Here at Antenna Group, our job is to communicate. A lot. Given the piles of email in my inbox, quite possibly too much.
So, last week—as part of a constant effort to freshen our thinking with outside perspectives—Antenna hosted an in-depth, no-holds-barred, two-coast cleantech pizza briefing with energy and climate analyst Jesse Jenkins. Jesse’s a friend, and also a fellow at the Breakthrough Institute as well as an editor at the Energy Collective, where he assembles the best of the web in clean energy and climate. He’s regularly featured as a cleantech commentator in leading media, and appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition just last weekend discussing Japan’s overreaction against nuclear power in the wake of Fukishima.
It was a little like sitting down with a combination of Al Gore, Steven Chu, Wikipedia, Otto van Bismarck and Ryan Seacrest. Jesse’s knowledge of cleantech is encyclopedic and visionary, with a deep understanding of how we got here and where we need to go. Jesse drew historical parallels underscoring the essential role of government in pushing clean energy innovation and market adoption, from military investment in semiconductors in the 1950s moving us toward the iPhone 4S, to government investment in shale gas drilling and jet engines sparking the cheap natural gas and reliable air travel we enjoy today. He also noted that the federal government invests $30B in NIH and $18B in NASA today, compared to just $4B in energy R&D—a sobering figure.
My favorite question—aside from “how many slices of pizza do you want?”—was from Antenna Group’s own Sarah Horn, who asked, “If you were running for president, what would your slogan be?”
Leaping to the task, Jesse unveiled his campaign bumper sticker: “Make Clean Energy Cheap.” It’s a communicator’s favorite sort of saying—short enough to tweet, seemingly simple but richly layered, honest, and—most important—sticky.
The greenest 100,000 people in the world will go for clean energy without much prodding. The rest of us need to see a pretty big payoff to overcome inertia. And no technology—or product—will stand up in the market for long without winning on the merits, which in the case of energy—a commodity—is price.
Jesse’s point: we can’t simply encourage clean energy production. We’ve got to promote clean energy cost-competitiveness. Because from the feistiest Tea Partier to the most granola-snacking Berkeley hippie, we can all agree that saving money on energy never goes out of style.