Washington — Leaders from government and business have called for stepped-up development of U.S. renewable energy resources. The proposals were made during the first National Clean Energy Summit held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), August 18-19. The summit was organized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, UNLV and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
At the bipartisan event, former President Bill Clinton made a number of recommendations in a keynote address, including a proposal for creation of zones in the United States that rely entirely on American-generated renewable energy.
Clinton called for upgrading the U.S. power transmission grid, and for states to achieve energy independence. Several nations in Africa and the Caribbean that currently consume little energy and are rich in sun and wind also might be good candidates for total renewable energy zones, he said.
The former president’s list of actions to encourage clean power also included creating more incentives for clean energy through long-term tax credits; establishing a cap-and-trade system for emissions; funding new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, more sustainable biofuels and efficient hybrid and electric vehicles; separating utility company profits from electricity sales, a success in California; and shutting down urban landfills, using waste-to-energy technology instead.
"Renewable energy is not in a special locality in the United States,” said Texas oil billionaire and longtime Republican T. Boone Pickens, who has been promoting renewable energy on Capitol Hill and in advertisements. “Every place in America can do well with renewables. There are farmers in the Midwest who are making more money as we speak generating electricity with their windmills than they are growing soybeans and other crops."
Pickens wants to use abundant U.S. natural gas resources to replace fossil fuels until viable sustainable sources become widely available. He estimates that a switch from oil to natural gas to run vehicles would give a window of 80 years during which renewable technologies can be perfected. (See “Clean-Energy Fuels Create Buzz on Capitol Hill.”)
Voicing his opposition to U.S. dependence on foreign oil, Pickens said, “We are getting very close to a disaster.” He followed that observation with a call for bipartisan support for a new energy policy, and asked whoever wins the election to take action within the first 100 days of the new presidential term. Congress traditionally is more amenable to passing legislation backed by a new president during the early days of an administration.
Pickens is investing billions of dollars in natural gas and a wind-power generation and transmission project in Texas.
Built with international cooperation, Nevada Solar One, in Boulder City, is America’s premier 64-megawatt solar thermal energy plant.
CLEAN, RENEWABLE NEW YORK
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the gathering that New York will become an urban leader in renewable energy, and he invited innovative ideas by issuing a municipal request for expressions of interest with a September 19 deadline. Bloomberg is seeking ways to introduce wind farms on city rooftops or at sea, to generate solar power on buildings or tap into geothermal resources.
"Such projects might, for example, be designed to draw power from the tides of the Hudson and East rivers — something we’re already doing on a pilot basis,“ he said. Increasing rooftop solar power, he said, “could meet nearly 20 percent of the city’s need for electricity."
Bloomberg said, “[W] hen it comes to producing clean power, we’re determined to make New York the Number 1 city in the nation.”
Silicon Valley giant Google Inc. announced its intention to invest $10 million in geothermal energy technology. Dan Reicher, director for climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm, said, “These are all high capital costs projects,” and the costs need to come down. The Google project aims to generate one gigawatt of energy capacity — which could power a city — from “enhanced geothermal systems.”
General Electric Company chief Jeff Immelt, via a video link, seconded Google on the need to lower costs, saying, “The technology exists, the time is now. … We need a call to action.”
Speakers also addressed the new jobs that could be created by an invigorated renewable energy industry. Final recommendations, besides reliable tax and other incentives to stimulate investment in renewable energy by businesses and consumers, included strict energy-efficient building codes and expanded funding for research.
Senator Reid said he held the conference in his home state partly to showcase Nevada’s renewable energy potential. Already it boasts Solar One, the largest and most efficient solar thermal energy plant in the country. “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,” he said.
“We are taking the results and recommendations of this energy summit to the Democratic and Republican National conventions,” Reid said, ”What happens here will be taken to Capitol Hill and every city, county and state in America.”