Brown takes WSJ $10 billion challenge

Legal News Line Aug. 12, 2008, 11:57am

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., (Legal Newsline)-The Wall Street Journal has asked the country's top business and political leaders a question: How would you spend $10 billion of American resources over the next four years to improve the state of the world?

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, a Democrat, jumped at the chance to answer. His article, "Saving $10 billion with efficiency" was published Monday.

Like all good writers, Brown started with a compelling first sentence that certainly captures the attention of readers. The word "trillion" tends to have that effect.

"The cost of energy in the United States, on an annual basis, has soared beyond $1 trillion," Brown wrote. "... Wake up America! We must stop the hemorrhaging of our national treasure, and we need to do it now."

Brown would spend the $10 billion and "invest it in curbing our energy appetite through efficiency programs and incentives" that would in effect reduce our dependency on oil, gas and coal.

Brown touted California as a model for the federal government.

"California has kept its per capita electrical consumption flat for the past 25 years," Brown wrote.

The federal government, he argued, should follow the nation state of California's lead by passing similar legislation focused in three areas: 1) setting new efficiency standards for appliances and equipment; 2) establish a financial grant program that encourages states to craft efficiency standards for new buildings; and 3) issue tax credits, rebates and incentives that encourage businesses and consumers to adopt efficiency measures that exceed mandatory standards.

In each of these areas, Brown wrote, California has a track record of success that the federal government can follow.

Finally, Brown said he would use his $10 billion to invest in the research and development of new efficiency technologies.

"Some of the $10 billion should go for this," Brown wrote. "Needless to say, overall investment in both energy and efficiency R&D is pathetically and dangerously underfunded."

Brown's article pulls from his vast experience in government that reaches back to two terms as California governor, three presidential campaigns and reinventing his career as the mayor of Oakland, Calif., before becoming the state's attorney general.

While serving as mayor in 2001, Brown challenged Oakland to reduce its energy consumption in response to a statewide energy crisis. Brown's plan sought to reduce power consumption by 10 percent. As governor in the early 1980s Brown pioneered state solar and wind tax credits.

Ironically, Brown provides what could be the first criticism of his plan during his closing lines, namely that even the gaudy figure of $10 billion won't be enough to get the job done.

"It is time," Brown wrote, "for our political and business leaders to tap into America's unspent creativity and entrepreneurial genius. Many times $10 billion will be needed. But it can be done. It must be done."

Brown has had his say, it is safe to assume that political pundits, bloggers and commentators will soon have a response.

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