Renewable energy touted at national summit
By Cristina Silva
Las Vegas — With clean energy legislation trapped in a political deadlock, renewable energy advocates called big business the new leader in the nation’s green revolution at a national summit meeting Tuesday.
John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, said untapped business potential in the sustainable energy market could revive the stalled economy and end the recession.
“The focus now has got to be on getting these worlds and mechanisms together to finance innovative, renewable technology,” Podesta said at the National Clean Energy Summit.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were hosting the event, which is the third in a series of national clean energy conferences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The Nevada Democrat said encouraging development of emerging clean energy industries could ease the nation’s security problems and help overcome economic woes.
“We need to take that little spark and turn it into a wildfire,” Reid said.
Retrofitting just 40 percent of the country’s homes and commercial properties for energy efficiency would create 625,000 jobs over a decade, said Podesta, who was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and headed President Barack Obama’s presidential transition team.
Other high-profile participants were to include U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donahue and Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens.
About 40 people rallied outside the event. Some wore green hard hats and waved signs equating clean energy and green jobs.
Jim Murren, chief executive officer of MGM Resorts International, said consumer demand for sustainable innovation helped make MGM’s CityCenter resort on the Las Vegas Strip one of the world’s largest green projects.
“What happens here does not stay here as it relates to energy,” said Murren, who boasted of sold-out rooms over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
A panel of business executives and owners chided Congress for failing to pass a substantive energy policy that would allow clean energy manufacturers to compete with traditional energy giants.
“Energy should be a bipartisan issue, but it is not,” said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, based in Santa Monica, Calif.
Austan Goolsbee, chief economist of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, said green technology is unique because it has the potential to employ both highly skilled scientists and blue-collar workers hurt by the stalled construction market.
“It offers a wider distribution of opportunity than almost any advanced future-leaning industry that you can think of,” Goolsbee said.
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