‘Apollo’s Fire’: Inslee’s Plan For an Energy Revolution

Posted October 29, 2007 at 3:56pm

For years, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) has been frustrated with Congress’ inability to devise a clean-energy policy, so he decided to do something about it — without markups or bills or committees. He decided to write a book.

Together with Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Inslee depicts an economic shift necessary to ease America into a clean- energy revolution in “Apollo’s Fire,” which was released by Island Press on Oct. 19.

“We need to emphasize the economic potential of a technological initiative,” Inslee said in an interview, which is why he and Hendricks chose to use the space race analogy to explain their vision.

Inslee said one of the major reasons he thinks America has been so slow to develop an effective solution is because the nation is lacking a vision of technology.

“The more I thought about it the more it became obvious to me that it was about fear,” he said.

Inslee said he and Hendricks wanted to write “a confidence piece,” and that former President John F. Kennedy’s Apollo project provided the right parallel to signify the importance of technological innovations and national leadership. The power of confidence and optimism is what drove the economic success in the private sector in the aftermath of the space race, Inslee said.

“That spirit can build a new clean-energy economy,” he said.

In the book’s foreword, former President Bill Clinton writes that “Apollo’s Fire” is “anything but a doomsday account.”

Clinton described the book as “true to America’s competitive spirit, but it is capitalism with a conscience.”

Inslee said he collaborated with Hendricks to develop a book that would be accessible to everyone, not just policymakers or scientists.

“This is a story book in a sense and we are telling stories of people,” he said.

Inslee and Hendricks write about Americans who have tried to use mirrors and liquid metal to create electricity from a ray of sunshine and those who have tried to create toast in Idaho out of a wave from the Oregon coast, among other innovators.

The writers also included first-person accounts of their own initiatives to spark a change. In one instance, Inslee writes about a conversation that took place in the White House with President Bush where Inslee said he demanded a solution for America’s contribution to global warming from the president. Hendricks includes personal accounts as well, such as his experience in meeting people who have used clean energy to rebuild their communities.

“All sectors have to be involved with this,” Inslee said, including business and government.

Inslee is the primary sponsor of the New Apollo Energy Act, a comprehensive plan to build a clean-energy economy. He also sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Natural Resources Committee and the Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee.

At the Center for American Progress, Hendricks focuses on several issues including the environment, energy independence and economic policies. He also is a co-founder and executive director of the Apollo Alliance, a nonprofit that works to garner support for a sustainable clean-energy economy. During the Clinton administration, Hendricks served as a special assistant to the vice president, working on issues such as climate change and sustainable development.