What’ll it take to get pro-business conservatives and environmentalists into real dialogue?

In his July 28 opinion piece for Salon, Joe Romm argues that energy efficiency may allow the nation to avoid the construction of any more polluting power plants. He holds, as I do in NRDC’s energy work, that America (and the rest of the world) have an immense resource of energy efficiency that not only doesn’t pollute but costs less than conventional energy and often improves the quality of energy services.

In response to his Senate testimony about energy efficiency, he notes in the blog that Senator George Voinovich “said that this was ‘poppycock.’” Romm goes on to say that “conservatives simply have a blind spot when it comes to energy efficiency…”

Is this true? Are conservatives simply irrational in dismissing the merits of energy efficiency? Or do they think we are missing something? I invite comments on this blog from conservative skeptics of energy efficiency: how can we reach a common understanding of what the opportunity is? For my part, I will start discussing some of the ways energy efficiency can help get America out of its economic travails in forthcoming blogs.

In my book, Saving Energy, Growing Jobs, I lamented the lack of dialogue between environmentalists and self-labeled “pro-business” advocates. I argued that environmental protection should be seen as an economic development opportunity because environmental protection policies promote the innovation and competition that enhances growth.

What would it take to promote a real dialogue between pro-business interests and environmentalists? Besides inviting discussion on this blog, I am also working with a colleague, Bill Roller, of the Berkeley Group Education Foundation, to develop a one-day workshop to try to make some progress on the issue of how to encourage constructive dialogue for mutually beneficial results. This workshop will be held in San Francisco on the 19th of September.