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APEC is driving the pace of change

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For small local startup ECOtality, the APEC meetings will not only allow the business to reach out to new markets, it will also provide important opportunities to meet with powerful government officials.

Alana Chávez-Langdon, vice president of government relations for ECOtality, an electric-vehicle company based out of San Francisco, said APEC will give the company’s heads the opportunity to discuss with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood the potential of offering electric vehicle charging stations at highway rest areas.

Currently, private investment at those areas is prohibited, but Chávez-Langdon said APEC offers a chance to sit down and talk with government representatives about possible changes to those regulations.

She also said having 21 countries available at one meeting spot is a wholly unique opportunity for ECOtality.

“We’ve never experienced this one-stop shop where we can have a high level of interface and dialogue with all these communities at once,” Chávez-Langdon said.

ECOtality’s presence at APEC is a testimony to the far-reaching goals of the forum. A local startup, ECOtality will discuss policies with industry behemoths such as Toyota and with shipping magnates such as FedEx.

Transportation initiatives will play a lead role in the two-week forum, as global ambassadors, private-sector executives and public-planning experts will discuss topics ranging from the promotion of low-carbon private automobiles to making cargo freighters more energy efficient.

Paul Oliva, director of California’s APEC organization, said establishing uniform transportation policies is key to breaking down trade barriers and opening up economic avenues for the countries and companies involved in the talks.

“Unlike other major conferences, APEC can really drill down and set concrete, tangible transportation goals,” Oliva said. “Getting agreements at this conference can have major impacts on issues like energy efficiency, which, in turn, can help drive economies.”

Part of the transportation component of the meeting will tackle issues such as transit-oriented development and the advent of rapid-transit buses.

Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — the region’s leading transportation agency — said the APEC conference is an ideal opportunity for the region to tout California’s state Senate Bill 375, which stipulates that residential development should be based around transit centers.

“The idea that we can go about spending billions of dollars on freeways so people can drive from miles away to work just doesn’t work,” Rentschler said. “Right now in California, vehicles account for 40 percent of carbon emissions. We preach to a captive audience a lot in the Bay Area about the need for transit development — now we’ll have the chance to deliver this message to countries from across the globe.”

Silva said many policy goals can be agreed upon and decided among top-level bureaucrats during the APEC meeting. Any initiatives that could be more politically sensitive will be discussed for approval at the final APEC meeting in November. Set in Honolulu, that symposium will be attended by President Barack Obama.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Around the globe

Government dignitaries slated to appear for transportation policy discussions:

  • Ray LaHood, Secretary of transportation, United States
  • Steven Chu, Secretary of energy, United States
  • Banri Kaieda, Minister of economy, trade and industry, Japan
  • Hee-Kuk Kim, Vice minister of land, transport and maritime affairs, South Korea
  • Jose Rene D. Almendras, Secretary of energy, Philippines