Changing transportation as we know it: Shai Agassi

As I noted the other day, we'll be posting pictures, video and transcripts from our event right here on the blog for all to see. First up is the video of Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO of Project Better Place. For more on Shai and his bold initiative, check out Peter Leyden's profile of him from a few days ago. His remarks were quite something, so make sure to set aside twenty minutes or so to watch them below:

A great conference!

We'd like to thank the hundreds of people who participated in our "A Moment of Transformation?" conference yesterday. It was a refreshing and high-level discussion about the great challenges facing the nation, and the beginning of a very intense period of work for us here at NDN.

Check back here for photos of the event, as well as video and transcripts of the major sessions from the conference.

For those that joined us we'd love to hear from you. Either leave a comment here or email Tracy Leaman directly at

Thanks again!

What Transformative Policies are up to the Challenge of Climate Change?

A growing political consensus is emerging that climate change is real, is only getting worse, and that something must be done to deal with it. But what? And at what scale? And at what kind of timetable?

Many, like former Vice President Al Gore, argue that we must make big changes very fast. We must put forward transformative policies asap. In fact, in his speech accepting his Nobel Pease prize, Gore called for a comprehensive shift to a carbon tax. Such a tax would shift the incentives of the economy towards clean energy and away from any energy that emits carbon, the critical gas that is a major contributor to global warming. But it also would send shock waves through the economy, creating a lot of new winners and a bunch of losers. Instituting a carbon tax, though arguably very beneficial in the long run, would be extremely difficult to get through in the short run.

Instituting a carbon tax in America sometime soon is something we can expect Elaine Kamarck to comment on in her appearance in next week’s event on “A Moment of Transformation.” Kamarck is at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government after a career in politics and government. She served in the Clinton White house from 1993 to 1997, creating and managing what was known as the reinventing government initiative. She then served as Director of the Kennedy School’s Vision of Governance for the 21st Century. Then she took a leave of absence to work as a senior policy advisor in the 2000 campaign for Al Gore.

Kamarck now is about to co-chair the Climate Task Force, a new organization bringing businesses and environmentalists together around the most effective ways to address climate change. Among other things, they will undoubtedly consider a carbon tax, or cap and trades, or any of the many other ideas out there for how America can become a global leader in responding to the changing climate.

We look forward to hearing what insights she can give about how transformative a time we are in. And we hope you will join us for this free, day-long event, next Wed. (March 12) in Washington, DC. If interested, just RSVP. See you there.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Shai Agassi and the Transformation of Transportation

One of the speakers at our Moment of Transformation day-long conference on March 12th will be a high tech entrepreneur with no experience in politics. But, like everyone else at this event, he is in the transformation business. And political people will find it useful to listen closely to what he has to say.

Shai Agassi is trying to transform the $1.5 trillion-a-year auto industry and eventually make the $1.5 trillion-a-year gasoline industry obsolete. He is the CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up called Better Place that is trying to jumpstart the electric car business with an approach to building an infrastructure for swapping out batteries in a practical, quick way.

Agassi is no wide-eyed dreamer. He was one of a handful of top executives at SAP, the third-largest software company in the world, and he barely was edged out for the top CEO position in 2007. When he did not get that job, he left to become the founder and CEO of Better Place. Since then he has successfully lobbied the Israeli government to back his plan to quickly scale up electric cars in Israel. He has raised more than $200 million in venture capital, and found a auto-company partner in Renault Nissan. This plan is for real. For the detaield version of this amazing tale, check out a recent BusinessWeek story.

Agassi will be speaking late in the morning on March 12th about his big, bold idea and what it takes to think and act in a transformative manner. With all the talk about change and even transformative change coming to politics, we will be stepping back and talking about just how transformative the changes could be in America and the world as we come off this historic election. Agassi will be just one of about a dozen people talking about the transformations happening in their fields of expertise.

We hope that you will come and join many others in giving your insights into what kind of change we will see coming in the months and years ahead. Spread the word about this free, open event among your friends and colleagues. And then make sure you come and RSVP. Thanks .

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Another Transformation: The New Geopolitics of China and India Rising

Any talk about transformative change in the world today must at some point look at the rise of China. The rise of China, along with the rise of India and Asia in general, is fundamentally restructuring the geopolitics of the early 21st century. So in our Moment of Transformation gathering on March 12, we will be looking hard at the emergence of China and its impact on US foreign policy. And we are extremely fortunate to have Orville Schell to help guide us.

Orville Schell deeply understands China and has been studying it since the 1960s as a student, academic, journalist and author. He is the author of no less than 9 books on China, including Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders. His books are a nice blend of deep thinking that can be found in academic writing (he has a Ph.D. in Chinese History from UC Berkeley) with a contemporary understanding of a working journalist (for example, he covered the war in Indochina in the 1960s).

It is no wonder that when the New York-based Asia Society was looking for a director to head its new Center on U.S.-China Relations, they wooed Orville. To get a sense of Schell see his masterful interview of Henry Kissinger at the inauguration of the Center in New York about a year ago.

When he joined the Asia Society, Schell had just completed a decade as Dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he helped move the program into the new multimedia digital age. Schell was known for opening the school to a variety of non-traditional teachers, often working journalists and writers who would give open lectures and teach classes for a time. He did much to move the school towards preparing students to be fluent in the ways of video and the web.

Schell now gets to China quite a bit and has done much thinking about how America should deal with this emerging giant. Come to the Transformation event to see him and a great lineup of people with similar stature in different fields. Just be sure to RSVP.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

A Different Kind of Event for a Transformational Moment

We’ve been talking a lot on the blog and our websites about our upcoming event called “A Moment of Transformation.” This is not a typical Washington DC event, but more like a new breed of conference that is appearing in the private sector. These conferences focus on presenting big ideas from many disciplines in a memorable way. They seek to bring together a remarkable collection of speakers and leave much room for discussion and networking.

The conference that set the standard in this realm is the TED conference, which originally stood for Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, but now is just known as TED. This week TED is being held in Monterrey California, on the Pacific coast, with a simulcast linked to Aspen, Colorado. You can get a good background of that conference here, or just watch video of past events off the TED site.

TED pretty much does not deal with politics or government. However, our Transformative Moment event does. (TED also costs $6,000 and our event is free.) We have pulled together a terrific group of speakers who will talk bout the transformations happening in their fields with an eye towards how they might impact politics and government. In the run-up to the conference in a couple weeks, we will highlight some of them, starting with Amory Lovins.

Amory Lovins has blazed a trail over the last couple decades in understanding how to build a sustainable economy with clean energy in very practical ways. He was one of the coauthors of the seminal book Natural Capitalism, which talked about how to use market mechanisms to reward energy efficient, sustainable behavior. He then coauthored the extremely practical Factor Four, which focused on very specific ways to improve energy efficiency by a factor of four. His latest book is Winning the Oil Endgame, which carries on in this tradition, looking at how to overcome our oil transportation hurtles.

Amory is cofounder and now Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit looking at a broad range of issues having to do with sustainability. RMI was way ahead of the curve on talking about sustainability, starting in 1982. They now have a staff of about 40 people based in Colorado.

Amory has been given many awards, including a coveted MacArthur Fellowship, known as a genius grant. I got to know him through his involvement in Global Business Network, a pioneering think tank on the future. He was one of their 120 remarkable people who helped many private sector companies to understand the big trends shaping the future. Amory is sure to do the same for us at the March 12th event. I hope you come and see.

In the meantime check out a two-minute video below of Amory at TED where he discusses how we can reduce oil dependency.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

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