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Jerry Brown on Solyndra, China, High Speed Rail and “Imagination and Rigor”

Heather King
Heather King | Tuesday March 27th, 2012 | 4 Comments

Last week, at the close of the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California’s Governor Jerry Brown talked with CEO’s and industry leaders about his work to build a health, clean energy economy in California. Here are some highlights:

Wall Street Journal: In 1977, California introduced solar tax incentives. How has your view on energy policy evolved?

Governor Brown: California has always been a leader in environmental legislation and we’d like to continue that tradition.

In 1977, California has a budget surplus. We did not have to consider the costs of those incentives. The incentives were “free virtue.” We had a 55% credit that was mostly heating related, and a 25% credit for conservation improvements. We garnered billions in energy savings, set the pace for the nation, and a foundation for renewable energy.

Now it’s different because we are working with a huge deficit. But one thing that has lasted well has been a focus on building efficiency. We also have a law that one third of our electricity must come from renewable sources. We need to balance how we achieve that goal in a way that is environmentally and economically sound.

The point is to think big and to think long-term. We can’t get there overnight.

Wall Street Journal: What do you think about Solyndra?

Governor Brown: We have to try things. Sometimes you fail. We have to use failure to learn. The Solyndra failure is our benefit. The Solyndra failure is not nearly as bad as the mortgage breakdown.

Wall Street Journal: What are your thoughts about U.S. – China relations?

Governor Brown: We want a positive U.S. – China relationship. Here in California we want to prosper with China regardless of what they do in Washington.

Wall Street Journal: What is your intended legacy for your second term?

Governor Brown: I don’t think about legacy. I think about things I like to get done.
In the 20th century, I was the youngest governor in the country. In the 21st century, I’m the oldest. But, I’m not done yet. We have a lot of ideas we are working on.

We need a water plan to ensure an ongoing supply of water.

We are working on a high-speed rail to better our transportation and relieve gridlock.

We’re reworking our pension and our tax plan.

We’re enlisting the help of a lot of great minds. We recently had Amory Lovins and Herman Kahn work with us on thinking about the future. We want to make the state more aggressive and effective.

Wall Street Journal: California recently announced Juan Felipe Herrera as its Poet Laureate. In one of his poems, he speaks to the value of imagination and attaining “a life without boundaries.”

Governor Brown: Imagination with no boundaries brings lunacy. What we need is rigor. It’s all about rigor woven with imagination that gets things done. We need to respect imagination and boundaries.


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  • Ted Crocker

    “Imagination with no boundaries brings lunacy.”  In the case of the high speed rail project, if only Jerry Brown would heed his own words. 

    • SolarBozo

      Many of us know that high speed rail will be an important energy and carbon saver, and help get folks using appropriate mass transportation. Will it be expensive? Yes, but not as costly as the alternatives.

  • OldVet

    “Imagination with no boundaries brings lunacy.” describes the drone boom, and the attitude of many spreadsheet wizards.   CDOs and CDSs are the fruit of that.  Crash is the result. America must repair its habit from taking a good idea, and carrying it to an absurd extreme.  
    There is merit in understanding that we cannot touch infinity.   The mind can do what what cannot be done on earth.   Wise persons know this.  Sophrosyne is not taught it schools.
    Why.   The ancient greeks understood this.   The ancient greeks were wary of the limitless.
    We seem to be ignorantly comfortable about talking about billio… I mean trillions.

    Wise words:  ”Imagination with no boundaries brings lunacy.”   Especially if it is policy.

  • Napaeric

    Sacramento is our Capitol and is filled with hot air and smog.  The Big Valley is filled with hot air and smog as well and then we go to LA LA Land which is full of the same.  We need cleaner ways to move from LA to Sacramento because what we have is not working very well.  Rail is the way to move Heavy objects long distances.  So if we can get those Fat Ass Republican Legislators out of their overwieght vehicles and on to steel rails we can save a lot of hot air and smog.
    High speed rail is the way of the future and of the past.  We need to move forward into the more efficient ways of doing what we need to do.  High speed rail followed by EV rental cars at both ends.  More electricity from none CO2 producing means.  Use all that carbon to make graphene and carbon microfibers, Bucky Balls and ultracapacitors to store all that wind, solar, geothermal and hydro energy.