Green Revolution, Green Jobs Central to National Clean Energy Summit 2.0

Published on
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Environment News Service (ENS)

Green Revolution, Green Jobs Central to National Clean Energy Summit 2.0

by
Lisa J. Wolf

This solar concentrator at University of Nevada, Las Vegas generates power with a concentration of 250 suns. (Photo courtesy UNLV)

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Hosting his second
annual all-star gathering of clean energy proponents at University of
Nevada, Las Vegas on Monday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of
Nevada called for "a new revolution ... a clean energy revolution" to
restore American prosperity and global leadership.

Comparing the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 to the original
American Revolution, Reid told participants why the date of the
meeting, August 10, is important to him.

"It was on August 10, 1776 the word reached London that the Americans
had drafted the Declaration of Independence. The Revolution that
followed set our nation and the world, but especially our nation, on a
long journey towards prosperity and global leadership," said Reid.

"Today, August 10th here in Las Vegas we're firing the first shots of a
new revolution to regain that prosperity and restore that leadership: a
clean energy revolution that will create millions of jobs across
America and thousands of jobs right here in Nevada," he said.

Reid hosted high-powered guests former President Bill
Clinton and Vice President Al Gore; the current Secretary of Energy
Steven Chu and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis; the Assistant Energy
Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi; as well
as Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa; United Nations Foundation President Tim Wirth;
billionaire energy executive T. Boone Pickens and John Podesta, who
heads the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Podesta said he hopes that ideas engendered at the summit
will enhance this fall's Congressional debate on clean energy and
global warming reduction. The House passed the Waxman-Markey clean
energy bill earlier this year, and Senate is expected to tackle
legislation after Labor Day.

"We've learned in our past meetings that clean energy
infrastructure works best when it works together," Podesta said.
"Electric cars can use electricity created by wind turbines and solar
power. A smart grid can efficiently bring renewable electricity from
points of generation in deserts and plains to points of consumption in
cities and towns."

"Efficiency in renewable electricity standards that affect the price of
carbon pollution can create the incentives for sustained private
investment that can jump-start American production of clean energy
technology and the clean energy technology industries of the future,"
Podesta explained.

President Clinton's White House Chief of Staff, Podesta said he
sees President Barack Obama as understanding "this fundamental point:
all the elements of a clean energy economy rely on one another. That's
why he's made transforming our economy to a clean energy base so
central to economic recovery."

Energy Secretary Chu also called for a revolution, "a second
industrial revolution." The first industrial revolution came with a
"carbon dioxide cost" but "in the next industrial revolution, we must
develop technologies that will enable us to get the energy the world
needs to grow and prosper but "essentially reducing and eliminating the
carbon dioxide," he said.

Chu said the United States has the greatest research and development
centers in the world in universities, national labs and the private
sector. "Once we get this great invention machine geared and going we'd
be invincible. But the only trouble is, let's get it going."

Just back from China, Chu said China is "gearing up" to lead in
the next revolution and is "going heavily into solar" and is "leading
the world now in the highest voltage transmission both A/C and D/C" for
"internal consumption" and intends to "be the leader."

"Quite frankly, the United States is still ahead of China and why don't
we be the leader?" said Chu, a Nobel Prize winning nuclear physicist.

"We can take the leadership role," Chu said, "but "you have to send
first a long-term signal to the people of the United States, to
industry, that says 'yes we're going to have a cap on our carbon, and
we're going to ratchet it down.'"

"If we move in this direction, we can be the leader and seize
the opportunity. If we don't and just try to say, ‘No, we're not really
sure this is all happening'" and "'maybe the climate isn't really
changing,'" that's "wishful thinking and it's just throwing away this
great opportunity."

Nobel Laureate Gore expressed confidence that America can
accomplish the goal of his July 2008 Generational Challenge to Repower
America - producing 100 percent of America's electricity from renewable
energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

Gore said he sees "lots and lots of good jobs in this effort to
Repower America" and said he has spent the last two years conducting 32
"solution summits" to brainstorm ways of meeting the climate challenge.

"We're going to have to come to grips with the fact that the climate
crisis is threatening the future of our civilization and just because
those words sound shrill is no excuse for not saying them. We have to
face up to this," urged Gore. "We're putting another 70 million tons of
global warming pollution in the thin shell of our atmosphere
surrounding our planet every 24 hours. This is madness."

"We owe it to ourselves and especially to our children and
grandchildren and future generations," declared Gore. "Who are we to
make a decision to just keep on being so wasteful and destructive in
the teeth of the warnings from every single prestigious scientific
organization on this planet? Every single national academy of sciences
in the world has endorsed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
report saying we have got to act on this."

Praising President Obama for "making a down payment"
towards that goal with his economic stimulus funding, Gore said many of
the green jobs created by repowering the country will be in Nevada, and
particularly at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Keith Schwer, director of the UNLV's Center for Business and
Economic Research and professor of economics, said current unemployment
in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, stands at 12.3 percent
compared to the national rate of 9.4 percent.

"Nevada is blessed with renewable energy" which will "become our export
base" as "Nevada will be exporting energy," said Schwer.

Nevada has abundant sun, wind and geothermal energy sources and
efficiency technologies that can be developed to meet future energy
needs without depending on foreign oil supplies, he said.

Former President Clinton, whose William J. Clinton Foundation has
been working with 40 cities to achieve energy efficiency with building
retrofits, said "a $520 billion investment could cut U.S. energy end
use by 23 percent."

"That's more than Canada's total consumption" and "enables us to do
what Robert Kennedy recently suggested ... close 22 percent of our coal
plants that are old and uniformly quite small. We could save half or
more of the emissions coming out of coal plants in the United States,"
Clinton said.

Clinton said, "$520 billion sounds like a huge amount of money"
but "the last time I checked about two months ago the banks of the U.S.
had more than $900 billion in cash uncommitted to loans."

Clinton suggested creating a Small Business Loan Guarantee Program so
"you could then go to a bank and say you should renovate the local
hospital" because "a guarantee fund stands behind that."

Clinton pointed out, "If we'd done it for the $18 billion that was
appropriated in the stimulus bill we could have financed $180 billion
worth of building retrofits. Instead of 100,000 jobs you'd have over a
million jobs.

Clinton said, "You've got to get the banks involved in this if you want
to quit piddling around. We don't need 625,000 jobs gradually building
over 10 years. We need three million more jobs today." He said we need
to "prove to the American people we can get the 80 percent reduction
[in greenhouse gas emissions] by 2050 while growing the economy not
shrinking it."

Former General Wesley Clark noted the U.S. imports 12 million
barrels of oil every day and burns 140 billion gallons every year.

Pickens said "When we're using 25 percent of oil in the world and we're
four percent of the population" the price will become high or be cut
off and "have a very sad ending to it."

Pickens envisions that 6.5 million trucks using natural gas would cut
U.S. dependency on foreign oil by 2.7 billion barrels a year. Pickens
sees this as possible in less than 10 years.

Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington remarked, "When you have
an oilman from Texas saying that you need to get off of oil, I don't
think you need any bigger mission statement than that."

Podesta foresees that with "supportive federal policies, huge shale gas
newly available because of American know-how and technology" can
"replace old dirty coal powered plants, dramatically reducing global
warming pollution."

In a new paper issued Monday, Podesta and Wirth write, "Natural
gas is the cleanest fossil fuel - it produces less than half as much
carbon pollution as coal. Recent technology advancements make
affordable the development of unconventional natural gas resources.
This creates an unprecedented opportunity to use gas as a bridge fuel
to a 21st century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable
sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas."

"Natural gas can supplement wind and solar energy to solve the
intermittency problem that comes with renewable energy," Podesta
advised summit participants, adding, "a green bank can provide secure
affordable financing to get new technologies off the ground and into
the marketplace."

Gore said, "We need a price on carbon because carbon is
invisible, tasteless and odorless and we're dumping it into the
atmosphere as if it's an open sewer and, because we can't see it, it
falls prey to the old saying, out of sight, out of mind."

"If we get a price on carbon then all of a sudden the advantages of
natural gas over coal become crystal clear," said Gore, "the advantages
of electric vehicles over the internal combustion engine become crystal
clear."

Gore said "It takes more electricity just to run electrical appliances
in American homes that are turned off than the entire energy use of the
nation of Japan. That's how much we use. It's ridiculous."

"This wastefulness and inefficiency is just ingrained, and it has
become a way of life," Gore said. The good news is when we make these
changes" people "will make money, they'll save on their energy bills,"
and it will create jobs.

Labor Secretary Solis said she wants to change "that
preconceived notion that green jobs are not for everyone or that people
don't even know that they exist."

Solis said the "Green Revolution" can "encompass everyone
regardless of educational attainment level, literacy level and skill
level."

Terry O'Sullivan, president of the 500,000 member Laborers'
International Union of North America, said 1.6 million construction
workers are unemployed and he looks to the clean energy economy to
create green jobs. "If it's not greening the environment, then it's not
a good green job; and if it's not putting green in worker's pockets,
then it's not a good green job," he said.

Van Jones of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
said, "The values that underlie this clean energy conversation" are
"the common ground values of America: clean air is better than dirty
air for the health of our children."

"If we have the opportunity to fight both poverty and pollution by
putting people to work in these new industries, we would be wise as a
country to do that," Jones said.

The Obama administration is so committed to energy efficiency
because, "We think this is the most fiscally-conservative thing we can
do with the federal dollars," said Jones. "The dollars invested in
energy efficiency "are humble, hard-working dollars. They work
double-time, triple-time, quadruple-time."

Double-time dollars fund job training to create energy efficiency
specialists, who install insulation that cuts someone's energy bill.
Triple-time working dollars also cut pollution, Jones said, "because a
coal fired power plant is working overtime because our homes are so
leaky and waste so much energy."

Quadruple-time working dollars cut greenhouse gas emissions
from the coal plants and "help us take asthma inhalers out of little
girls' and boys' pockets."

Jones said conservatives should like these solutions because, "We're
not talking about expanding welfare; we're talking about expanding
work. We're not talking about expanding entitlements; we're talking
about expanding enterprise and investments."

Reid characterized himself as a capitalist and said, "America
is the center of capitalism in the world. With health care reform, no
one's trying to make this a government run system. With energy reform
we're not trying to make this a program that is going to be taken over
by the federal government."

"If you look at energy, though, you have to recognize that government's
been heavily involved in energy from the beginning," said Reid. "That's
why in virtually every state you have regulated monopolies that control
the distribution of electricity and natural gas."

Commending the dedication of summit participants, Reid recalled
a visit to Gore's office when he was a U.S. Senator representing
Tennessee (1985-93). There he saw a wall chart going to the ceiling
showing the projected rise in greenhouse gas emissions. "This is
something he's devoted his life to," said Reid.

"Boone Pickens could be in his personal jet going around the
world having a good time," he said, "but this 81 year old man has
decided he wants to try to change our country for the better."

Reid called on Americans to also be devoted "and speak out against
these people who I describe as 'evil-mongers' who are trying to take
our country away from us. That's what this conference is all about -
changing the direction of our country and the world for the betterment
of the American people."

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