Hillary Rodham Clinton Talks Climate & Energy, Rand Paul “Responds”

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Last Thursday, September 4, marked “National Clean Energy Summit 7.0: Partnership & Progress”—a day-long annual clean energy summit in Las Vegas cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the Center for American Progress, the Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Composite of Tesla car and proposed Nevada Gigafactory site (jalopnik.com/Patrick George)
Composite of Tesla car and a proposed Nevada Gigafactory site from awesome car blogster Patrick George (jalopnik.com)

Hillary Rodham Clinton, former US Secretary of State, keynoted the conference. She spoke to a standing-room crowd of more than 800 at the same Las Vegas Strip venue where a 36-year-old Phoenix woman threw a black and orange shoe at her in April. (“Is that a bat? Is somebody throwing something at me? Is that part of Cirque de Soleil? My goodness, I didn’t know that solid waste management was so controversial. Thank goodness she [the shoe-tosser with the poor aim] didn’t play softball like I did.”)

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking in Coral Gables FL in February 2014 (voanews.com)When Hillary Rodham Clinton talks climate and energy these days, people have a tendency to listen. The leading Democratic candidate for president said Thursday that “climate change is “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges” faced by the nation and the world. “The data is unforgiving, no matter what the deniers try to assert. Sea levels are rising. Ice caps are melting. Storms, droughts, and wildfires are wreaking havoc.”

On Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” on Friday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who’s looking for a chance to oppose Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, took issue with her remarks, demonstrating not only bloated self-importance but also a remarkably short-term view (perhaps, oh, four to eight years) of what a national leader ought to be thinking about:

For her to be out there saying that the biggest threat to our safety and to our well-being is climate change, I think, goes to the heart of the matter or whether or not she has the wisdom to lead the country, which I think it’s obvious that she doesn’t…. I don’t think we really want a commander-in-chief who’s battling climate change instead of terrorism.

In fact, Clinton showed a firm grasp of both the enormous recent and future challenges involving climate. Referring to the 112 countries she visited as Secretary of State, she said she emerged optimistic about the nation’s potential “when we decide we’re in the futures business in America…. If we come together to make the hard choices, the smart investment in infrastructure, technology and environmental protection, America can be the clean energy superpower for the 21st century.”

Strategic importance of renewable energy in Europe (cleantechnica.com/S. Dechert)
Strategic importance of renewable energy in Europe (cleantechnica.com/S. Dechert, sources: ukrgazprom, marketoracle.co.uk, and kievukraine.info)

A corollary discussed in both the Wall Street Journal and International Business Times was Clinton’s observation of energy issues and geopolitics. She noted that in one of her early trips as secretary in 2009, she advised European leaders to diversify their energy supplies, reminding them of previous occasions when Russia had “cut off gas to Europe.” The nation of Vladimir Putin—and its balky former satellite, Ukraine—currently meets about 30% of Europe’s petroleum needs.

Mrs. Clinton also acknowledged the current upbeat wisdom about climate change and business opportunity: “The threat is real, but so is the opportunity.” And naturally, she did not fail to mention her former Times Best Seller, Hard Choices, and the work of her husband’s Clinton Climate Initiative.

Along those commercial lines, Clinton spoke about Nevada’s selection as Elon Musk’s $5 billion Tesla automobile battery plant. (For more on the plant, see previous CleanTechnica articles: Tesla’s Gigafactory May Hit $100/kWh Holy Grail, Is Tesla Overreaching With Gigafactory Tactics?, Tesla Gigafactory Headed To Nevada, and Gigafactory Infographic.)

Clinton quoted Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, on the potential of the Gigafactory to attain the importance of the 1930s Hoover Dam project on the Nevada section of the Colorado River—but hopefully not its negative environmental impacts—and also praised the state’s emerging role as a leader in green—solar, wind, and geothermal—energy projects.

National Clean Energy Summit 7.0Seventh in a series of important national clean energy conversations, the summit convened visionaries, inventors, business leaders, public officials, and other advocates. Though popular, “Hillary Rodham Clinton talks climate” was far from the only topic. The summit focused on how the private sector and government can collaborate to deploy clean energy, invest in innovation, modernize our nation’s electric grid, and reduce climate changing pollution. Participants also discussed how continued research and development has resulted in exponential advances in clean energy technology and technologies that can bring electricity to climate-vulnerable areas in the developing world.

Amory Lovins, co-founder of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute think tank, moderated a panel of influential utility business executives who discussed several important subjects:

  • The role of utilities play in development and transmission of clean energy resources,
  • Ways to make the electric grid more robust, resilient, and open to renewable energy, and
  • Whether current federal and state energy policies are adequate to further the growth of a clean energy economy in the US.

Panelists included Paul Caudill, President of NV Energy, Lynn Good, President and CEO of Duke Energy, and Patricia Wagner, President and CEO of Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, which focuses on zero and low-emission fuels and operates one of the largest solar PV facilities in the US.

Among the other participants were Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah, Henry Cisneros, former HUD Secretary and Risky Business stalwart, Billy Parish of Mosaic, Lyndon Rive of SolarCity, Matt Rogers of Nest Labs, Arun Majumdar from Google, Deb Frodl of General Electric, Center for American Progress and Clean Energy Project heads, Dymphia Van Der Lans of the Clinton Climate Initiative, and more.

For on-the-ground coverage from CleanTechnica as well as full transcripts of Clinton’s and Harry Reid’s speeches, check out: NCES 7.0 Summary Report (+ Full Speeches From Hillary Clinton & Harry Reid).

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