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Kelley Fletcher, the Sustainable Energy Advanced Technology Leader at GE Global Research, said unpredictable federal policy is hurting the adoption of renewable sources. “We spend a lot of time vacillating about what policies we enact. We need solid policies that send the right signals to industry and to private citizens.” For example, he noted that without a tax credit for producing wind energy, “we would not have the 5,000 1.5 megawatt turbines in this country that GE has provided.”

Getting government to act will require far greater public awareness, said MIT’s Armstrong. He cited a recent survey in which people were asked how much extra they’d be willing to pay on their electric bill to stop climate change. The average figure: $10 per month. “There is not a lot of public resolve on the energy problem,” he said. “I’m concerned about how we generate that resolve that will be necessary to generate government action.”

Armstrong said that, among other things, MIT can serve as an objective source for solid information to guide policy decisions. “I certainly think that MIT has a strong role to play as an honest broker that provides assessments on supply and demand, technology impact, and environmental concerns,” he said after the conference.

“Most people in this room will live long enough to know what is going to come–and it will be one of their biggest single regrets. And none of us is doing enough,” said former DOE official Romm. “We solve this issue now–or we leave a ruined planet.”

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