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Energy stars align in Goleta – ECO:nomics conference draws world leaders

By   /   Friday, February 27th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Energy stars align in Goleta – ECO:nomics conference draws world leaders

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Former Vice President Al Gore and an array of leaders from around the world will spend March 4 to 6 at Goleta’s Bacara Resort & Spa discussing the crossover between business and the environment. Hosted by the Wall Street Journal, the second annual ECO:nomics conference will bring together an international list of who’s who in business and politics to assess the risks and opportunities in the green capital market.

Among those invited to speak at this year’s conference are European Union President Vaclav Klaus, Ford CEO Alan Mullaly, Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, Xerox Corp. Chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy and BP Capital Management Chairman T. Boone Pickens.

“It became clear that environmental issues had really reached the CEO suite. The top executives were having to grapple with their responsibilities the environment in a way they never had before,” said Alan Murray, deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and executive editor of The Wall Street Journal Online on why the conference was started. “So we thought we ought to provide a venue where top executives could discuss how they balance the demands of the environment against the demands of their business.”

Murray, who is part of the Wall Street Journal’s panel of hosts, said about 300 leaders are expected to attend the by-invitation-only event this year. After a nationwide search two years ago, the newspaper selected the Bacara to house the event for its high-quality hospitality and its own attention to environmental issues. “And the fact that you can see oil rigs [from the resort] adds to its charm,” Murray said, laughing.

Bacara spokesperson Wendy Jenson said the resort is honored to host the high-profile event. “It’s the premier forum for the world’s leading CEOs, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and thinkers driving growth at the crossroads of business and the environment,” she said. “With a commitment to green practices, Bacara appreciates that The Wall Street Journal choose us, for two consecutive years, as the destination for this prestigious event.”

Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Kristen Amyx said the conference has the potential to bring about a lasting impact on a community already interested in environmental progress.

“I think it’s symbolic of the intersection that happens here already between business and green tech innovation,” Amyx said.

The bulk of the event will occur March 5, when one discussion after another is stacked from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Discussion topics include nuclear energy, the “Pickens Plan” for U.S. energy independence, flex fuel, wind and solar energy, and greener manufacturing efforts. At 2:15 p.m., Al Gore, chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection, will lead a discussion on the recession’s impact on funding for green technology.

Murray said the goal of the event is to provide an “intimate discussion of the issues” rather than straightforward seminars or PowerPoint presentations.

This year’s line-up has bulked up since its debut last year. The 2008 ECO:nomics conference’s heaviest hitters included H. Lee Scott Jr., president and CEO of Wal-Mart, and Robert Lukefahr, president of BP Alternative Energy, North America.

• Visit on March 5 and 6 when staff writer Emily Rancer provides first-hand coverage of the ECO:nomics conference.

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