the relationship between the auto sector and the utility sector, it's a good thing for both. . . . It is an enjoyable experience in my pajamas to plug in the car and then go to bed and wake up in the morning and it's fully charged."

Carlos Tavares Executive vice president, Nissan Motor Co.

" . . . No tailpipe, no gas, plus zero emission. . . . When you go for zero emissions, when you have one single power source and you have one-third of the cost per mile as a conventional car, then you can demonstrate that it makes economical sense."

David Vieau President and CEO of A123 Systems

"I think that although there's still reason for skepticism until we've run 10 years of continuous service, there's enough data in the lab, but also enough field data now over the course of the last three or four years, to give us some comfort in the fact that the batteries are real."

David Crane President and CEO of NRG Energy

"Our view is that for at least the next few years, even when you go from early adopters to pragmatists, almost every electric vehicle sold is going to be a second or a third car. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think there are 60 million families in the United States that own more than one car, so that's still a big market."

Alan Crane Senior program director, National Research Council

"We're clearly going to have a lot of electric vehicles on the road, but whether it's in 20 years, a few million or several tens of millions, I just don't know. It could be either one of those extremes or in between. There will be a fair number of them, though -- but there are several things that could hold them back. The cost has to come way down from what it is now."

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