Last night I had the dubious distinction of being the guy sitting next to former director of the CIA, Ambassador, and Undersecretary of the Navy (a post he held before I was born), and current Senior Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton and partner at Vantage Point Venture Partners, R. James Woolsey.
He has a fairly clear message that he is happy to share with anyone that will listen:
The United States is at grave risk to both “malignant” and “malevolent” disruptions to the grid and that threat can be addressed through distributed renewable generation which can simultaneously reduce the importance of oil to the ignominious fall from grace of salt.
I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak and spending some time with him before moderating last night’s event, and despite how highly I thought of him before, he did not disappoint. His is a decidedly aggressive approach to the US’ energy future, and like the well trained litigator he is, he presents his case very well. Electric vehicles and distributed renewables are the hallmarks of an utopian (utopic?) energy future, that would leave OPEC states reeling with the need to find, as he puts it, honest work, and reducing the disposable cash reserves some currently use to fund terrorist activities.
His oil-salt analogy is profound, and may indeed be a good roadmap to making oil a non-strategic commodity – he argues that through electricity, humans found a better way to store meat, and as a result, salt’s value plummeted. He does not see the shift in oil’s value coming from cap & trade (even at $30/ton it does not produce enough of a tax on gasoline to curb behavior) or, while possibly effective, a direct tax to gasoline which will struggle to get meaningful support from legislators that can only look as far forward as practical for their aspirations for re-election.
The answer, in his opinion, lies squarely on the shoulders of a transportation system that is integrated into a robust and reliable electrical grid that relies heavily on locally generated renewable energy. Advanced battery technology and vehicles built to support them are at the core of his plan… I think his plan is great. I hope that A123, Better Place, Mission Motors and the companies that support them achieve the market penetrations their pitch book graphs said they could.
Woolsey’s speech in two lines or less:
The environmental case for renewables is strong, the economic case is compelling, and the geopolitical case is glaring.