Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011 | 2 a.m.
In August, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Nevada’s economy was hit particularly hard by the recession, and families across the state are still struggling to get back on their feet. We are making some progress but there is much left to be done.
Tourism is an essential component of the state’s economic vitality and will remain so in the foreseeable future. However, by relying so heavily on one industry that requires people across the country to have some extra money in their pockets to spend on vacation, our recovery is far too dependent on the progress of other states digging their way out of this downturn.
Although we must continue to protect our No. 1 industry, it’s equally important to diversify our economy to protect ourselves from future economic crises. And given Nevada’s abundant renewable resources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy, the clean energy industry is the ideal place to start.
We must ensure that Nevada becomes the nation’s clean energy jobs leader.
That is what the annual National Clean Energy Summit on Tuesday is all about. For the fourth year in a row, this forward-thinking event will bring together experts and executives, entrepreneurs and investors, and senior public officials from both political parties to talk about what the 21st-century clean energy economy can and should look like.
The theme of the summit is “The Future of Energy.” This is appropriate because the clean energy sector holds enormous promise for sustained economic growth and job creation not only in Nevada, but also across the country.
We already know that 2.7 million are employed in the clean-tech sector across the country — and the clean energy economy has grown at double the rate of the overall economy since 2003.
However, that’s just the beginning. America should not and will not sit idle in the face of challenges like overreliance on foreign oil and record unemployment. We have the opportunity to create thousands of good-paying jobs and deliver a host of new benefits to consumers, including reduced energy bills, better appliances and more lighting options; new-technology vehicles that are affordable and lessen our dependence on oil; and cleaner, healthier buildings and communities that will lead to an overall improved quality of life.
Progress on all those fronts has occurred in part because of the Economic Recovery Act, clean energy tax incentives and the forward-leaning policies of the Obama administration and the last Congress that prevented an economic depression and put us on a path toward a sustainable future.
However, the economic downturn coupled with reluctance by investors is slowing momentum even in this crucial sector.
Now is certainly not the time to reduce our national commitment to clean energy, although that is exactly what many have proposed.
If anything, we should redouble that commitment and call into action those trillions of dollars in private capital still sitting on the sidelines — to research and commercialize new technologies, and to innovate and build new industries.
We must regain and maintain momentum if we hope to address our economic and national security challenges and assert America’s leadership in a globally competitive clean energy sector.
We can take a number of steps, including building new partnerships and fostering collaboration among states, regions and countries to encourage innovation and investment that will bolster supply and demand for clean energy. It’s time to break down the barriers erected in the 19th and 20th centuries that are blocking America’s clean energy future and instead encourage friendly competition in clean energy development among states, nations and companies to make us all more energy independent and secure in the long term.
Speakers that will be addressing these issues include Vice President Joe Biden, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, California Gov. Jerry Brown, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
This year’s National Clean Energy Summit will be an important forum to discuss these issues as well as many other important opportunities for Nevada and our nation to start leading the world toward a 21st-century clean energy future that will put people back to work. With so much at stake and our nation’s recovery on the line, I am eager for that conversation to continue.