Hillary Clinton makes a case for U.S. as the ‘clean energy superpower’

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, September 8, 2014

LAS VEGAS — Former Secretary of State and widely anticipated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton set the table for a strong renewable energy platform in her appearance at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) clean energy summit yesterday.Clinton spread praise and encouragement far and wide, hailing Nevada’s, Texas’ and Iowa’s pursuit of renewable energy, highlighting the role of natural gas and sounding an optimistic note on global climate change negotiations.

In discussion with John Podesta, the former chief of staff to President Clinton and current climate adviser to President Obama, who is reportedly being considered to chair Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Clinton endorsed energy efficiency retrofits and steered clear of hot-button issues like the Keystone XL pipeline.

“I’m absolutely confident we can forge the kind of clean energy future that our children and grandchildren deserve before it’s too late,” she said.

“Sea levels are rising; ice caps are melting; storms, droughts and wildfires are wreaking havoc,” she said. “The threat is real, but so is the opportunity. If we come together to make the hard choices, the smart investments in infrastructure, technology and environmental protection, America can be the clean energy superpower for the 21st century.”

She also endorsed natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” pointing out that it can lower costs for energy-intensive industries and ease demand for foreign fuels, but acknowledged environmentalists’ concerns, as well.

“Methane leaks in the production of natural gas are particularly troubling, so it’s crucial we put in place smart regulations and enforce them, including deciding not to drill when the risks are too high,” she said. But even developing technology to control methane leaks could be an economic upside, she said.

“Our economic recovery, our efforts against climate change, our strategic position in the world all will improve if we can build a safe bridge to a clean energy economy,” she said. “Part of that bridge will certainly come from natural gas. There are challenges here, to be sure, but the boom in domestic natural gas production is an example … if we do it right, it can be good for both the environment and our economy.”

Praise for Obama and Reid

Clinton also had plenty of praise for President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and his proposed rules covering greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

She recounted a story from her recent book, “Hard Choices,” in which she and President Obama tracked down leaders from China, India, Brazil and South Africa at the 2009 U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“We couldn’t find them to meet with them about how to make progress, and then we heard they were having a secret meeting, so we embarked on a footcade,” she said.

That meeting, coupled with Obama’s climate leadership since then, has provided a “foundation” to build on leading up to U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Paris next year, she said.

“The United States would not have a strong hand to play unless Obama and his exemplary team … was not pushing forward on so many fronts to demonstrate American leadership despite our political gridlock,” she said. “President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the new EPA rules have put us in a strong position.”

She also praised Reid for his role in quintupling Nevada’s share of renewable energy since 2008 and cited yesterday’s news that electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors Inc. had decided to locate its battery factory in the state. “No matter whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, Nevada is working,” she said.

“If the new Tesla plant, the gigafactory, gets underway here in Nevada, think of the tens of thousands of construction jobs and then the follow-on jobs,” she said. “That is the promise of a clean energy future … one where we move past finally the old false choice between protecting our environment and growing our economy and we instead decide to do both.”