Daily Video

February 18, 2009

California Pioneers Renewable Energy

President Obama has made changing U.S. energy policy to rely more on renewable sources a top priority. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to push his large and influential state to 33% renewable energy by 2020.

Northern California’s Pacific Gas and Electric, which provides energy to 15 million customers, generates 12% of its power from wind and solar energy and is scheduled to move to over 20% renewable by 2010.

Some energy providers are not sure they can make the 33% mandate noting that the current systems are not set up for renewable energy yet and solar and wind energy may still be prohibitively expensive for low-income consumers.

Spencer Michaels reports.


“I think it’s a huge challenge. I think it’s going to take us a great effort from all different parts of industry and government to pull off. The grid that we need is not in place. The technologies are not in place. We need a lot of people to really push hard to pull that off.” – Bob Cart, CEO, GreenVolts

“Renewables are more expensive. But the question is, more expensive than what? Current gas-powered turbines? Yes. But are they more expensive when you consider all of the costs of carbon and the alternative of doing nothing? The answer is no.” – Peter Darbee CEO, Pacific Gas & Electric Company

“California is a large state, and so it makes a big difference in terms of reducing its own emissions, but it also sets a very important signal, because many states partner with California in terms of policies and many overseas governments look to California for what’s possible, what’s doable, as well as the federal government.” – Dan Kammern, University of California, Berkeley

Warm Up Questions

1. When you turn on the light or recharge your phone, where is that electricity coming from?

2. What is renewable energy? Name a few alternative energy sources.

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think that some countries have been able to move to more renewable energy faster than the United States? Should the United States push for more renewable energy now that the economy is struggling?

2. Who should set the target percentages for renewable energy in the United States? State governments? The Federal Government in Washington? Voters? Why?

3. Renewable energy can be more expensive in the short run but is better for the environment and can be cheaper over time; would you spend your money on solar or wind power even if it were more expensive right now?

4. Should the government subsidize renewable energy for people who cannot afford it? Can you think of a way to make it cheaper?

5. What are some ways to cut down on your energy consumption?

6. Research your local power company. Does it burn coal or oil? What kinds of renewable sources is it investing in?

Additional Resources

Read this transcript

Alternative Fuels

The.Planet: Cow Power

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