Inslee's green economy bets aren't a sure thing

Associated Press Modified: October 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm •  Published: October 10, 2012

The only other stock he listed is SunPower, which is based in California and doesn't appear to have any office in Washington state. Inslee said he didn't know why he purchased the stock.

"I can't recall the reason," Inslee said. "How did it turn out? I don't know."

It's clear, though, that Inslee knows something about SunPower. In a 2007 book, Inslee lavished praise on the company, its growth and its future prospects. He and a co-author wondered in the book whether SunPower could be the Microsoft of solar energy.

"The firm produces one-hundred megawatts of power a year, with $680 million cash on hand, and is listed as the blue chip stock in the solar company field, one that Wall Street analysts feel has to be in any renewable energy portfolio," they wrote then.

Inslee went on to be a leader in championing the clean energy cause in Congress, pushing tax incentives, support for research, feed-in tariffs, national net-metering standards and use of vehicles that are less gas-dependent. He co-founded and co-chaired the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.

Inslee, who resigned from his congressional seat this year to focus on his campaign for governor, said he's proud of the work he did to spur the industry and said he didn't see any conflict in pushing laws to help a sector in which he had a financial stake.

"The only perfect way to avoid any conflict ever is to be penniless," Inslee said.

Craig Holman, who lobbies on government ethics matters for the national watchdog group Public Citizen, disagreed with Inslee.

"That is a conflict of interest and a cause for concern," Holman said of the investment. "Members of Congress should make every effort to avoid those conflicts of interest."

Holman said lawmakers should recuse themselves from taking official actions that would benefit a company in which they have a financial stake. Or, he said, politicians could simply avoid holding those stocks.

Inslee's current economic plan continues to focus on clean energy, and he says Washington state will lead a revolution in that area just like the state did in aerospace and computers. He also has proposed policies to encourage growth in other sectors, such as a tax break for small business hiring and business tax relief for small research firms such as those in life sciences and clean energy.

Inslee says his economic plan will drive strong growth, allowing him to add money for education and balance the state budget without taxes.

Even with the recovering economy projected to add 7 percent to the state's revenues in the next biennium, state forecasters say Washington will need to find an additional $1 billion to properly balance the budget and another $1 billion to fund education in response to a state Supreme Court ruling.


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