By MATTHEW WEAVER
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Even the protesters outside the Harvesting Clean Energy conference were in favor of new energy alternatives.
Rather than protest the conference itself, members of the Tri Cities Tea Party were pro-testing Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who was scheduled to kick off the Kennewick. Wash. conference, Feb. 7.
"We're here making a positive statement about energy solutions," Jerry Martin, party president, said. "We generally believe, develop everything we possibly can. Alternative, hydro, nuclear -- we need it all."
Martin said the group believes Cantwell provided a "rubber stamp" vote for overspending in Congress.
Cantwell was unable to attend the energy conference due to snow conditions in Washington, D.C., but sent a five-minute video to address conference attendees.
In the video, Cantwell said lawmakers would be working on the Jobs Bill, legislation focusing on jobs, tax credits and incentives, including an extended biodiesel tax credit and Clear Act to ease reliance on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energies like biodiesel, solar, wind and wave power.
In Cantwell's place, energy policy leader Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., addressed the audience and fielded their questions during an interactive forum.
Inslee said clean energy represents the fourth wave of economic growth for Washington State, following agriculture, aerospace and software.
"We grow good crops with rich land and we are technologically innovative," he said.
The issue isn't whether energy innovation is going to happen, he said, but where it will take place. The United States faces steep competition from other countries, particularly China, which wants to dominate clean energy industries.
"Delay is not an option," Inslee said.
One of Congress' worst moves has been to create incentives for a very short time, Inslee said. He's heard from business community members seeking predictability for several decades, not a year or two.