Reactions to President Obama’s Energy Speech from Boston Technology Leaders

10/23/09Follow @wroush

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the researchers and innovators who are the engine that will drive the green economy going forward. President Obama also drew attention to a Recovery Act grant already given to a wind technology testing center that is going to be built in the Cambridge area, demonstrating the change that is already occurring in our backyard.

Bilal Zuberi, Principal, General Catalyst Partners

What a proud day for MIT! President Obama delivered a speech today at MIT on energy policy to an audience of almost 1,200 (from my MIT days I remember that being the official number of people Kresge can hold). This represents an important milestone in the journey of many MIT researchers, faculty, students, and alums who have worked hard to make MIT the mecca of clean energy research in the world. Obama came, joked about his motorcade being placed on top of Building 10 (referring to hacks that MIT’ers like myself hold sacred), enthused the audience about the great challenges and potential that lay ahead for all of us, and left after a few hugs. All in a matter of less than 30 minutes.

I had waited for over 2 hours for him, but it was worth the wait (and the quick clearing of my calendar). I left wanting more from him. We all do on issues we care about deeply. The President’s job today was to celebrate the successes so far, and get us jazzed about his commitment to face the challenges ahead and I believe he succeeded. I like what I heard:

(1) Nations are engaged in a peaceful competition to determine what technologies will provide the clean energy of tomorrow. And the nation that wins the competition will dominate the global economy.

(2) The biggest threat to our progress is pessimism. America can solve problems and act collectively.

(3) Innovation and discovery is in our DNA, but the challenges of this generation are also bigger than before.

(4) The Recovery Act is the largest investment ever in energy in history ($80 billion). Not only in technologies of today, but also in science for technologies of tomorrow.

(5) The Pentagon has declared dependence from fossil fuels is a threat to our security. “Operation FREE” is in effect!

(6) Young people realize clean energy is the challenge of their generation. All MIT communiy members are heirs to a legacy of innovation…one gets excited just being there.

(7) Ed Markey and John Kerry are working across the aisle to turn all the work on energy and climate into an act of legislation. The naysayers are being marginalized, but the closer we get, the opposition will fight harder.

(8) Obama believes this nation will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow. Yes, I too believe the same!

It was a fantastic show of force by the local clean energy community. As someone remarked, it was the best cocktail hour they had ever been to. Executives, entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers lined up to get in and mingled until the announcement was made for the singing of the national anthem. It was a celebration of sorts, and a moment of reflection that despite the turbulence in the economy around us, there could be no worthier industry than clean energy to be working for.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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