Publication Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2002|
Paler shade of Gray
Paler shade of Gray
(May 29, 2002) Davis stumps on themes of business, environment in Palo Alto
by Pam Sturner
Business and the environment in California are in better shape than they were four years ago, and Gov. Gray Davis is the reason why.
That seemed to be Davis' message to about 100 members of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a local group of environmentally minded business people, during a visit to Palo Alto late last week.
In a speech at the Garden Court Hotel, delivered an hour and a half late, Davis rattled off lists of his accomplishments in business and the environment, but offered little insight into his plans for either during the next four years.
He used broad strokes to outline his priorities, making such general comments as "you can't have a strong economy without protecting the environment."
Notably absent from his remarks was any mention of AB 1058, a bill before the state Legislature that would set carbon-dioxide emissions standards for vehicles in California. The effort, which is the first of its kind and would almost certainly result in higher fuel efficiency for passenger vehicles, has been strongly backed by Environmental Entrepreneurs.
In response to a question from the audience, Davis said he would "do everything possible to see that (the bill) gets to my desk," and urged the group to press harder for the measure, which has drawn intense opposition from auto manufacturers.
However, he took care to say nothing about whether he plans to sign the bill, cautioning that the state's $24 billion budget deficit is "the overriding concern in people's minds now" and the item he must focus most closely on.
Davis spoke at length about his efforts to attract the world's best students to the University of California system, by keeping fees low and opening science and technology research centers on four campuses statewide. Such measures, he said, will "ensure that California will continue to lead in technology for the balance of this century."
The centers also became a platform for taking a swipe at his Republican opponent, Bill Simon, a businessman. Alluding to his own foresight in anticipating business needs by setting up the centers, Davis claimed "a better record than anyone running against me this fall."
In describing his environmental record, Davis focused almost exclusively on preservation, pointing to coastal conservation the creation of parkland during his tenure, as well as his lawsuit against the Bush Administration over oil-drilling rights off California. He also mentioned his support for alternatives to chemical pesticides in schools.
Deviating from the bland tone of his prepared speech, Davis became animated in responding to questions about the energy crisis. He vigorously defended his actions, blaming the Legislature, the energy companies and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the failure of deregulation.
"I don't deserve this energy nonsense," he said, stressing that his hands were tied by deregulation laws passed before he took office. "The only cop on the beat was the FERC, they were looking the other way, and $35 billion flowed out of this state . . . Nobody opposed this bill."
To head off such situations in the future, Davis vowed to build more power plants, including one in San Jose. However, he had little encouragement for an audience member who asked when consumers would be able to buy energy entirely from renewable sources, as was initially promised with deregulation.
"We're determined to reach our goal of 20 percent (renewables) by 2010," Davis said. "Whether you as the consumer will be able to say, 'I want energy only from solar,' I don't know if we can get there."
Davis' stance on renewable energy disappointed a number of audience members.
"Renewables are like the poor relation, distant-cousin-in-the-back-of-the-room" in the governor's energy policy, said Carol Huzenfield, a member of Environmental Entrepreneurs from Berkeley.
She nonetheless felt that the governor's presentation added to her understanding of the energy crisis, and she was also interested to see how he came across.
"He really came alive during the question-and-answer portion," she said. "I had formed my impression of him from the print media, and I was surprised at how dynamic he was."
Drew Maran, a Palo Alto resident, shared Huzenfield's thoughts on energy.
"I'd like to see a bigger and stronger commitment to renewables and forest protection," he said.
E-mail Pam Sturner at email@example.com