Inslee sees clean energy revolution

Tired of archaic policies and the government’s inability to change them, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee decided years ago that it is time for a clean energy revolution.

Current policies were made by the oil and gas industry, for the oil and gas industry to encourage the use of oil and gas, he told a room of nearly 50 during a visit he made to Kirkland last week at Parkplace Books to discuss the book, “Apollo’s Fire,” which he co-authored with Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress and former executive director of the Apollo Alliance.

For a century, those policies made sense, he said. But those days have passed.

To spur the clean energy revolution and encourage entrepreneurs to develop new technologies, Congress needs to develop new policies, said Inslee, D-Wash., whose congressional district includes Kirkland.

Inslee says he has worked at the federal level for nearly 20 years to protect the state’s environment and address the problem of global warming. He also has used his seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to promote his vision for a clean energy future, the New Apollo Energy Act and to advance other legislation that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Congress has been unable to change policy for two reasons, he said.

“Reason number one - George, and reason number two - Bush,” he said, adding that under the president’s leadership the nation has been in a non-action mode on energy.

Inslee wrote the book to chronicle stories of Americans who already are creating technologies and building companies towards energy independence. The title “Apollo’s Fire,” is analogous to the way President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s ignited America’s Apollo Project and sparked a revolution in space exploration.

Inslee’s Apollo Energy Project also is poised to create a revolution with the production of energy that could save the planet.

He has predicted in the coming few years America will create a whole new energy basis for its economy that is non-carbon based and could stop global warming, in addition to creating a new million-plus job growth in the economy.

“That’s a prediction we made and I’m happy to tell you that it’s coming true,” he said.

On the Eastside, companies such as the Bellevue-based MagnaDrive Company are creating new clean energy technologies.

MagnaDrive started in the garage with someone tinkering with some high-powered magnets. The company’s “green” disconnect torque-transfer technology has created a transmission system that uses two magnets that cause the motor to rotate.

The process eliminates harmful wear and tear from vibration, increases motor life and, most importantly, enhances energy efficiency by 70 percent, Inslee said.

“From that garage based idea is a manufacturing plant in Bellevue now doing $9 nine million in business and just sold some huge transmission systems to Chinese-based manufacturers,” Inslee said.

He also highlighted other local companies that are creating new technologies, including Seattle-based Ultra Rock, one of the most advanced engineered geothermal firms in the country that Google recently invested in. The company, which is currently testing its commercial productivity in Switzerland, has developed a technology that creates steam-based electricity using a pump.

Kirkland resident Brian Tucker noted that the United States is very dependent for oil and gas on other countries that may not have the country’s best interest at heart.

“As we progress with your vision and they see us getting to the point where we don’t need them anymore, I sense an opportunity that at some point they’re going to say, ‘well, they’re not far enough now, let’s see if we can squeeze them now and see if we can turn them around,’” Tucker said.

There are two ways that other countries could do that, including reducing the incentive for new technologies and cutting America off from oil and gas altogether, Inslee noted.

Both would be injurious, he said. However, he is less worried about those consequences than just the power of inertia here caused by fear and the status quo.

Kirkland Deputy Mayor Joan McBride commented that many suburban cities are a push away from the kind of land-use actions that would help them with sustainability through the Growth Management Act.

“If we build communities that have density with mixed-use and good public transportation - that is energy efficient and that’s something that municipalities can do,” she added.

Hunter Elenbaas, of Kirkland, asked Inslee how his vision can inspire people in a way that could drive policy change the same way Apollo did in the 1960s.

“You really need presidential leadership and I think Barrack Obama is committed to do that,” Inslee said. “If we get that, I’m confident Congress will be forced to confront this.”

Carrie Wood can be reached at 425-822-9166, ext. 5050 or

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