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The Endangered Conference
This past Friday the GSA decided to cancel its support to GovEnergy 2012 and the event has been postponed. I believe that it is postponed the way Newt’s campaign is “suspended”.
Apparently, GSA has been concerned about event contracting ever since they discovered that not everything that happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. After much maneuvering to get other agencies to take a bigger role, which appeared successful, GSA kicked the plug out of the wall and went home, with the conference one month away. In a response to query, DOD indicated that the Department still felt that GovEnergy was the preeminent vehicle to bring government and industry together and promote an atmosphere of trust through openness. With the DOD goal to acquire 25% of its infrastructure energy from renewable sources by 2025 via third party financing, trust is enormously important. Unquestionably, this unilateral move by GSA will erode that trust.
I sent a query to the GSA about the decision and received an official response from Betsaida Alcantara:
After a rigorous review of the 2012 GovEnergy conference, GSA has decided to postpone this year’s conference. GSA has found that the conference does not meet the standards that GSA has put in place for conferences and contracts. There were many unanswered questions about how the conference was structured. There was not sufficient time to make the GovEnergy compliant with these new standards for an August 2012 conference. As a result, we felt that it was best to suspend the program until those issues could be addressed."The financial implications of this decision are both far reaching and close to home. For small businesses that specialize in the government energy market, GovEnergy is a make or break conference. It is the one conference that they know every federal player will attend and their scant business development dollars are well spent. For the hundreds of businesses who sank marketing dollars into printing, booths, chachkies, sponsored events of their own and other trade show staples, that is money down the drain. For the city of St. Louis, it means thousands of empty hotel rooms, deserted restaurants and vacant convention halls. Presumably, the GSA will have to pay some sort of penalty and that is the expenditure of our tax dollars for less than no return.
The political implications of this decision may be even greater. On last Thursday, I met with Senator McCaskill (D-Mo.) along with veterans from Operation Free to talk about DOD biofuels R&D efforts. I didn’t ask her if she was excited about GovEnergy being in St. Louis, but wish I had. The Senator is in a tough re-election battle and has already been in GSA’s knickers about Vegas and bonuses. This decision impacts her committee position AND her home town. I have asked her office for a comment along with that of Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) who was to be a keynote speaker at GovEnergy. Hopefully, someone on the Planning Committee had the foresight to give them a heads up. As the head of the Senate contracting oversight committee, Senator McCaskill will have a unique opportunity to examine this decision. Any regressives who wants to attack investment in secure, economic, clean energy will now have much more fodder out of this debacle.
The bottom line is this. GovEnergy is, and will continue to be, the single best opportunity for the federal government to improve its energy education, provide a forum for an open exchange of ideas with industry, and showcase technologies that have the potential to positively impact the American Economy in this new century. I do not know enough about the decision process to have a firm opinion, but there had better be something more than the GSA looking over its shoulder and getting nervous. They may have been treed by a Chihuahua, but it is unclear what they have really unleashed . Dan Nolan