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National Clean Energy Summit, Day 1: Bill Clinton calls for ‘energy independent’ zones

By Joe Romm on August 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm

"National Clean Energy Summit, Day 1: Bill Clinton calls for ‘energy independent’ zones"

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The National Clean Energy Summit at the University of Nevada Las Vegas began on Monday afternoon with an inspiring speech by former President Bill Clinton [pictured above with Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) President John Podesta]. The Summit is sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), CAPAF, and UNLV. Clinton spoke before 900 Summit attendees.

President Clinton’s speech included a new and important idea: create energy independent areas. These places would rely on renewables, efficiency, and home grown energy. These places would then prove to the rest of the world that energy independence built on clean energy can occur, and would lead to economic growth. He touted the strong economic potential of renewable energy, citing an example from nearby California “Recently the state of California commissioned a study…which showed that building a 100 megawatt solar thermal plant would provide ten times the economic benefit of a comparable coal-fired power plant. It would create 4000 person-years of employment, and a net, NET, $628 million of economic benefit.” In pursuing clean energy projects worldwide, he suggested the following places:

  • Caribbean nations
  • Liberia and Rwanda
  • East Timor and Papa New Guinea
  • Puerto Rico, which currently imports 100% of its energy
  • Native American Reservations without gaming income
  • Mississippi River Delta and Appalachia
  • Nevada
  • Nevada has an ample supply of sun, wind, and geothermal energy, as well as an established commitment to clean energy. As Senator Reid attested, “The sun shines here all the time. The wind blows much of the time, and we’re one of the few states that has massive amounts of geothermal energy. That’s why I refer to Nevada as the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.” Tax incentives and upgraded transmission capacity could make the goals set forth for Nevada a reality. In extolling the potential of the state to serve as the model for clean energy and self-sufficiency, President Clinton said “Maybe what you should come out of this conference with is a proposal to have the national government, and investors all over America and everybody else say ‘Help make us the first completely self-sufficient clean energy state in the United States.’ I promise you, if you do it, it will rock the world.”

    His speech also described a comprehensive agenda necessary to make the transition from high cost, high pollution fossil fuels to low cost, low pollution renewables and efficiency. He urged that the next president and Congress pursue policies that would lead to the following measures.

  • Enact a cap and trade system to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution responsible for global warming.
  • Extend and establish long term tax incentives for renewables, efficiency, plug in hybrid electric vehicles and other clean energy technologies.
  • Expand and enhance the electricity transmission grid to transfer renewable electricity from the rural areas where it is generated to urban areas where it is needed.
  • Create incentives for the use of smart meters, peak pricing, and decoupling utility profits from electricity sales.
  • Enable utilities to oversee rehabilitating buildings to increase their efficiency, which would allow them to recover the renovation costs over twenty years.
  • Accelerate the pace of replacement of incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact florescent and LED lights.
  • Establish much more energy efficiency standards for appliances.
  • Fund research into carbon capture and storage technology that can dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants.
  • Speed the transition from corn based ethanol to sustainable biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol made from wood chips, agriculture waste, and switch grass. This could include a joint US-Brazilian investment in sugar cane ethanol in the Caribbean, which would create jobs in this developing region.
  • Convert solid waste landfills so that they produce heat waste or fertilizer.
  • Speed the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and high speed rail.
  • Assist developing nations with their adoption of clean energy technologies.
  • President Clinton also had suggestions for state governments. He urged them to adopt better building codes to increase efficiency, and undertake efficiency retrofits on a massive scale. They should establish clean energy jobs programs to train people to build and operate the clean energy technologies of the future. States should also convert landfills to energy production.

    Guest post by Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress

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    5 Responses to National Clean Energy Summit, Day 1: Bill Clinton calls for ‘energy independent’ zones

    1. David B. Benson says:

      Great. Too bad he didn’t have these ideas about 14 years ago. Whose fault is that? :-(

    2. paulm says:

      lest go america….!

    3. John Redford says:

      For the drier places on the list, one extra advantage of renewables would be using less water to generate power. Fossil fuel plants use it for cooling, and coal for cleaning. According to http://www.awea.org/faq/water.html, it’s about half a gallon per kWh. If Nevada switched away from coal and oil, they could use the water saved to put up more fountains in front of hotels…

    4. red says:

      My question on the energy independent areas is “who is going to pay for it”? Let’s suppose he’s talking about a U.S. Federal government program to make energy independent areas, and they pick Nevada. Why would people in, say, Appalachia have to pay for a Nevada energy independence program? It seems to me that such a program should be national if funded nationally. Perhaps some regions would find themselves benefiting more from the program than others, because their geography is more suited to renewables, because their regions pitched in land or local tax money or whatever into the program, etc. However, making one region pay for another’s energy independence strikes me as too close to pork barrel spending, pandering for regional votes, and slapping the face of whatever regions get to pay and not benefit.

      Anyway, I don’t see how a concentrated energy independence effort is superior to a broader but shallower one. The concentrated one may have an energy independence “demo” advantage, but a distributed/diluted version lets everyone participate and see the results as part of their communities.

      If an energy independence program is to be set up by the U.S. government for foreign governments, I’d want the selection of countries to have a lot to do with factors like whether or not they are truly our allies (reasonable trade balance, democracies, holding their ground in the face of neighboring dictatorships like Russia, China, and Syria, helping us in Iraq or Afganistan, promoting freedom, or similar factors).

    5. sesli chat says:

      My question on the energy independent areas is “who is going to pay for it”? Let’s suppose he’s talking about a U.S. Federal government program to make energy independent areas, and they pick Nevada. Why would people in, say, Appalachia have to pay for a Nevada energy independence program? It seems to me that such a program should be national if funded nationally. Perhaps some regions would find themselves benefiting more from the program than others, because their geography is more suited to renewables, because their regions pitched in land or local tax money or whatever into the program, etc. However, making one region pay for another’s energy independence strikes me as too close to pork barrel spending, pandering for regional votes, and slapping the face of whatever regions get to pay and not benefit.