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Friedman, DC Leaders Hearing Oregon's 'Green' Pitch

Oregon leaders are pressing hard to get attention for their sustainability efforts.

One of the world's most-read columnists got an earful from green leaders, as he went from meeting, to lecture, to meeting, Monday. Meantime, one of Portland’s leading green developers flew to Washington, D-C yesterday, to meet with the people holding the purse strings to the green economic stimulus. Rob Manning reports.

About 17-hundred people packed the Portland State University gym Monday, to listen to award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. His latest book and lecture emphasize solving the world’s big environmental and economic problems through competition and innovation - with a little help from government.

Friedman says he appreciates the role that Portland and Oregon have played as green leaders, so far.

Thomas Friedman: “Portland’s always been, historically, had a lot of environmental consciousness, because you depended really on timber, outdoors, tourism, clean rivers, clean beaches, and so it doesn’t surprise me that these kind of initiatives started here in the Northwest.”

Friedman learned more about Oregon’s recent sustainability efforts at two closed-door meetings yesterday.

After his lecture, he met with dozens of area business leaders.

Beforehand, he met with Governor Ted Kulongoski, P-S-U president, Wim Wievel, and Ecotrust president, Spencer Beebe. They lobbied Friedman to highlight Oregon’s efforts in an upcoming column.

But Beebe says one of the key people at that morning meeting had other lobbying on his mind.

Rather than stay for Friedman’s afternoon lecture, Beebe’s fellow green advocate, developer Mark Edlen, was flying to Washington to take Oregon’s case for renewable energy money to the federal government.

Spencer Beebe: “Mark Edlen is on a plane to go to Washington, D-C to talk to Joe Biden who’s sort of taken the lead for the administration for the green aspects of the federal stimulus package.”

Beebe says Tuesday’s meeting with Biden’s chief of staff is a chance for Edlen to press Oregon’s case as a green leader.

Edlen met Vice President Biden a few weeks ago, when the Portland developer landed on a green jobs panel at the Vice President’s conference in Philadelphia. Beebe says a successful visit would be good for Oregon.

Spencer Beebe: “Me, I think Oregon is a leader in these things, we want to make sure that it continues to be recognized as such. We want to make sure that the work on the ground is as good as the language and the ideas and mythology.”

A top aide to Governor Kulongoski is in DC with the same goal. Still, the competition for federal money is likely to be tough.

Columnist Thomas Friedman argues that’s a good thing.

Thomas Friedman: “If Portland can out-green Vancouver, if Vancouver can out-green Seattle, if Seattle can out-green Minneapolis, that is, produce an environment that’s more innovative around green technologies and is a healthier environment, I think it’s going to be a source of sustainable competitive advantage. So what I’m about is trying to stimulate those kinds of competitions - I call it the ‘earth race’.”

Friedman compares the earth race to the space race - because countries will compete for  the best technology.

He says emerging green technologies also mirror the personal computer revolution of the 1990’s.

Friedman says great discoveries may not emerge from government labs. He expects them from a basement somewhere, or maybe a Northwest garage - like the first products more than 30 years ago, from a little company called Microsoft.