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The 42nd U.S. President, Bill Clinton, delivered a top 10 laundry list of actions that the U.S. government should take to help solve the energy crisis during a speech to kick off the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on Monday night. Along with the […]

The 42nd U.S. President, Bill Clinton, delivered a top 10 laundry list of actions that the U.S. government should take to help solve the energy crisis during a speech to kick off the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on Monday night. Along with the list, which advocated various incentives to accelerate the proliferation of clean technologies, Clinton suggested some more controversial plans: he raised the idea of a single state, like Nevada, or an area like Puerto Rico becoming energy independent — he said this could “rock the world.” And beyond his concrete policy advice, Clinton also confirmed previous reports that his foundation is looking into helping build solar thermal projects in India.

The speech, which was followed by a Q&A with John Podesta, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, provided some of the more innovative and forward-thinking policy ideas we’ve heard to date. Clinton emphasized the fact that the new clean energy economy has to deliver “good economics,” and if we aren’t convinced of the positive financials, we won’t be able to convince other countries to join us. So what’s the federal government’s role in ensuring all that? Here are Clinton’s top 10 suggestions:

1). Congress must pass legislation that puts a price on carbon and establish a cap-and-trade system. The alternative is passing a carbon tax, Clinton says, but adds that he tried that route already and it didn’t work out too well.

2). We need to renew and lengthen the tax credits for clean energy. The time frame needs to be longer than three years — more like 6 to 10 years. That is the only way to stimulate enough production of clean energy technologies.

3). It’s important to figure out the federal government’s role in modernizing the electrical grid, including both efficiency and carrying capacity. The grid wastes a lot of energy moving power, given that the wind blows and the sun shines in places where a lot of people don’t live. Tax payers should also be able to split the cost of modernizing the grid with utilities.

4). Utility decoupling should be federally mandated. That’s what California has done on a state level, separating its utility profits from electricity sales, and has thus become one of the most efficient energy states in the nation. While this has been an issue for the states, Clinton says the federal government should take on this task.

5). We should have legislation to accelerate replacing traditional incandescent lighting with LED lighting. This could save us the equivalent power of a dozen power plants over the next 20 years.

6). On the production side we need to continue to fund carbon capture and storage projects. China is bringing on a new coal plant every 10 days or so, so we need to figure this technology out.

7). We need to accelerate the move from corn-based ethanol to more sustainable biofuels. The conversion ratio is twice as good, but the enzyme process is twice as expensive. Many of the corn ethanol plants can be easily modified to produce cellulosic ethanol from the waste of farm crops. We can’t continue to raise the price of food and skew production patterns. It seems worth it to have differential tax incentives to do this right.

We should consider doing a joint investment with Brazil, potentially in the Caribbean, which would import sugar cane-based ethanol into the U.S, but it would not be subject to the tax that is placed on the rest of Brazilian ethanol. It might not be politically feasible, Clinton added.

8). We should have a program to shut down urban landfills and use them for either waste heat or fertilizer. The green house gas coming out of landfills is methane, which is pretty bad. “We do a lot of work around this area with my foundation,” he said. Organic landfills should just not be there — it’s bad for global warming, and it’s a public health nightmare.

9). We need to accelerate the move to hybrid and electric vehicles and modernize our railway system. After our party lost, Clinton said, we were succeeded by a group that thought high-speed rail was virtually closet communism.

Biofuels are also just a transition to electric and hybrid cars. We have this electric vehicle technology today, and it’s made in America. The technology would probably require larger tax credits, but it would be worth it because the prices for electronics would immediately drop — think the iPhone or a flat-screen TVs.

10). We need to demonstrate to the rest of the world that this is not an affectation for rich countries — that this is as big an opportunity for developing counties as it is for wealthy countries. The most popular thing the U.S. has done is its work with AIDS and Malaria, including work done by the Gates and Clinton Foundations. We need to also use this model for what we could do for clean energy development in the developing world.

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By Katie Fehrenbacher
  1. [...] president Bill Clinton laid out his energy-policy decalogue in Las Vegas, calling for a cap-and-trade scheme, long-term support for renewable energy, and [...]

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  2. [...] Earth2Tech: Bill Clinton: 10 Things the U.S. Government Should Do For Clean Power. [...]

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  3. Clinton’s ideas reveal much ignorance about Peak Oil realities.

    According to energy investment banker Matthew Simmons and most independent analysts, global oil production is now declining, from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time demand will increase 14%.

    This is equivalent to a 33% drop in 7 years. No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always be higher than production; thus the depletion rate will continue until all recoverable oil is extracted.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.

    We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from “outside,” and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems.

    This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnalysis.html

    I used to live in NH-USA, but moved to a sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207

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  4. [...] Bill Clinton: 10 things the U.S. government should do for clean power–Earth2TechClinton urges politicos at National Clean Energy Summit to “rock the world” and create an energy-independent country. [...]

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  5. Bob in Peoria Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    I agree with some of the things that Pres. Clinton is saying, but he’s wrong about corn ethanol. People are nitpicking this issue and trying to find a reason to knock it. Corn ethanol isn’t perfect, but it’s clean, American energy and is better than crude oil from Saudi Arabia and Iran. I’d rather have a booming corn economy in Iowa and Illinois producing ethanol than the Arabs drilling the Earth and germinating terrorists.

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  6. [...] president Bill Clinton’s 10-point energy plan, laid out at a Las Vegas clean-energy powwow this week, included the by-now standard calls for more [...]

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  7. [...] Bill Clinton: 10 things the U.S. government should do for clean power–Earth2TechClinton urges politicos at National Clean Energy Summit to “rock the world” and create an energy-independent country. [...]

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  8. Well done Katie.. Big ups for using “affectation” in its proper context. Please speak to other reporters.
    Why does making electric vehicles in USA make flat screen Tvs cheaper. To some, a soft nazi is virtually a closet communist.

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  9. [...] To read the rest of Bill’s ten suggestions, see the whole write-up here. [...]

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