The Tri-Cities should look to energy innovation for future economic success, said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., campaigning for governor Monday in the Tri-Cities.
He was the guest of the Tri-City Development Council at a Meet the Candidate Luncheon in Richland after touring the Tri-Tech Skills Center of the Kennewick School District. He also visited Pasco High School.
Washington is poised to lead a technological revolution in energy innovation, including for biofuel, wind and solar energy production, and the Tri-Cities has the blend of skills and resources needed, he said.
"The day will come when the world will come to the Tri-Cities for these products," he said.
When questioned, he also endorsed considering expansion of nuclear power production in the Mid-Columbia using small, modular reactors. It is one option being proposed for some land planned for industrial use at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
"I personally believe the problem of carbon dioxide is so dangerous, we have to look at all low- or zero-emitting sources," he said.
But the nuclear industry has to bring the cost of its power down with strategies such as using smaller standardized plants to be competitive with other power sources, he said.
Nuclear does have an unfair disadvantage compared to fossil fuel energy production, he said. Fossil fuel producers put their trash -- carbon dioxide -- into the world's atmosphere and do not pay a dime for that, he said.
Inslee has pushed to open the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository for disposal of used nuclear commercial power fuel and nuclear weapons waste treated for disposal at the $12.2 billion vitrification plant under construction at Hanford.
He has been active in promoting biofuel development, cosponsoring legislation in Congress to extend the Department of Defense's contracting authority for advanced biofuels from five to 15 years.
The legislation is intended to provide the Armed Forces with alternative fuel sources and provide advanced biofuels producers the long-term stability they need to attract private capital and expand production.
Biofuels can be grown in Eastern Washington, refined in the state and used for jet and other fuel, and the technology developed can be sold overseas, he said.
"Some people have argued it's a dream before its time, but this is a real world opportunity for us," he said.
His campaign platform can clear the obstacles to energy innovation projects in the Tri-Cities, he said.
"You need a governor who can understand the inherent genius of the Tri-Cities," with its technical entrepreneurial leadership and skilled work force, he said.
As governor he could make sure public and private partnerships are in place, permitting agencies act efficiently and schools are providing the necessary education for future employees, he said.
As the Legislature began meeting in special session Monday to consider a $1.4 billion budget shortfall and a proposed $2 billion budget cut, Inslee said the state budget should reflect that education is the paramount duty of the state.
He is not embracing a state sales tax increase as Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed, but would look for tax loopholes that could be closed, including for out-of-state banks, he said.
He also is calling for making state government more efficient, using science of quality improvement methods -- sometimes called lean management or Six Sigma -- that have helped businesses such as Boeing.
Any proposal that comes out of the Legislature will cause pain, after the state already has taken steps that include increasing tuition and increasing class sizes, he said.
But as back filling is done after cuts are made, the state must have better access to science, technology, engineering and math education for high school students and an alignment of college degrees with available jobs, he said.
State Attorney General Rob McKenna, running for governor as a Republican, will speak at the next TRIDEC Meet the Candidates Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. Dec. 7 at the Richland Red Lion Hotel. Call TRIDEC at 735-1000 for registration information.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; email@example.com