A daylong conference featuring national leaders in politics, scientific research and industry ended Tuesday with a long to-do list that they plan to tackle at the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions.
The National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, co-hosted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., began with former President Bill Clinton revealing his policy recommendations and ended with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg airing his.
In between, governors from Utah, Colorado and Arizona, as well as Texas oilman-turned-clean-energy-advocate T. Boone Pickens, labor union representatives, renewable-energy executives, investors and others joined panel discussions about energy and the economy.
High oil prices and the United States' dependence on foreign oil have sparked local and national debates over how to produce more energy domestically and to encourage people to conserve.
Bloomberg talked about using more energy-efficient bulbs and taking mass transit, adding that he takes subways daily. He also recounted a dinner he and his wife had with an ambassador from the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.
"He spent the whole evening talking about his country's investing in renewable energy, so that when they run out of oil, they will not depend on foreign countries for oil," Bloomberg said during a press conference Tuesday.
The daylong pow wow produced a list of recommendations, many of them simply broad ideas that echoed what Clinton outlined in his speech. Both presidential candidates, Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz., already embrace many of the ideas, such as creating a program to trade carbon-dioxide-emissions allowances, extending a set of multiyear tax credits for renewable-energy investments and upgrading the nation's aging electric grid.
But whether either candidate will be successful in working with Congress to carry out these plans is difficult to foretell.
Summit participants put together a wish list. Key recommendations include:
- Providing multiyear tax incentives for renewable-energy production and energy-efficiency projects.
- Setting national mandates that would require utilities to get at least 20 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and geothermal energy by 2020.
- Adding and updating the building code to require energy-efficiency measures in the construction of new buildings and the renovation of existing buildings, and setting a goal to reduce buildings' energy use 50 percent by 2030.
- Setting prices for carbon-dioxide emissions and creating a program that caps emissions from different industries and allowing companies to trade emissions allowances.
- Upgrading and expanding the nation's electric grid to enable it to support electric cars and the transport and storage of renewable energy.
- Providing incentives for utilities to invest in energy-efficiency technologies.
- Increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks and investing more money in private-public partnerships that would develop transportation systems that rely on little or no oil, such as electric cars.
- Providing incentives to consumers and small businesses to buy plug-in hybrid cars and alternative fuels, including natural-gas-powered cars.
- Investing more federal dollars in cleantech research and development, including ways to capture and store carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
- Speeding up the process of setting aside public lands and improving the permitting process for renewable-electricity projects on public lands.
- Shifting from ethanol made from corn to ethanol made from wood chips, agricultural waste and other nonfood feedstock, and encouraging a joint U.S.-Brazil partnership to turn sugar cane into ethanol in the Caribbean.
Reid, who used the summit to promote Nevada as a mecca for developing solar, wind and geothermal energy, said he plans to bring the recommendations back to the Senate, which has deadlocked over several energy bills that would extend renewable-energy tax credits and create a carbon-dioxide cap-and-trade program in the past year (see Senate Rejects Renewable Tax Credit Bill and New Climate Bill Could Boost Cleantech).
A group of 10 senators - five Democrats and five Republicans - proposed a new, $84 billion energy bill about two weeks ago that included provisions for boosting renewable-energy investments and developments. It also would allow offshore drillings in certain southeastern states while eliminating tax credits for oil companies (see Green Light post).
Obama, who is not a proponent of offshore drilling, said he would consider supporting the legislation. McCain, who opposes taxing oil companies, hasn't offered his support for the bill.
Reid said the summit was not a one-time deal. Another one is being planned for next summer.