Energy Czar: Climate change legislation crucial to clean tech investment

During a quick stop before traveling to Copenhagen, Energy and Climate Change Czar Carol Browner said that, while international climate agreements are important, domestic climate change legislation is the most crucial to jumpstart greater investment in clean technologies.

"We need to give the private sector rules of the road and standards so we can start to see investments," she said. "It's through comprehensive reform that we will send the right signals to investors."

Companies need to know how new regulations will dictate energy consumption and specific carbon reduction goals to manage their businesses going forward. And entrepreneurs looking to launch new innovations to help reach climate change goals need that information as well, she said.

About $80 billion in stimulus funding was set aside for different aspects of green and renewable energy technologies. All those programs, Browner said, have been oversubscribed.

"It shows the private sector is willing to make investments, but with the economic conditions and tight capital markets, we need to create an environment where there is a guaranteed return on those investments," she said. "We haven't quite gotten there yet."

When asked about the cost of climate change legislation, she pointed to the Congressional Budget Office's estimates for the Waxman-Markey bill, which estimates it would cost an average family of four $175 a year.

"They don't look at the alternative cost of inaction," she said. "Think of the cost of having salt water intrusion on water supplies, more hurricanes, changes in agriculture."

Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, spoke at the Innovation Economy Conference in Washington today before heading overseas.